YEREVAN (Armenpress/Narek.com)–An icon in Armenian popular music for more than three decades–Bella Darbinian–who also helped define the genre with a sultry voice and a style all her own–died on the evening of August 22 in Yerevan–after a long and debilitating illness. Classically trained in Yerevan and Moscow–Darbinian gave up opera for a career that would be more in tune with the pop sensibilities she grew up with in Armenia’s Lori region. She entered the spot-light in the early 60s when she became a soloist with the Armenian State Ensemble. Her popularity soared after joining the Symphonic Ensemble of Armenian Radio and Television in 1966. For the next 30 years–Darbinian’s numerous recordings and performances to packed houses introduced a new level of legitimacy to modern Armenian pop songs. Darbinian also performed in Russian–to gain immense popularity throughout the states of the former Soviet Union. Despite a prolonged absence in the 90s–Darbinian was back in 1998–with a slew of new recordings and tour dates in the works. As evidenced by her latest works–her resolve and passion for singing were forever spirited.