The newest contribution to the ongoing conversation about the Armenian Genocide and its effect on the generations that came after is here in the form of an evocative poetry and music collaboration between Vancouver-based guitarist Aram Bajakian and NYC writer/musician/educator Alan Semerdjian, two artists who are grandchildren of survivors. The collection is comprised of mostly extemporaneous and highly imaginative guitar compositions over dramatic readings of poems by writers who were killed in the early deportations (Daniel Varoujan and Siamanto), as well as contemporary voices such as Pulitzer-Prize winner Peter Balakian, Diana Der Hovanessian and original poems by Semerdjian himself. While suggestive of the tradition of the spoken word genre, the pairing between Semerdjian’s voice and Bajakian’s guitar is unique in that neither outshines the other. Instead, they come together to create something new—at times fierce and other times tender—and always in service of the urgent relevance of one of history’s most horrific and complex chapters.
Semerdjian also asked international artist and dear friend Kevork Mourad to contribute to the project; his evocative piece in response to “Grandchildren of Genocide” (the first track off The Serpet and the Crane) became the cover art for the entire album.
The Serpent and The Crane, which is now available for download, was made possible in part by grants from The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and Creative Armenia. It has been self-released digitally by the artists through their respective Bandcamp pages (linked below) on the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Guitarist Aram Bajakian has performed in hundreds of concerts around the globe with Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, John Zorn, Malcolm Mooney, Diana Krall and others. He’s been called “a virtuosic jack of all trades” by the Village Voice and has released several albums of critically-acclaimed and guitar-centered artful music. Bajakian’s grandfather was born in Sepastia. After the Genocide, he traveled through Aleppo, Marseille and Montreal before finally settling in central Massachusetts, where he was involved in the Armenian communities of Worcester and Fitchburg.
Alan Semerdjian is an Armenian-American writer, musician and award-winning educator. His poems and essays have appeared in several print and online publications and anthologies over the last 15 years including Adbusters, Brooklyn Rail and Newsday. His first full-length book of poems In the Architecture of Bone (GenPop Books, 2009) was called “dynamic” and “well-worth your reading” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Peter Balakian. Semerdjian’s grandfather was the cubist-impressionist (and Genocide survivor) Simon Samsonian, who rose to fame in the Armenian Diaspora in Cairo, Egypt in the 1950s and 60s before coming to America and settling in Queens, NY.