Last year, Armenian-German composer and pianist Meredi was planning an international tour following the release of her debut studio album. Instead, she found herself stuck in Berlin in lockdown, composing her second work titled “Trance.”
“It was a blessing and a curse at the same time for me,” said Meredi said about her interrupted plans.
Meredi, 28, produced the album over the span of five months and launched it on Aug. 8, 2021. Her passion for music stemmed from a desire to express herself, including all aspects of her identity.
While she doesn’t remember exactly her earliest experiences with music, she knows it’s always been a part of her life and that it’s akin to “drinking water.” Growing up, she took piano lessons and even played the harp for two years.
Her latest offering is a 40-minute journey through ambient piano, strings and synthesizers. The destination, however, becomes irrelevant as the focus is placed on the melodic trip.
Meredi describes the first track, “Welcome Home,” as a line ascending upward as the listener first enters the trance. The title track “Trance” is about the active daze itself. The songs in between create the ambience of being somewhere else in your mind and longing for something that’s not there.
She connects this sense of longing with her Armenian heritage, as she believes all Armenians carry this collective yearning for home.
“I feel like it’s all in our blood somehow,” she says.
Growing up as an Armenian in Berlin was a strange experience, Meredi says. She did not have many Armenian friends and did not feel like she fit in, despite the small Armenian community there. Especially as a female composer and producer, Meredi said it took time for her to find her roots.
“You’re Armenian, but then you’re in the diaspora. You have the identity and longing, but it’s really hard to find the identity because something is still not fulfilled,” she said during a recent interview with the Weekly.
Still, she finds Berlin to be a diverse place, filled with people of many identities and cultures.
“It’s a good place if you’re a little different.”
While working as a bartender at her Armenian godfather’s bar, he would often ask her what her identity is, to which she would answer, “German.”
“Listen, you have to find your identity,” he would tell her over and over, which she did not understand at the time. She eventually began to understand her sense of self and embrace the roots of longings and passions.
Meredi has visited Armenia three times and recalls the beautiful landscapes and vivid energy of Yerevan. On her second visit, she understood Armenian culture more. She started to compose pieces for choir with poems written by Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents.
Her dad, who is Persian-Armenian, used to sing in an Armenian band in Berlin. As a child, she would always attend their concerts and rehearsals and found herself intrigued by the beautiful and catchy pop melodies. At the same time, her mother often played emotional classical music.
“I think I just got a combination of Armenian pop melodies and classical dramatic music, as well as German classical music. It’s the three genres of music coming together, and at the end you will find me,” she says.
Themes of longing and nostalgia featured in her music, she says, are inspired by the Armenian music she grew up with. Unlike German folk music, which is typically upbeat and written in the major chord, Armenian songs are often in the minor and sound more melancholic.
“I feel like Armenians are not afraid of sadness,” she says. “Armenians are not afraid of feelings and of going into a trance.”
As a fan of techno music and as an avid club goer, Meredi also pulled inspiration from Berlin’s nightlife and rave scene. She is also inspired by composers Arno Babajanian, Steve Reich, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Bach.
While her first album “Stardust” was more dreamlike, Meredi says this new album digs deeper because of the sense of uncertainty she felt during lockdown. For her, producing the album was a therapeutic experience.
The hardest part, she recalls, was being honest with herself and not thinking about how people would react to her music. Especially for an album as personal as “Trance,” she was afraid of letting others witness her vulnerability within the music.
“You can’t be too controlled because then other people won’t feel it. You have to give them the possibility to also let go and let yourself fall. The hardest part is to understand what you really want to say.”
She admits the five-month composition process was a bit damaging. She sometimes forgot to eat and drink and, like many others, felt lonely throughout the course of the pandemic. Her music reflected this desire to escape current reality and enter a state that leads her elsewhere.
Meredi recently performed at her release concert in Berlin before a live audience. She has two more concerts planned in the next couple of weeks. If COVID-19 restrictions permit, she says she would love to go on tour.