Son of Artsakh
Artists for Artsakh grant recipient Valeri Ghazaryan turns pain into hope in his new song and music video
August 4, 2021 | by Creative Armenia
“I’m still alive.” Those words ring true, echoing in the minds and hearts of thousands of Artsakhians and Armenians. Having felt the fallout of both wars on his thickened skin, Valeri always chose hope and spread it among others through his art. The new track, produced with the help of an Artists for Artsakh grant, is no exception. Listen to the song and read the interview about the journey Valeri had to embark on to find himself on the other side.
CA: “Ես դեռ կամ” / I'm Still Alive is out. It’s a touching but also empowering song the lyrics of which speak to millions of Armenians and Artsakhians. Can you tell us how the project came together?
VG: After the ceasefire, it was very difficult to think about creating and working on new projects. Especially when my previous song Take Me Home / “Տուն տարեք” became an anthem for more than 90K people who lost their homes.
But as a creator whose song became popular, I felt responsible for those who listened to my music and resonated with it. I wanted to express and share with them the desire not to give up.
The basic idea behind the song is to make people live through singing. When a person listens to the song and repeats the phrase “I'm still alive,” they express their desire to live. Try it yourself, just say “I'm still alive” out loud.
CA: The music video features Kima Baghdasaryan, a talented 90-year-old violinist with whom you collaborated. Tell us a little about her story, what drew you to her story, and how you two collaborated.
VG: Angela and Sona, who I was introduced to by my friend Areg, told me about Kima during one of our meetings. They were eager to introduce me to Kima, who they met during Shushi’s evacuation. She was one of the last ones to leave the city. In her last minutes in Shushi, she was at the cemetery, next to her son’s grave. She visited it to say goodbye.
Ms. Kima, or as she likes to be called Kima Grigorevna, is a 90-year-old violinist. She lost her son in Shushi during the first Artsakh war. After that, she sold her apartment in Yerevan and moved to Shushi to be next to her son’s grave and teach violin to local kids.
I was told that after the evacuation she was in a very bad psychological condition. At that time, I was also in a poor mental state. Angela and Sona insisted on meeting her and promised that I’d like Kima.
When I met her for the first time she was at the hospital. Her eyes and wrinkles spoke on her behalf. And I just listened to her for hours.
She was desperate. She kept asking me, “Why should I live now?” After she told me that the point of her life was playing violin and teaching, I told her that we have a lot of things to do together. She was telling me about the violin with such admiration that I fell in love with the instrument.
I told Kima that she must live and that we will create a song together, for which she’ll play the violin. I saw hope and spark in her eyes. She immediately told me that she needs to check my voice first. And I felt that it became her motivation.
When we met again, I gifted her a new violin, as promised. When she asked me when we’re planning to start working on the song, I realized that I made her want to live and by that I gave myself purpose too. Now, I needed to create something new for her. That’s how our collaboration originated.
And yes, it was hard. But, as a result, we created a song which, to tell the truth, I wrote more for Kima than myself.
CA: You came up with the idea of the song shortly after the ceasefire was signed. What was the process like working on the lyrics and music video? How was it different from the works you have created in the past?
VG: The war is not over. And we are still alive. This means that not everything is lost. It was and still is extremely difficult to express or create something about what we saw and lived through during the war.
I trusted Artem Valter, a very close friend of mine, with the music completely. We worked together in the past and I knew I could fully rely on him. It was hard to write the lyrics because I didn’t want to tackle or awaken sad memories but also didn’t want to entirely avoid speaking about what we witnessed. We managed to find balance because Artem was with me throughout the journey.
CA: Artsakh, its people, their stories, and their desire for recognition have been a central piece of your art, fueling it for almost a decade. What has to happen in your career to feel like your mission has been accomplished?
VG: Artsakh is my homeland and it’s wounded. As long as it is, I and everyone else need to put all our efforts into healing it. I think it has nothing to do with my career. I was born in Artsakh. It shaped me, educated me, and made me who I am – like a parent who raises their kid. I feel responsible for it and as long as I’m alive I’ll do everything for my motherland.
CA: What creative plans do you have for the future?
VG: If there is an opportunity, I plan to release an album. Perhaps I'll start cooperating with other artists from the diaspora as well. I'm also planning to work on my first short film.