According to the Mayor’s Office, they are at variance with the Armenian culture. Comments and assessments " />

Oriental musical compositions banned at Yerevan-based Vernissage market

According to the Mayor’s Office, they are at variance with the Armenian culture. Comments and assessments

photo: Hrant Marinosyan, JAMnews

Yerevan’s  mayoral office banned ‘trashy Eastern style music’ at the open air arts fair in downtown Yerevan.

‘Vernissage’ is an open-air market in downtown Yerevan, where one can buy some unique antiquities and works by contemporary artists representing various fields of art, as well as souvenirs, jewellery and wood-carved items.

Arayik Harutyunyan, a member of the Yerevan Elders’ Council from the opposition ‘Yelk’ faction, put forward the initiative to ban performances of mugham [a type of folk music from Azerbaidjan -ed]  at the Vernissage market. He explained this initiative as follows:

“ ‘Vernissage’ is one of Yerevan’s landmarks that attracts tourists through its Armenian spirit. The tourists’ impression about us is formed based on this music. Therefore, music that has nothing to do with our art and culture shouldn’t be performed at the market.”

The matter so far concerns a ban on publicly playing mugham of any origin, including Armenian ones.

It is yet unknown which particular music genres will be subjected to restrictions. For example, will Russian, American and European pop music, which also has nothing to do with Armenian culture, be banned at the Vernissage?

Some Armenian public figures commented on the ban for JAMnews. They all supported the initiative, having noted that the restrictions should be drawn by experts ‘capable of distinguishing the real music from trash’.

Vahram Martirosyan, a writer and publicist, highly welcomed the decision, saying that Yerevan residents have the right to walk around the city without listening to unpleasant music. Vahram Martirosyan noted that no one is forbidden to listen to mugham, and people are free to do it either at home or through their headphones.

“I have nothing against mugham. Sometimes I listen to it myself, but I never listen to poor-quality versions. Ethnic, modern and classical music is surely acceptable. It has been composed by some talented people, in accordance with traditions, and it reflects the culture of their countries. And what we have to listen to in the streets is just music for kebab digestion. The mugham that people listen to is not real mugham music, but rather a mix of some sounds. One should listen to it locked in a toilet, rather than to force others to listen to it,” Vahram Martirosyan noted.

Ruben Babayan, the Artistic Director of the Yerevan Puppet Theater, noted that there is nothing wrong with banning tasteless music in public places. Babayan pointed out that he is not a proponent of restrictions, but there are some unpleasant phenomena that need to be limited.

“I don’t see much difference between ‘rabiz’ and pornography,” said the director.

According to Ruben Babayan, those who like mugham and rabiz could listen to it at home, rather than to promote the music and play it in public places where there are people who don’t want to listen to it.

“It should be taken into account that it’s Yerevan and it has its own musical culture. Thus, a ban on playing mugham and rabiz at the Vernissage doesn’t restrict anyone’s rights. Your rights end where mine begin. It’s an elementary principle of democracy,” said Babayan.

Social media users welcomed the ban. Here are some typical comments:

“Great! Finally we can walk around that area calmly.”

“Once you’ve started all that, you’d better remove ‘rabiz’ as well, it’s not that much different from mugham. Actually, it’s a worthless replication of mugham.”

“As per the decision of the Mayor’s Office, mughams will no longer be performed at the ‘Vernissage’ market. Those who trade in audio media will be given a list of restrictions on the music they play. But who’s going to compile that list and what do they think mugham is (that’s the question)? Before you declare people as honoured artists, think about the fact that they don’t perform classical music either.”

“You might well conclude that everything was fine in this country and so we started dealing with the music issue. Aren’t there any other problems that need to be addressed?”

“It’s a shame that the Mayor’s Office has to decide on such problems.”

“Any small step that would free us from that rubbish should be hailed.”

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