From programming to rock: Vahag Rush

Vahag Rush

For many, Vahag Rush is an artist who breaks stereotypes. With his career trajectory, Rush shows that one does not need to limit themselves to one single path and can instead pursue several professions and excel in all of them. From the worlds of programming and accounting to the realm of music, Rush is an inspiring example for young artists, proving that it’s never too late to pursue our passion, learn something new and succeed. He brings a wave of fresh air to Armenian music, fusing poems by renowned Armenian authors with elements of the rock genre to create something unexpected and extraordinary. In my exclusive interview with Rush, we discussed his artistic motives and inspirations, the current state of Armenian music, the recipe for success in the music industry and the intricacies of Armenian rock. 

Milena Baghdasaryan (M.B.): How has your background in programming and accounting influenced your approach to music composition? Would your musical style be different if you had formal music education? What is the importance of professional musical education in general?

Vahag Rush (V.R.): My profession and education help me earn money to spend on music. If I had a professional musical education, I probably would have pursued a different path. Of course, having professional musical education and undergoing vocal training, which I am currently doing, is important.

M.B.: Your songs often feature lyrics adapted from poems by renowned Armenian authors like Yeghishe Charents, Hovhannes Shiraz, Silva Kaputikyan, Hamo Sahyan, Vahan Teryan, Paruyr Sevak and Misak Metsarents. How do you select which poem to set to music? Do you typically compose the music first and then choose a poem, or do you find inspiration from the poem itself to create corresponding music? 

V.R.: Yes, indeed, I choose the poems of our famous poets. I used to select poems that were popular, but not anymore. Now I do what I like, and that’s partly my secret [of success], because I don’t try to compose something that would please my listeners. It turns out that what I like is already on another level. As for the music and lyrics, it depends on the circumstances. If I use poems by famous poets, there is usually a certain energy in the poems that inspires the music and, consequently, the song. However, when I only compose the music, I send it to my friends, who are writers. Together, we discuss what I want to express through this music and choose the words for the song. When it comes to collaborating with contemporary writers, I have collaborations with Tatev Voskanyan, Ani Heruni Sajyan, and sometimes my mother writes my lyrics. My most popular songs, such as Es Kgam and Indz het mna, are among these songs.

M.B.: Your music primarily falls within the rock genre. What draws you to rock, and, in your opinion, why are there relatively few rock musicians and songs in Armenian music? 

V.R.: Yes, indeed, there are a lot of rock elements in my songs. Initially, I loved this style very much and always imagined all our famous songs in a rock style. That’s my handwriting. Although I can’t say that I exclusively play and sing rock, rock elements are present in my songs. 

As for musicians and rock music in Armenia, it’s not a question but rather a problem. Because earning enough money to support a family and live a good life with this music is not possible. That’s why there are relatively few rock musicians and songs in Armenian music. We have many talented musicians, but they prefer to sing what is currently demanded by the audience and what brings in money.

M.B.: What is your assessment of the current state and quality of Armenian music? In what areas do you see room for improvement? 

V.R.: This is a very painful question, and the quality of our Armenian music that is currently in trend is very poor. Because what is being sung now cannot be called Armenian music. It’s more like Eastern songs in Armenian – although there are very good musicians who sing genuine Armenian songs and new musicians who create excellent new works. But overall, the state of our music leaves much to be desired, and improving this situation will take time and effort over many decades. It’s a very difficult question.

M.B.: What qualities are necessary to succeed in the music industry? Why do some artists thrive while others struggle? Is success primarily determined by talent, financial resources or other factors? 

V.R.: All the aspects you listed are important: money, talent and a good taste for creating quality music. What we do in Armenia and what Armenians sing is hard to export beyond the country. Armenian music is listened to here, but exporting it abroad is a challenging task. Very few artists achieve that. It requires a lot of time, financial resources and attention from childhood. Success largely depends on money and what you sing. Not only in Armenia, but also worldwide, there are changes happening now. Quality music is no longer in fashion; dance music with rhythms is in trend now.

M.B.: As an artist who actively engages with social media, how do you perceive its impact on your success in the industry?

V.R.: I’m sure that if it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have been recognized at all, because now it’s not difficult for me to get on television, but for a young emerging artist, it’s very hard. When I started out, it took a lot of money to get my music videos on television programs and participate in competitions or charts. Social media played a huge role in my career. So, I couldn’t do without it.

M.B.: Why do you think Armenian songs with Arabic influences gain more popularity compared to traditional Armenian melodies? How can this trend be addressed or changed?

V.R.: Why only Arabic? Turkish, Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Greek…There are many songs that are plagiarized from these countries. There are some artists who easily take a composition from another nation, translate it into Armenian and sing it without any shame. For me, this is a serious issue, and I honestly don’t know what to do about it. It has already seeped into our culture, and changing it requires serious efforts. Our government should ban such actions and change people’s mentality. Komitas, you probably know what he did. He extracted all the foreign elements from our songs and left only the purely Armenian essence. We need to do the same; we need many more Komitases, but unfortunately, we don’t have them.

Why does this happen? Because people earn money with these songs. People love them, listen to them, and artists get paid for it. So what can be done?

M.B.: What upcoming projects and songs can your fans expect from you in the near future? 

V.R.: I am preparing a lot right now. I am working on a new version of the song “Es Kgam” and preparing a music video for it, which I think will turn out very beautifully. I am also preparing the song “Zoo” by author Ruben Hakhverdyan, as well as many other new songs and projects.

M.B.: What is the best advice you’ve ever received, and what advice would you give to young Armenian musicians?

V.R.: The best advice I’ve ever received is to be yourself and follow your passion without fear of being unique. My own advice to young Armenian musicians is not to be afraid to experiment, strive for excellence in their craft, and find their unique voice in the music world. It’s important to be persistent, patient and open to learning, as well as confident in yourself and your creativity.

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan

Milena Baghdasaryan is a graduate from UWC Changshu China. Since the age of 11, she has been writing articles for a local newspaper named Kanch ('Call'). At the age of 18, she published her first novel on and created her own blog, Taghandi Hetqerov ('In the Pursuit of Talent')—a portal devoted to interviewing young and talented Armenians all around the world. Baghdasaryan considers storytelling, traveling and learning new languages to be critical in helping one explore the world, connect with others, and discover oneself. After completing her bachelor's degree in Film and New Media at New York University in Abu Dhabi, Milena is currently enrolled in an advanced Master of Arts program in European Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Europe in Natolin.
Milena Baghdasaryan

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