My Friend Abo Won a Grammy

How many people can say that they have a friend who has a won a Grammy?

My friend Abraham Gumroyan, or Abo, won the award for Best Tropical Album at this year’s Grammys, as a member of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra.

Abraham Gumroyan
Abraham Gumroyan

Most members of our community, however, have probably not heard his name, because even though Abo is very vocal about topics ranging from Armenian politics to life in the diaspora, he is not the kind of a guy who will walk down the street announcing that he just won a Grammy. So I, as a proud friend, am doing it for him.

I first met Abo at an Armenian festival at Oakland’s St. Vartan Armenian Church. At that time, I was a student at Berkeley and he was finishing his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory. While dancing shalakho to the tunes of Harout Pamboukjian, I could not tell that this guy, who was dancing and pouring his heart and soul on the dance floor, was a classically trained bassist who had toured the world with everyone from Luciano Pavarotti to Justin Timberlake.

Abo was then playing for the San Francisco and Oakland East Bay Symphonies and giving master class lessons to local high school students. Sometimes, after a concert, he would make his way down to Berkeley, still wearing his white shirt and black bowtie and carrying his bass, which was taller than him, to our little apartment. There, we would spend the night around a game of belote, talking about the far-away land that was our homeland while the smoke from the hookah clouded the air. Not for a second did my friends and I feel that we were in the presence of a world-class musician who had accomplished so much while we were still fresh university students. He was always one of us, always a phone call away at any time of the day.

Often we talked about how great it would be if he could take his expertise, go to Armenia, and perform or pass his skills on to young Armenian musicians. In these troubling times of lawlessness in our homeland and the state of confusion and search for identity in the diaspora, there is a need for such role models who are exceptional in their craft and have the potential to put our collective name out there under a positive light.

The reason I wrote this piece was not to tell people how great of a friend or how gifted of a person Abo is, but to point out that in this period—when most of the airtime on diasporan Armenian television networks is filled with realtors and insurance salesmen, and when newspapers mainly cover political intrigues and various organizational news—culture often gets pushed to the second plane and the bright lights among us sometimes go unnoticed, when in reality they deserve all the notice.

Gegham Mughnetsyan

Gegham Mughnetsyan

Gegham Mughnetsyan was born in Gyumri, Armenia, in 1991. He moved to the United States in 2006 and settled in Glendale, Calif., with his family. In May 2013, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in peace and conflict studies. His honors thesis was titled, “The United States’ Foreign Policy toward Nagorno-Karabagh.”
Gegham Mughnetsyan

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  1. Great human interest piece, proving that good stories always have a place in our journalistic society. Had the writer not brought this out, we may never have heard of this talented musician.

  2. Kegham Mughnetsyan, wrote about Abo, but I like to write something about him. In 2009 Kegham while attending a public school, he participated in “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” essay contest.He wrote in Armenian about “Why I want to visit Armenia” and among 94 contestants he won the First place making all of us who knew him very proud. Shad abris Kegham and always write about positive accomplishments arround you. Ara Boyadjian “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful”

  3. Dear Gegham,

    Thank You for your beautiful article. It is nice to read about the talented young Armenians of diaspora. It brought back many memories of my childhood in Armenia, when Abo’s mother would visit from Moscow to spend the summer vacation months. I am very proud of talented young Armenians like yourself and Abraham. Keep up the good work.

  4. Dear Gegham!

    First and foremost, thank you for the beautiful article you’ve written about your friend who also happens to be my son — I felt so honored, moved, humbled and touched!!! Though very proud of his accomplishments, I am equally impressed with your achievements and hope you will continue on this path going forward. With my very best wishes for your bright future, Abe’s Mom. :)

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