A unique crowd of all ages came together at The Ford on Sunday evening to revel in the tried and true musical genius of Element Band. Nestled in the lush hills of Hollywood, California, bits and pieces of music from around the world served as the dazzling soundtrack for the evening. Due to the pandemic, the musical tour de force had been stifled for a long time, yet they made up for the days lost in one monumental show under the stars.
Led by multi-instrumentalist director Ara Dabanjian, Element Band has been the Armenian music community’s finest gem since the release of their first album in 2003, Yev O Phe, which gave listeners a first look at their now-acclaimed style of modern twists on traditional favorites.
Described by Element Band vocalist Soseh Aramouni as the “heartbeat of the band,” Dabanjian masterfully directed the large band which, at the show, combined old favorites with never-before-heard songs. The setlist included Greek-inspired instrumentals to Armenian folk music and everything in between. Under his leadership, the band put on an unforgettable performance where children and adults alike were stunned.
Aramouni and Natalie Avunjian left the crowd speechless. They sang as if the theatre was empty except for themselves.That was the level of virtuosity displayed by the two who mesmerized the audience with their dulcet harmonies, a standout being “Sari Gelin.” Aramouni’s rich style of singing complemented Avunjian’s honeyed style superbly, resonating deeply with the audience throughout the entire evening. Though their voices were the highlight, the two also shared witty banter throughout the evening and spoke with the audience directly, adding a comedic layer to the already-entertaining show.
The band worked together like clockwork. Consisting of Shant Mahserejian on violin and mandolin, Aragas Abramian on guitar, Garni Alecson on guitar and mandolin, Mahsa Ghassemi on cello, Jonathan Sindelman on piano, Armen Manavazyan on contrabass, Ando Harutyunyan on drums, Emilia Borjas on vibraphone, and Austin Drake on trumpet, not a single note was out of line. It was almost overwhelming how incredible each musician performed; one’s eyes were constantly darting from one to another in hopes of not missing a thing.
After playing a wide array of songs, the band returned for an encore, performing traditional Armenian dance music. In that moment, the artists and the audience became one. The crowd became a choir of laughter and joy, and together, released the year of struggle and disappointment, together, as one unit. Our people have felt so down for so long and having the opportunity to partake in an event that showcases the best and brightest facets of our culture is not only a fun way to spend a Sunday evening, but is ultimately a form of therapy. The band connected body to brain and led us toward grand-scale healing. That is the power of Element Band in action.