Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Syrian-Armenian Lena Chamamyan

Posted by Fredsvenn on February 9, 2015

“We should support each other” – an interview with Lena Chamamyan

Syrian-Armenian singer Lena Chamamyan takes her audience on a trip to Syria, singing for love, hope and peace as she performs

The Syrian-Armenian singer-songwriter and musical trailblazer Lena Chamamyan (born to an Armenian family in Damascus, living currently in Paris) is considered one of the best singers of her generation. A spirit of oriental jazz runs through her music – a fusion of traditional eastern songs from the Arab world and Armenia with Western styles.

She was born in Damascus city where she finished her elementary and secondary education through which she held many school concerts, the first of which she held at the age of five. She started to studying music at the age of nine, and graduated from the economics management department at Damascus University in 2002, while she was studying at the higher institution of music in Damascus. She graduated as a classical vocalist in 2007.

Throughout her university education she joined many workshops in the field of classic music with Gloria Skalki (Italy) Karmen Filarna (Italy) Mia bits (Netherlands).

She also joined Jazz workshops, most importantly, with the German Accordionist (Manfred leuschter). They both featured on each others albums and took part in many concerts in Syria and Germany together. She also worked with many vocalists and musicians of different nationalities in many jazz festivals in Syria.

The idea of the project was born before she started to study music academically. Classic was mixed with oriental jazz and Armenian music to reflect the unique essence of Lena’s style as a vocalist.

She was charmed from the very beginning by the idea of mixing simple oriental tunes with cords. Many friends from the high institution of music helped her understand and conceptualize the project, the first of whom was Basel Rajoub who arranged the music and managed the project.

Together they won the Middle East first award presented by radio Monte Carlo in 2006 for the album Hal Asmarellon that was produced by the means of the grant given to him by the Almawred Althakafi institution of Egypt. This helped to enrich the artistic abilities reflected on their second step of the project, the album Shamat.

The thesis being reflected in the steps of the project can be explained in two points:
First of all it’s an attempt to revive folkloric songs, especially Syrian ones, in a modern style and arrangement keeping the originality of the tunes and the lyrics in order to create a link between monotonous oriental classic music and contemporary world music that has a harmonic accompany and different musical styles and instruments that contribute to enriching the tune and to activate the beauty of its genre which helps world cultural contact by forming a specific unique language especially outside the Arab world.

The second point is to introduce origenal compositions allowing a more free space of tunes and lyrics as in Sha’am and magic from Shamat album. Composition will get more focus in the next albums.

Her enchanting voice is at the core of her new collection of songs, Hannah and Blossoms, written while living in exile in Paris. Drawn from her experience as a woman and as Syrian her new material carries a message of life, hope and peace. It is an invitation to discover the natural and mutual harmony between the human voice and acoustic instruments.

Named one of the 500 Most Influential People in the Arab World by Arabian Business magazine in 2010 she is one of the few eastern women who write, produce, and play music, as well as sing. Throughout her career she has lent her voice to a number of TV serials and dramatic works in Syria and abroad, and participated in a large number of prestigious Arab and international musical festivals.

What is the impact of the ongoing situation in Syria on Syrian artists? Is there an option for artists and musicians to stay silent and not to choose sides?

“You can’t be Syrian and just live above or beside the situation. Every Syrian is affected by the situation, especially artists connected to the people. There’s no work, so no money, being confronted with too much death and unfairness daily. We feel lost. As if we’re losing our country and losing the trust in each other. I feel we reached a point where no one is protecting the Syrian people. The politicians’ actions cause more deaths and my first concern is in stopping the bloodshed and the deaths and to give the people hope. I keep asking myself questions like where are we going? What can we do? Well, we should never lose our relation with Syria, keep caring for each other, keep supporting each other. We should keep caring about every death because it’s all human blood being shed. Everyone has the right to say his opinion. It’s not possible to just stay silent, but sometimes you just can’t talk.”

A lot of artists left Syria since last year?

“Yes, it has become really hard to live there. Before it was so good for us, particularly in Damascus. We had a lot of concerts. Since 2008 they just started to organize more festivals. Even the Syrian TV drama was blooming. Now it’s hard  being under the pressure of getting arrested or just being in the middle of the fire. I don’t think the Syrian people are just two sides (pro or against the regime, CC). There are many people, 28 million people inside Syria. So you can’t simplify it to just two sides. The artist can focus on representing the Syrian people and their diverse opinions, be with the civil society and try to get the Syrian people together again, to find mutual points and to stop the ongoing separation and death. That’s the only solution for now for us, because we need to live. The first goal is just to stay alive.”

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