Occur Goes Global - The Music of Armenia

There’s more to Armenian music than System of a Down. And the diaspora of Armenians to Los Angeles resulted in a small yet potent pocket of music bridging the cultures. Today, we’re looking at those who remained in the country, rebuilding through song a nation and people that were nearly destroyed by genocide 100 years ago.



These fellows cut their teeth on Britpop. Singer Arthur Solakhyan is the lost Gallagher brother. The group’s biggest hit, “Yeah Pappa I’m Smoking,” is straight out of the Oasis playbook: tambourine shaking, nasal vocals and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle lyrics.  Hints of Placebo sneak into the melodies, and Vladimir Hovhannisyan’s virile drumming lift the songs to monumental heights. Alas, Crimesterdam broke up in 2014.



Jivan Gasparyan

A master of the mournful reed instrument the duduk, Jivan Gasparyan is a consummate performer. He’s worked with Sting, Hans Zimmer, Queen’s Brian May and many more, adding a serene warmth to their work. In 2010, he became the oldest participant in Eurovision history when he played with Eva Rivas at age 80. He was also a prime element in the creation of the Gladiator soundtrack.




With the pop mentality of Britney Spears and the haunting presence of Amy Lee, Sirusho immediately grasps new listeners. Quite the chameleon, she can lure fans onto the dance floor in one song (“PreGomesh”) and take them to church the next (“Tariner”). She notes in her biography that she never envisioned becoming a singer, let alone a national treasure. But she’s surely a gem in the Armenian pop realm.




You’d be forgiven for comparing this frantic, politically minded group to System of a Down. But past the obvious vocal similarities between Serj Tankian and Sargis Hovakimyan lie intricate piano playing and gothic influences. VooDoo have more in common with progressive screamo bands like Thursday than they do than the average metal outfit. Plus, with keyboardist Christina Sarkisyan and bassist Ami Gevorgyan in the lineup, this force to be reckoned with exudes girl power. (VooDoo photo at top courtesy of the band.)



Andranik Manukyan

A founding member of the Sasun Folk Group, Manukyan is among Armenia’s most enigmatic entities. His focus is on traditional music and transcendental hymns. Coupled here with the Gata Band’s dudukand hypnotic percussion, he’s like a shaman speaking the word of the spirits inhabiting his body. His is a heavenly gift.

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