Diversity, creativity and innovation. These have always been the hallmarks of Armenian artistic expression throughout the course of history.
With a distinctly unique culture and historical experience to call upon, Armenia’s have always offered their own unique contributions to the arts in all its facets: art, music, architecture, dance, poetry, theater, photography, filmmaking, and the list goes on.
With this legacy in mind, it is no accident that many Diasporan communities are partly recognized by their host countries for the popular artists they have produced. Tell a Frenchman you are Armenian and they will ask you if you like Charles Aznavour; ask a young American if they have heard of Armenia and they will tell you they listen to System of a Down.
Today, the pool of young Armenian artists growing up in the Diaspora only continues to grow. It is for this reason that the ARF Youth Organization of Canada’s (ARF-YOC) Toronto “Simon Zavarian” chapter decided to host its first-ever musical competition, showcasing the talent of local artists and supporting their aspirations to break into the music industry.
Held on February 27 in the Armenian Community Center of Toronto, the event was officially dubbed “Claim the Mic.” Over 350 attendees came out to see seven musical acts go head to head for a special 1st place prize package that included exclusive meetings with major record label executives.
“The show was a great success,” exclaims Hagop Porpossian, a member of the “Simon Zavarian” Executive and liaison to the chapter’s social committee which organized the event. “At first, we didn’t even know that this many young Armenia’s played in these bands,” he admits. “But the response from the musicians was amazing; you could tell they had been waiting a longtime for an event of this nature where they could showcase their talent to the community here in Toronto.”
The seven Armenian-Canadian groups featured in the competition included Rising Resolution, Stagehands, Fear of Romance, Narine, Slogasm, Armen Bazarian, and Sadanhos. Their musical styles ranged from Rock and Roll to Broadway Rock to R&B.
“We wanted to organize this event to support young Armenia’s in music,” says Porpossian. “As a youth organization we realize how important it is to get our youth involved in music and media.” In addition, the proceeds of the event will go to help support the initiatives and yearly activities of the “Simon Zavarian” chapter.
Another special feature of the night was R-Mean, a budding young Armenian rapper who flew in from Los Angeles to give a surprise performance. He also judged the competition alongside Saro Migidicyan, an accomplished musician who has worked with the likes of System of a Down and Serj Tankian. The criteria each group was evaluated on included musicianship, song, crowd response and potential.
In the end, the piercing alternative rock of Fear of Romance came out on top. They will be receiving a meeting with music industry icon Ivan Berry and getting the opportunity to shoot their own music video. In addition, the band will receive all access passes to Canadian Music Week, a special photo-shoot, studio time, their own logo design, and song production assistance. These lucrative prizes were made possible by the support enlisted from such sponsors as Boom Studios, Lisa Tachdjian, Rennaldo Studios, Ivan Berry, HYE WEAR and Saro Migirdicyan.
According to Porporssian, the excitement and overwhelmingly positive feedback generated by the event ensures that this first-ever Claim the Mic night will surely not be the last. “We had a great turn out and most importantly I think we laid the foundation for an event that can only become bigger and better in the future!”