TIGRAN HAMASYAN – INTERVIEW MARCH 2017

By Dominic Reilly
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Tigran Hamasyan is well on his way to becoming a very important artist. The young man from Armenia has already had quite a number of albums released, eight in total and still only 29 years of age. His next release “An Ancient Observer” is due to be launched at the end of this month. Just in time for his visit to Dublin on the 7th April. He will be performing a solo concert in Christchurch Cathedral.

I caught up with him while he was on a US tour and asked him about the music, record labels and his growing fans through the world.

What are some of the ideas behind the new album?

 I have a lot of solo compositions that I haven’t recorded. They have been piling up for the last number of years. There are obviously a lot of other musicians with solo piano projects out in the music world so for me the challenge was… what am I saying, what’s this album saying as a solo piano work, it has to be something different… This album has lot of different influences from Baroque Music, Hip Hop, Armenian Folk music, and they are all in there…subtlety you can hear some layers of different influences… 

 I can hear some vocals on this album? 

Part of the music is that I thought that some of the songs needed vocalising and to express the melody a little more so I am singing on some of the songs. 

You’re last two albums were on the ECM label; this one also feels like it could have been an ECM recording? 

ECM has put some of my favorite music in the world, Garbarek’s music Keith Jarrett’s music, there is some incredible stuff and I am obviously influenced by theses artists who recorded for ECM so maybe that’s part of it? 

How was the experience of dealing with Nonesuch for this recording?

Nonesuch is really great to work with, Bob Hurwitz who is the head of Nonesuch is a great person to learn from, they are doing a really great job of putting everything together. As far as music influence goes they did not get involved, the only thing they suggested was that they wanted to print vinyl and so they wanted the overall recording to be a bit shorter in length. 

 Why the switch from ECM to Nonesuch?

 Well honestly it was not a switch. I only did that one record with them, Luys I Luso, which was the choir record, which I though would be really great with ECM and then I got an offer from Nonesuch and as I had really liked that label I decided to do a contract with them. 

 You have just finished some dates on the west coast of America, is that a new territory for you?

 I lived in LA for about six years so there is a good audience there for me. Last year I performed the Choir project in the Royce Hall in UCLA and it was a sold out show so I have been building my audience there while I lived there and in the years after I left. My parents live in LA and although I am back in Armenia I try to get back as much as I can to California. There is a great scene in LA. I feel there is so many incredible musicians that have come out of LA that are my generation or a littler older or younger, Ambrose Akinmusire for example, Flying Lotus, Thundercats, Gerald Clayton and are now going out all over the world,

tigran-hamasyan-card-2016Have you played much in the Far East?

 I have played concerts in China, Japan and Korea. I will be going back this May to do some concert s in Japan. The challenge in the Far East is to get the right people to organise and promote the tours. But Japan has being developing very well.

 You have played in Ireland a number of times, how do you find the audiences here?

 Every time I play in Dublin I find the audiences pretty incredible, when I first came to Ireland I played a solo tour that included The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival and a concert in the John Field Room of The National Concert Hall, I enjoy playing there because I find the Irish audiences to be really warm. I was surprised how well I was received. 

 You have played in Dublin four times in the last 5 years that a good track record. 

 Yes I want to thank John for continuing to book me to play in Ireland but the audience has a wired reaction to my music and I feel like there is a connect there. Sometimes I play a really big venue and I get a really great response but it is still not like the feeling I get when there is a really incredible audience. It’s like another level connection, playing in Dublin every time I play there there is this thing, I don’t know how it works and I am still analysing it. 

When you have played in Dublin you have played different styles of venues, how did you find these differences?

 I choose the venue depending on what kind of project I am doing. We played at the Button Factory with a trio because the music had a lot of rock influences, so we could get loud. In that setting people were standing up and for me that setting was the best for that music. Then for Solo piano my preferred venues that are concert halls, theatres that kind of an atmosphere were people are listening with no eating or drinking. For the choir the music was strictly religious. The best place to perform this music is a church for both the audience and me. 

 How do you measure Success?

 The audience reaction to my music is the most important thing. Being an artist is about constantly developing constantly bringing something new and something positive at the same time, sort of spiritually elevating the audience to somewhere else. So instead of worrying about what the audience could or could not like I like to elevate them, challenge them and bring them somewhere. So for me I like when I create something that I have faith that they appreciate. 

 Where did the title of your new album An Ancient Observer come from?

 I live just outside Yerevan and every morning I rise to the view of Mount Ararat. It strikes me that people have been observing the same mountain for tens of thousands of years. They are seeing the same rivers and trees and valleys that I am seeing today. But people have stopped looking at the mountain, people are too busy how a days. They are looking at their computers and not observing what is around us. 

I recently came across some ceramics from the Ararat Valley about 4000 years ago and I looked closely at a bowl. On it were impressions of birds and trees and flowers and these are the things the creator of the bowl was observing when he made it. Then realised that here is an art to observing. 

How do other tracks relate to this Idea of being an ancient observer?

 I brought some books recently and one of them was a book of poetry from Egypt written 2000 BC. I was fascinated by this book because it related so much with what’s going on in the world right now regarding human feelings and love and power. All the same things exactly how we live with today… with human behavior it seemed to me it was the same things 4000 years ago. If there was a difference it seemed that the spiritual aspect of the book was much higher then our modern society. 

But this is what inspired me to write The Egyptian Poet, which is a piece on the album. Again it’s all part of being the observer looking into ancient times.  

How do you measure Success?

 The audience reaction to my music is the most important thing. Being an artist is about constantly developing constantly bringing something new and something positive at the same time, sort of spiritually elevating the audience to somewhere else. So instead of worrying about what the audience could or could not like I like to elevate them, challenge them and bring them somewhere. So for me I like when I create something that I have faith that they appreciate.

What can the Irish audience expect to hear when you come to Dublin?

 I will be playing the whole album. It will be a solo performance and maybe some other solo compositions that I have recorded, maybe some stuff from A Fable but 90% from An Ancient Observer.

 Tigran’s concert in Christchurch Cathedral on the 7th April is been presented by Waltons World Masters in association with The Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Armenia in Ireland. Tickets are available from Eventbrite.ie priced €25-€35.

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