Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bambir Rocks in Tchambarak

On Wednesday, April 12th, Bambir rocked in Tchambarak. There is simply no other way to put it! They played in the City Council packed with an audience of students, who danced and rocked along with the boys. Surely, it was a concert that these students will never forget.

Tchambarak is a city located only a couple of hours away from Yerevan, but when one goes there it seems as though it is light years away from civilization. Not much gets out to this city and it really is broken away from so many things.

Formerly known as Krasnoselsk or in Armenian called Karmir, it is a city which was known during the Soviet times for its huge Molokan population. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union practically the entire population of Molokans fled from Karmir. During the war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, the city itself was bombed and raided many times. As Zinaidah Mkrtchyan the principal of Tchambarak School No. 2 explained they fought to defend the city themselves.

( Krasnoselsk Music School. CSI has held a few series of music masters classes and music concerts here.)

As a part of Civil Society Institute's Civil Society Network program sponsored by USAID and in collaboration with three other Armenian NGOs, Bambir was invited to perform a rock concert at the City Council. While flyers and posters about the event were handed out way in advance, Armine (the program assistant for this program at CSI) wanted to call and ensure that the information had gotten to them. For four days straight she tried calling to confirm plans for the concert, but to no avail as the communication lines were down this entire time. So we went out to Tchambarak fearing that hardly anybody would show up to the concert because it was not quite publicized. Yet when we arrived to Tchambarak and met up with School No. 2 principal Ms. Mkrtchyan, she informed us that the entire school would be in attendance for the concert.

And sure enough, after meeting with her we headed to the City Council in which we saw the auditorium packed with students ranging from five to fifteen years old. Apparently, even though the phone lines were down and were not able to confirm the plans, everybody had already heard about the concert. As the principal explained, when something happens in Tchambarak everybody hears about it. And if they hadn’t heard about the concert happening by word of mouth, then they probably heard Bambir’s music blasting from the auditorium in the center of the city that day.

Standing on the side and observing the children, I noticed some of the younger kids were jamming to the music while the older ones wanted to show themselves as “cool” and did not want to “let loose.” I myself am particularly a fan of Bambir and try to go to as many of their concerts as I can. Thus, my feet couldn’t help but move when I started to hear Nareg singing “jan gyullum jan jan…” I realized as I was dancing, all of the kids were looking at me, knowing that I was surely a foreigner. That didn’t bother me of course and I continued dancing and enjoyed myself while listening and taking some of these pictures. Then, these cute young girls approached me and pulled my arms to the front to dance with them. I was a bit embarrassed at first but realized that these girls would not dance unless I was dancing in the front with them. Well, that got the party started and sure enough we got some more dancers to the front. And it was not only the girls who were beginning to dance but the boys too. I think usually the boys are a bit more conservative when it comes to these types of activities and worry about what their friends what might think if they started dancing. At that point though, it seemed as though their feet really couldn’t help but move either and they started pretending like they were playing the guitar like Arman and Nareg and were shortly jamming to Bambir’s music as well.

After the concert, we left in our huge bus which they probably don’t see come into Tchambarak very often. It was rather sad to leave all of those children after having such a good time with them and then realizing that they would be back to their everyday normal lives in this city so broken away from everything else.

Yet this concert was not a one time deal of course. The goal of the Civil Society Network is to initiate development of the civil societies in Tavush and Gegharkunik marzes. CSI along with a network of other Armenian NGOs is organizing forums, monitoring trainings, advocacy trainings, photo exhibitions, music and photo master classes as well as musical concerts, like this one with Bambir. One of the elements of the Civil Society Network is to incorporate this cultural component in which the hope is that these sorts of music concerts and photo exhibitions will bring into these communities new and different activities and to a certain extent bring some energy into these cities and villages which are rather broken away from everything. In addition, these cultural events are an informal way in which the community can gather together and begin to gain this sense of community.

While sitting in the bus as we left Tchambarak, the kids waved goodbye to us and I couldn’t help but feel sad and happy at the same time. On the one hand, these kids were given a taste of fun and danced and were able to enjoy this rock concert for this one day. In fact, as we were leaving the kids said that this was the best concert they had ever seen in Tchambarak. Yet on the other hand, there is not much cultural and artistic events happening there and it’s sad to know that they are not able to enjoy these kinds of events so much. As my friend was explaining to me, it’s like they were teased with this delicious candy and then it’s gone. Wouldn’t it have been better if they didn’t get to taste that candy, that way they wouldn’t miss it and not know what they are missing out on?

Really it’s a mixed bag. Either way, I try to remain a bit optimistic and think that these kids were able to enjoy themselves for this day – got signatures from Armenia’s most famous rock band and will not forget about that day that Bambir rocked in Tchambarak.


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