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Mаry Mamyan

Datevik Hovanesian: "I didn't leave to become a star, but to learn more"

The last time Datevik Hovanesian gave a concert in Armenia was 2008.

For her current tour of Armenia, the noted jazz singer will not only perform in Yerevan, but in Gumyri and Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, as well. This time, her repertoire will include songs in Armenian, English and Portuguese.

Known for her unique jazz stylizations of Armenian folk songs, Hovhannisyan, relocated to the States in the late 1980s.

The daughter of singer Ophelia Hambardzumyan and kamacha (bowed string instrument) player Norayr Hovhannisyan, Datevik was exposed to Armenian folk songs from an early age. She later turned to jazz and got the idea of fusing the two worlds of Armenian folk songs and American jazz.

“That music [Armenian folk] walked with me for years on end and built a nest in my heart,” says the singer. “When you leave your country the yearning grows and everything becomes sweeter.”

“Our music has power”

Datevik’s Armenian jazz has not only made a big splash with Armenians in the States but with the public as a whole. Today, she teaches the style to non-Armenians there who are interested in the art form.

“It has spread. People like it. This means that our music has power,” Datevik says at a press conference held today in Yerevan.

“I don’t feel guilty for leaving”

A reporter asks Datevik if she would have become the same legendary singer she is today if she had stayed in Armenia.

“Excuse me. I was legendary when I left,” Datevik jokingly responds. “I don’t want to appear boastful but I was known as the first lady of Soviet jazz when I left. I held that distinction for nine straight years. I left and started with nothing. Who cared about any of that over there? But I place great importance on my going. I didn’t go to become a star, but to learn more. My music is jazz, and now I am in the best place for it. Personal growth is very important for me. Now, would I have grown here? That’s a different question. I don’t feel guilty for going,” Datevik answered.

The singer has lived in New York ever since moving to the U.S. At first, she went to tour the States, but as things worked out she stayed and got married twenty years ago.

Datevik then gave a piece of advice to those at the press conference – not to believe rumors that those who leave become kings there. She said she reached this conclusion from personal experience; that it’s not at all easy to cut away from your roots, leave your past accomplishments aide, relocate to a foreign land, and start from scratch.

“Give me a stage and music and I will energize myself and everyone. But it’s difficult for me to advance my work. The road gradually got smoother,” Datevik said. There is no musician that hasn’t gone down a thorny road. All of us work diligently.”

And now the singer is back in Yerevan. A part of her life is linked to it. A road travelled full of repeating memories.

There are places that have changed and which might confound the singer. Datevik said the changes in Yerevan are both positive and negative. Nevertheless, Yerevan remains Yerevan for her.

The singer smiles and says that today, when she awoke early in the morning, she breathed the irreplaceable air of the city and felt a sense of peacefulness that she can’t find elsewhere.

“There are things that are hard to explain. But they are yours,” she said.

“Yerevan remains Yerevan”

One thing she has noticed that she doesn’t like is that many place signs whose names are writ large in English with smaller Armenian letters underneath. The singer doesn’t want Yerevan to become yet another European city.

“We shouldn’t become to Europeanized. I would like to see us preserve that which has made us unique; our culture, architecture and traditions,” Datevik said.

Datevik Hovanesian will take the stage in Yerevan on June 28 at the Yans Music Hall. She will then perform in Gyumri on June 30 and in Stepanakert on July 2. The singer will return to Yerevan for a concert on July 4 at the Spendaryan Theatre of Opera and Ballet. 

Comments (1)

I recently heard your music on channel 20 in New York, I do love jazz, I loved the Armenian way it's done. God bless be well to all, Ray.Dion

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