Vartan Garabedian

Vartan Garabedian: ‘Let’s Start to Help Armenia from Within!’

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YEREVAN / VÄSTERVIK, Sweden — Vartan Garabedian is a musician, born in 1986 in Beirut. He studied at Armenian schools in Beirut — the Yeghishe Manoukian High School and Souren Khanamirian College. Later, he studied at the Polyglot Technical College of Beirut.

He lived in Romania, and from 2006 to 2010, he was the site manager at P.A.B. Romania construction company in Arad; in 2011-2015 he was the drummer with the band Grimegod in Arad, while in 2013-2016 he played with the Negură Bunget black metal band in Timisoara, also working as the basketball coach of Valbon team. Now Vartan lives in Västervik in Sweden with his Italian wife and newborn son, working as the senior site manager of Renovation of Sweden AB construction company.

Vartan, your biography says you were first interested in drums at the age of four. How so?

I was even younger when I started hitting on my mother’s saucepans. One day my grandmother was present when I started making noises on the pots, so on my birthday I received my first drum set as a gift from my grandmother. It all started there, and I have been playing for 30 years.

You lived for about ten years in Romania. Why did you go there and were you part of Romanian-Armenian community life?

I went to Romania at the end of 2005. There was a construction company I started working with. I lived in the city of Arad, which has an interesting Armenian history. Two hundred and fifty years ago, when the Turks arrived there, there were also Armenians with them. There is a river in Arad, the water of which was very abundant. There is an old man in Arad who still lives there. His name is Grig Nazarian. I learned from him that 240 years ago that the Armenians who remained in Arad named the city after the abundant (arad in Armenian) water of the river. It is not something he invented himself, but he read it in a Romanian book published more than 100 years ago. Today’s Romanian-Armenians are descendants of those who came after the Genocide in Ottoman Empire, most of them do not speak Armenian, but their love of Armenia is very real. Wherever you meet Romanian-Armenians, their eyes fill with joy when they know that the other person is Armenian.

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Was it difficult to change the lively Armenian community life of Beirut with a European country with few Armenians?

It is a very smart and psychological question. When I was in Romania for the first time, Armenianness was like a fire in me. I would like to know where there are Armenians, where there will be Armenian events, and so on. But time passes, this fire gradually dies in you, so when you will not find many Armenians around you, you will slowly start to look at your life. And this Armenianness remains in me, in my family. But I would always like to tell those who work with me who the Armenians are. It was my wish to introduce my people to the foreigners.

How would you describe the Romanian rock scene? Are Romanian rock songs popular or the audience prefer English songs?

Romanian rock is very underrated. There are many rock groups, they deserved to be in mainstream, but unfortunately because Romania is not that good country economically, it is affecting even on rock scene. All agents of rock groups in Romania are independent, and they are underestimated too. Some bands sing in English, some in Romanian. I can mention Dordeduh spiritual black metal rock band from Timisoara, one of my favorite Romanian bands. Rock band Cargo also has very nice music, singing mainly in Romanian. There is another newly created band called Sur Austru, and finally I would add to this list another band from Timisoara, Ordinul Negru, also performing a very pleasant music. But as I already said, all Romanian rock bands are very underrated.

Well, hopefully one day the world will discover Romanian rock. Please tell us about the Dzar project.

I had planned Dzar (tree in Armenian) with my former Negura Bunget colleague Gabriel Mafa, after whose death my friend Petre Ionutescu and I decided to form the Dzar group. Our plans are very big, but time is against us. I hope that 2022 will allow me to complete some unfinished projects, the first of which is Dzar. Why did we name it a tree? The tree has three phases: you plant it, you water it, and finally the tree grows. In accordance with these three phases, we decided to make three albums. The first one should consist of only the music of Komitas Vardapet, but with Romanian instruments. The second one should be Romanian music with Armenian instruments and the third album, where the tree finally appears, will be a mixture of Armenian and Romanian music.

What is happening with your experimental music project of recording classical Armenian themes that you initiated with Petre Ionutescu?

In Arad we recorded three of the six songs we decided on. And since Petrich, as we call Petre, and I both became fathers this year, we kept our recordings for the time being. We hope to meet again in Romania or Sweden and get back to work.

Last March you were involved in Romanian B-Ton rock band’s project of recording of their version of System of a Down’s song, Protect your Land to raise awareness about the recent war in Armenia. It was unexpected and touching from. Could you please speak about it?

I got a phone call from my friend, the founder of B-Ton, an activist guy. He knew the situation in Artsakh and Armenia and offered me to play a song from System of a Down with them, as one of the most famous Armenian rock bands. We chose Protect your Land without hesitating, because at that time we could not do anything but defend the country, which, unfortunately, we could not do. And we did the recording and the video in about two weeks. But because the Romanians do not pay much attention to the cover band, it has been spread only in some regions of Romania. That was not our goal: this work gave me and my friends satisfaction, I wanted to do something for my country, my nation and make my voice heard about Armenia in Romania.

In a recent interview you said: “The Armenians will never give up the thought of returning home, to a small and beautiful country, the most beautiful one on earth, but which could never have peace because of their enemies.” So do you also think about returning?

Yes, of course. People think that Armenians living elsewhere are happy people. That is completely wrong. Wherever you are, you will speak the local language and you are a foreigner, no matter if you have German, Swedish or American citizenship. It is a dream for me to return to Armenia, it is a great pleasure to live there, but in order for that to happen, a decision must be made. I have not made a decision yet; it depends on me. As we say in Armenian, let it be late, let it be sweet, but this one thing will not be late. I see myself established in Armenia before I am 40. A big problem for us Armenians is that we love to help our country from afar. It would be very good for the Armenians to start helping their homeland within Armenia. I will prove my words after a couple of years, when we drink coffee sitting in Yerevan together. So let’s start to help Armenia from within!

 

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