Inspirations from Rock StarsBy: Nairi Sharabkhanian | Posted on: 10.05.2012
Some say music is a universal language – the simple collaboration of song and word can unequivocally alter one’s emotions. Through rebellious years, the art of music has evolved into something more than just simply word and sound. It has become a channel with the aim to raise awareness on relatively taboo subject-matters.
That’s what music has been for me. It gave me the power to fight for rights that I believed in and to raise awareness on issues that affected me. My greatest musical inspiration can easily be said to be System of a Down. This multi-platinum recording and Grammy-Award winning rock band of Armenian descent was formed in 1994, in Los Angeles, California. It’s no secret that SOAD has never been afraid of being controversial as their lyrics have been categorized as politically sensitive, oblique, and Dadaist. Such controversy was seen with the issue of “BOOM!” and its political messages that ironically linked to September 11– as a result the song was pulled from radio circulation. Moreover, SOAD is well known around the world for being outspoken in their views regarding the Armenian Genocide. For me, it all began with the words, “I cry when angels deserve to die”. I automatically related these lyrics to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Since then, I was addicted to SOAD.
Growing up, System of a Down not only entertained me, but educated me and most importantly, as a second generation survivor, they became my core inspiration to raise awareness on the denial of the Armenian Genocide. My Grandfather was orphaned at the age of 9 when his family fell victim to the Young Turks in Ottoman Turkey. Coming to Canada, my grandfather preached to his children to continue his legacy as a survivor and to pass on to their children the same Armenian morals and values that were so dear to him. Living my life knowing that my grandfather wanted to see the day Turkey admits the Armenian Genocide, I vowed to continue his legacy.
System of a Down can easily be considered as the voice of the Armenian youth—they share the same goals and values that my grandfather has inflicted upon me. As a fan, I would follow the band’s media updates in which the mean subject revolved around their world of activism. Serj Tankian, the lead singer of SOAD, being an active member in Amnesty International, has written songs about the Armenian Genocide that he performs at every concert. Songs such as “P.L.U.C.K”, “Aerials”, “War?”, and “Holy Mountains” all revolve around the 1915 Genocide and are targeted towards Turkey’s present denial. At their concerts, System of a Down does not shy away to preach to their fans about the denial the government of Turkey acts on and this has been a trend since the band first began in 1994. Serj uses his talent and his fearless lyrics to spread awareness on what happened to his people. In 1998 during System of a Down’s first European tour, the series of concerts hit an abrupt halt when learning of a set date in Istanbul. Serj’s main concern was his safety as a human rights activist who is vocal about his opinions. In an interview with Amnesty International he said, “I’ve never played in a country where I can’t get on stage, play a song and then say what I feel as an artist”. The outcome of their decision was to cancel the show as there was no concrete assurance to the question of their safety.
The Armenian Youth Federation of Canada has been involved in various projects throughout the years that have served justice to the Armenians. We take part in a yearly protest in Ottawa to show the Canadian government that what happened to us 97 years ago will not stop us. A recent hunger strike to stop Turkey’s Denial created buzz in the city of Toronto. Countless campaigns, flyer blitzes, and demonstrations in front of the Turkish consulate in Toronto are only a few of the projects that AYF Canada organizes.
Throughout my years working in AYF I always had the song “PLUCK” playing in my head reminding me that we should never give up on something we believe in, especially when that something affected not only my family, but the Armenian race. Former AYF members Serj and the rest of the band continue to support this organization in every way. I personally relate to Serj, seeing him as a great role model and as an active AYF member, like myself. He represented himself as a true AYFer in 2006 when he collaborated with director Carla Garabetian to create a documentary about the Armenian Genocide through the eyes of System of a Down called “Screamers”. The film also examined Turkey’s current Genocide denial and the neutral role of the United States Government.
Advocating the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Government of Turkey should not be reserved for the month of April. As Armenians, partaking in an active role to raise awareness should be a part of our agenda all year round. This is something that we should all take part in as a race. This is our cause and its acceptance relies on a communal and unified effort… In the words of Serj Tankian, “I think we should all be SCREAMERS”.