With proud father Armen mingling among the nearly 100 friends, relatives, and book-lovers gathered, Keri and Ara Topouzian gave everyone a wonderful reason to be at the lavish Hagopian World of Rugs showroom in stylish downtown Birmingham, Mich., on the evening of May 1, 2013.
The event was a book signing and the Armenian tradition of a “kinetzon,” a wine blessing, of author Keri Topouzian for his book A Perfect Armenian. (Kini is the Armenian word for wine.)
Guests enjoyed wine and light refreshments while enjoying the camaraderie of new and old acquaintances.
You couldn’t get more Armenian than the venue chosen for this book launching, surrounded by unbelievably beautiful rugs and carpets. You know it is 2013, but there is something in the air that puts you back into the 1800’s and early 1900’s. That is when Keri’s book begins, a book with a vibrant orange poppy flower on the cover that, after seven years, has become a reality.
Topouzian’s grandparents, like many, escaped the horrors of the genocide. And Keri and Ara have done Armenian Americans proud with their second-generation accomplishments.
Keri, a physician by profession, now adds successful author to his resume. He wanted a story that found triumph. At the event, he read a brief excerpt from the book: “1897 the first reality…Istanbul. We see three hanging bodies—Armenian—the result of an attempt on Sultan Hamid’s life that failed.” The novel provides insight into how Armenians must have felt during those terrible times.
“The story is true and not true. It happened to my family. I am proud of my heritage and I wanted to tell others about a horrible time in Armenian history. I wanted it to not be sad, to show that people can earn their way to the possibility of a better life.”
The book, available on Amazon.com, proved to be a hot item as book lovers snatched it up several at a time. It includes history, fiction, romance, and adventure. It may have had its beginnings a long time ago, but it is a time that will not be forgotten. Perhaps if the perpetrators had been adequately punished for their crime against humanity, Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, and other genocides would not have occurred.
Fr. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Dearborn, and Badveli Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian of the Armenian Congregational Church of Southfield, together blessed the book and author. Fr. Hrant said, “We bless the author and its readers, not the book,” as the wine was poured onto the pages. “Wine is a noble drink of royalty and our Heavenly King.”
Badveli Tootikian said, “Glory to the Father, the Holy Spirit, Amen. Bless the author and readers to open their minds. We invoke your blessings on Keri Topouzian and may this book be a blessing to our community. This we ask in your name.”
The audience chuckled as Badveli Tootikian added that Keri was a student of his at the University of Michigan, where he was “almost a good and perfect student, but there is no such thing as ‘A Perfect Armenian’ like the book suggests.”
The spotlight now switches to younger brother Ara Topouzian, the kanun virtuoso and successful economic development director of the City of Novi in Michigan. The kanun is known as a Middle Eastern harp and Ara is the master of Armenian and Middle Eastern music, bringing joy to those who love those ancient village rhythms that speak to our heart and soul.
Ara on the 76-string laptop instrument was accompanied by Jerry Gerjekian on dumbeg and Doug Shimmins on guitar, playing traditional music before and after the book presentation—for audience foot-tapping and listening pleasure. It was the music of the now non-existent villages of our destroyed Armenia. It is the music he wants the newer generation to grow to love like he did on his travels to the East Coast, where he heard the master musicians play when he was still quite young.
He is to be commended for bringing musical life back to where it belongs—to the people. Even the abundance of colorful Oriental rugs everywhere seemed to brigthen and come to life at the sound of those glorious rhythms.
Ara was named the 2012 Kresge Artist Fellow in the Performing Arts and awarded $25,000. That alone gives you an idea of the young man’s musical capability. He has been playing for over 25 years, as both a solo and ensemble musician. He has garnered a national reputation for his musical expertise, performing an original concerto written for the kanun as a guest soloist with the Virginia Community University Symphony. Ara has been featured on several nationally aired PBS documentaries, and has produced and performed many albums.
In April, he was part of a panel discussion at the Wright Museum in Detroit—along with prominent musicians from Boston, oud virtuoso Mal Barsamian and Northeastern University Prof. Leon Janikian—on the origin of Armenian and Middle Eastern music, which included performances.
Both author Keri and musician/community developer Ara credit their parents Armen and the late Norma Topouzian for encouraging them to accomplish all they could in their lifetime.
The music Ara plays is his ethnic identity. His resurrection of the simple village music of life and love is his endeavor to bring glory to his ancestors. So, you see, the Turks cannot and will not extinguish the creative light and genius of Armenians. Keri and Ara just will just not allow it.