Monday, 09 December

Canadian-Armenian Repatriate Finds New Musical Inspiration in Armenia

DerHova Says There's Passion in Armenia, Along With the Problems DerHova wasn't all that active when it came to community events. He never participated in demonstrations and didn't like to attend functions. "I was always a bit different; in the way I dressed, in everything, in the music I listened to. That's why I never went to these events, I felt uneasy," says Canadian-Armenian composer Harout Der-Hovagimian, also known as DerHova. Using the first syllables of his last name, Harout decided to use the stage name of DerHova. He is surprised that of all his friends who actively participated in a variety of Armenian functions, he's the only one who has returned to Armenia. "If you ask my friends, they will tell you that they are the more patriotic and that they show up at all these Armenian events. I kept my distance from those things. But, in the end, I noticed that I was the only one who came to Armenia. The others have stayed behind," says DerHova. He wrote "Kele-Kele" for Sirusho's EuroVision Performance DerHova gained notoriety in Armenia in 2008 as the compose of the song "Kele-Kele" performed by Sirusho in the EuroVision contest. His first trip to Armenia was back in 1983 on a school trip with other students. "My heart is tied to this place. I wanted to come here. I thought that I was my own boss, I didn't work for anyone else. I figured I could come and try to find work. If it worked out, fine, if not, no big deal," he says. The next time he visited Armenia was on vacation in 2000. In 2002, he finally made the move to relocate. His grandparents fled to Syria during the 1915 Genocide. His father's side of the family hails from Kharpert and Ourfa; his mother's side, from Cilicia. DerHova has never been to western Armenia, neither to Cilicia. He really wants to visit Cilicia. He says he won't go alone and that he's waiting for the right opportunity. DerHova's father is 69 years old and is a auto mechanic. His mother works in a pharmacy. It's been tough on his parents who reside in Canada. first their son relocated to Armenia and then their daughter moved to Sweden with her husband. The family didn't take to kindly to his decision to move to Armenia. "At the time, they were saying some pretty bad things about Armenia in the diaspora. I wanted to find out why," he says. DerHova never graduated from college. Music and song writing were hobbies of his during his school years. In the ensuing years, he took a more serious approach to his musical ambitions. Song lyrics are written in English He writes songs and musical arrangements. He writes the lyrics only in English, noting that his Armenian isn't that polished for song writing. He started putting out albums at the age of 16. "I realized that this was my calling. Going on to college seemed senseless since I had already gained some success in the field." DerHova has written 250 songs from 1992 to date. He had reached a certain level of success back in Canada but says that he no longer found the place interesting. He says he felt exhausted in terms of new song ideas. "I never regret the fact that I moved here. Had I stayed in Canada, I do not think I would have seen the success that I have achieved here." DerHova says the major advantage of working in the show business field in Armenia is everyone he has collaborated with has a musical education; something he doers not. He says that in Canada that aren't many who have a musical education in the pop field. "Working with people here, the mentality, nature, has given my work new inspiration." His eight years of living in Armenia has shown him that while Armenians love to complain, no one is willing to change anything "We need to free ourselves of some of these complexes, to think more freely. We need to respect one another and not criticize each other. I mean, we are the first Christian nation, right? Armenians need to lend each other a "helping hand" The one thing that depresses him most in Armenia is the way people treat one another - the petty jealousy and contempt, not to lend a helping hand. When he first moved to Armenia, there were many other things that irritated him, but he confesses that he have noticed some changes and that he too has adjusted to certain facts of life. DerHovan sees no similarities between Armenia and Canada. "In terms of social life, Canada is quite advanced. I miss the cleanliness, the country's natural beauty," he says, adding that life in Canada is very structured and cold- "It's all work, work, work; just like a robot." He says that in Armenia, people enjoy life. "Here, a day can pass quite peacefully and the following day can be a battlefield that strains my nerves. Here there is a fire, passion, that is missing in Canada." After coming to Armenia, DerHova has become more daring as well as patient. He speaks his mind, but not with the intention of hurting another's feelings. It's just to express himself and sometimes as a favor to another. "I understood that I must speak out for people to take notice of me and listen," he says. When I asked him what was it about Armenia that bound him here, whether it was the "roots" thing or not, he replied, "Nah, I'm not that much of a romantic on that score." Came to Armenia with no specific objectives DerHova confesses that he came to Armenia without a real objective in mind. "It true when local Armenians say that those from the diaspora come here with their pockets full of cash to make even more money. But what interested me was to introduce something new into my work, to become inspired." Slowly, certain goals have taken shape. He has already accomplished one in particular- a study of the show business field in Armenia; the market. For example, when he first arrived in Armenia, Russian pop was widely listened too. Not knowing the language, he soon hated the music. He saw no emotion in the music. He wanted Armenians to listen to Armenian pop. On the road to this goal, he produced the song "Blow, wind" for the group"Hayk". The composer believes it will be remembered for a long time. "We shouldn't call it show business because you need to make money for it to be called such. The singers don't make anything. The people who do are the composers, arrangers and directors." DerHova doesn't believe that people earn less in Armenia that overseas. It's just that the mechanism for making money overseas is different. There, it's possible to make money immediately, after the work is done. DerHova sees some slow but positive tendencies in the Armenian show business arena. He is basically tight-lipped when it comes to future plans and projects. He prefers not to talk before anything is done. For a change of pace, he is now planning to accept orders from overseas and write songs. He hasn't done so for the past four years. He also intends to introduce Armenian pop stars to the foreign market. DerHova also wants to incorporate Armenian folk instruments into his compositions, change the rhythm, and assume a more action-oriented style. Has opened a restaurant as well In addition to song writing, DerHova has opened a restaurant on the advice of friends. He says he's always been interested in the "lunch business". The restaurant, located at 28 Charents Street is called just that, "Charents 28". It stands out from other eating places by its design - it's unassuming and the color white is in abundance. The melodies wafting through the restaurant is an eclectic mix of music from various world cultures chosen by the owner. DerHova says the atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back, even though the restaurant is located in Yerevan's downtown. Because it's hidden away, many of the clientele is made up of show business types, businessmen and government officials who prefer to keep a low profile. The fare is also an eclectic mix of western Armenia, Greek, Arabic, Italian and even Thai. When I asked whether his music was paying the bills or the restaurant, DerHova answered, "It’s the music. Running a restaurant is much tougher work. Everything has to be fresh every day. One day you'll have a good crowd for lunch or dinner and the next day almost no one. It's too much for just one person to handle. That's why there are partners." He says that Armenian cuisine is not all that varied or rich, compared with others. He confesses not knowing how to cook but that he loves to eat "harissa" (cracked wheat and mutton). He says that he's not much of a night owl and doesn't do much "clubbing", even though he mixes music for use in the clubs. He especially avoids clubs in Armenia due to the cigarette smoke. DerHova doesn't smoke.  When he does show at a party, he's either been invited by the host or he's acting as the Dee Jay. He prefers to travel and relax as a hobby. DerHova sees his future here in Armenia; married only to an Armenian woman...naturally.

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