Jazz Singer Datevik Hovanesian Performs in Armenia: “It’s your soul that has to sing”
“Lady Jazz”, “Ella from Yerevan”, “Queen of Jazz”- that’s how Datevik Hovanesian has been described by jazz lovers and connoisseurs alike, starting from the Soviet era, when she performed not only with the Armenian jazz state orchestra, but also throughout the country and together with the most famous artists of that time.
Datevik has lived and worked in the U.S., the homeland of jazz, since1980, where she has managed to find her own place among a bevy of famous musicians.
Between May 25-30, Datevik Hovanesian gave concerts in Yerevan and Gyumri, together with her New York trio - pianist Bob Albanese, bassist Joe Fitzgerald and drummer Dave Meade.
Hetq talked to Datevik about jazz, the importance of understanding folk music, and other themes.
"Jazz music is a school. Just like you learn the letters, reading, writing, and speaking correctly, the same applies to jazz; you learn everything from scratch. If you truly love and understand jazz, that’s it. One can’t love jazz and then rock. In popular music, favorite songs can be different every day. It’s similar to fashion. Most of those songs are written only for commercial purposes, while jazz music has never been and will never be commercial music. There are dedicated jazz musicians who were hungry but still couldn’t play anything but jazz,” says Datevik.
"The top art form in our home was Armenian folk art. I would advise the same in all homes, since it makes no sense to address other cultures if you do not recognize your own roots. Music was everywhere in the house. This atmosphere was created by my mother - Ophelia Hambartsumian, (famous Armenian folk singer-ed.), father - kamancha player Norayr Hovhannisyan, my violinist brother - with classic masterpieces, as well as his love of jazz. My mother, being a folk singer, also loved classical music. We listened to beautiful opera samples. Maria Callas was one of my mother’s favorite singers, and mine, too. This musical variety - folk, classic and jazz - has developed my musical perceptions and formed my eternal love of jazz,” says Datevik.
In addition to jazz standards, jazz renditions of Armenian folk songs - mostly Komitas and Sayat-Nova - have always been a part of her programs since the 80's. These songs have become her musical calling card. When addressing this topic, Datevik always recalls and appreciates her acquaintance and cooperation with American-Armenian pianist and composer Armen Donelian.
Their joint album "Listen to my heart", including jazz arrangements of Armenian ethnic music (Sony / Epic), was released in 1998. The producer of the CD was another famous name in the jazz world, George Avakian.
"In jazz, I found a world in which I could express my feelings and experiences, I found freedom. Improvisation allows you to insert your own philosophy in that music and freely speak to your listener," says Datevik.
Besides her musical activity in the United States, Datevik also teaches vocal and performance techniques at a jazz school. She has pupils from different countries.
"It's important to be able to get it right, to transmit your song to your audience, to talk to them with your songs. It’s your soul that has to sing," Datevik says.
Photos are taken from Datevik Hovanesian's website and Facebook page.
Top photo by Narek Aleksanyan