Arsen Safaryan: I do not believe that American Johns, French Jacques, or Russian Ivans will come to protect us

Arsen Safaryan: I do not believe that American Johns, French Jacques, or Russian Ivans will come to protect us

What is the Armenian music industry like today, what challenges are facing Armenia today, what have we lost as a nation in recent years, and what are the reasons for this? Although we talked about painful issues with singer, songwriter Arsen Safaryan, we talked in a way that is par for the course with him: with a smile. According to the singer, the problems can be resolved; we just have to rely on ourselves and not expect any help from without.

– What was the Armenian music industry like when you were just starting out on your career and what is it like now?

– I remember those times quite well. There is this phrase ‘feels like it was yesterday’. That is the case with me. I remember everything distinctly. The time 1996-1997 was a very interesting time for me. Although technically, opportunities were limited back then, we used to sing our own songs and there was a belief that things would gradually get better, that we would give more concerts, etc. In fact, there was a period when everything was just like that. That was perhaps the height of my career. I say so as the songs and video clips created until 2010 went one better than the other. We were not bothered about composing a song, so that we would be invited to sing in wedding ceremonies. What really mattered to us, was to create something beautiful, something that would convey a meaning. We did not strive to film women in swimsuits in the clips. The bar was set high. I do not deem it right when they say they create what people want to see.The singer should think about what he performs. You get what you give. And I think so today as well. I can see changes for the better as well. Not that I think bad of everything. Today, the youth wants to hear live performances; and that is great.

– When you last went to Artsakh, you were with Artur Grigoryan. Do you think Grigorich had any hope that everything would be fine?

– He was in agony… We were both in agony. We had never been to Artsakh in that mood. When we entered Artsakh, he did not even turn around; he did not look at Shushi’s new town sign… We were silent; we kept silent for quite a long time, as there was nothing to say. Then I caught myself thinking that defeat was even in the air; that was the mood. Everything had become somewhat gloomy.

I felt that Grigorich was in a very bad mood, but he suddenly collapsed… It was after he sang for the soldiers… At that time, we thought that the worst thing that could happen had already happened; Artsakh was still there… Perhaps we hoped that we would not lose entire Artsakh after all.

– Isn’t it strange that the loss of Artsakh is hardly being talked about now?

– It took me quite long to arrive at the understanding that it is us, who is to blame for our losses. We have a tendency to create myths, while we should have worked. We shouldn’t have been egocentric, advancing only our personal interests. Wrong people often held the most important posts. That was the reason why we did not develop and did not arm ourselves. We could have built a Chinese wall around Artsakh.

They say that everyone should be in their place. But looking around, I want to tell them that they are not in their places either. Many people are not in the right place. I sometimes think they are ashamed to talk about it. Well, don’t talk then, what can I say?

– Are they ashamed that they could not be helpful in any way?

– They are fine, they don’t need to talk about it anymore. Looking at them, the impression is that nothing has happened. Indifference gradually deepens. That national liberation spirit may come again in the course of time, but now… Yes, they listen to the songs, they get excited, but their lifestyle does not show that they believe in it.

– In the fall of 2020, you were in Artsakh with your brother, and you saw with your own eyes what was going on there. Stories were many and different after the war. What myths were created at that time, and which ones were particularly noticeable to you?

– We saw the truth… I hear opinions that Armenian men are not fighters, that they are deserters, etc. This expression, it destroys us. Some deserters can be found during any war. But we cannot extend it to everyone and then add that this was the reason why we lost the war. That was not the case. We had and still have many brave men.

– Years ago, I met singer, fighter Mkrtich Mkrtchyan. During our conversation, he said he had been happy during the war (meaning the first Artsakh War). He said there is nothing better than fighting for the motherland… What did you feel on the battlefield?

– That was a bunch of feelings; you were ready for anything for your friend, you could hold his hand at any moment…

Mkrtich was a great fighter, I cannot compare with him, but we also had this wonderful feeling of trust in our commander. You trust an experienced fighter standing next to you, encouraging you, a friend to whom you yourself can give something with your song. The most important thing was that there was this something for the sake of which one was fighting; but we have what we have. I suffer from something else as well: We did not draw the right conclusions from what happened and did not take the right steps to achieve results.

– Do you have hope that everything will be fine after all?

– I don’t want to be naive, saying that everything will be fine in a few years. Yes, the realization that we should only rely on ourselves came after the war. I do not believe that American Johns, French Jacques, or Russian Ivans will come to protect us. We have to get to building our army. Then, if the geopolitical situation is somewhat favorable, and Azerbaijan appears in turmoil (smiles), something may change then. However, I will sound naive to say that we will go and get our homeland back in a year. We have already seen the value of those medals, and myths have been dispelled. Do you remember they were up to handing out awards? “I’m doing well to make myself awards”. This should not be the case anymore; we should truly start building our army. The fact that we have to start showing teeth is beyond doubt. We know that where we answered them back on the battlefield, they did not advance. Otherwise, if they advance kilometer by kilometer like this, they will reach here…

Interview by Lena Gevorgyan