As Marianna Gevorgyan moves her fingers gently over the many closely arranged strings, she nudges them gently with minute, graceful plucks.
Behind her, the wind rustles through a bamboo grove, creating soft murmurs, almost gelling with the light strains from her Qanun. Just as with nature, she has a way of achieving a sort of communion with the people around her, even when they don’t speak a language known to her. Language has not been a barrier for this Armenian musician who has been collaborating with musicians from Japan, China, India and a host of other countries.
Ambassador for Qanun
Marianna, who was in the capital city to perform at the ‘Wow Women Week’, organised by the Kerala Arts and Crafts Village as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, has been an ambassador for Qanun (Kanun), an oriental stringed instrument that traces its origins to the old Assyrian empire. Indians would be more familiar with the Santoor, its distant cousin, resembling it in appearance and in the texture of the sound it produces. Marianna shared the story of her musical journey with The Hindu, using carefully strung together words in English, a language she is only vaguely familiar with.
“I joined music school when I was just seven years old. Initially, I started with the violin and was very active in the children’s philharmonic orchestra. Later, I entered the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan, an Armenian government-run musical education institution, when I was still very young. Since those days, I have been collaborating and performing in concerts with various musicians,” she says.
In Armenia, some of her notable performances in recent years have been with the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Tagharan ancient music ensemble. At the World Folk Vision festival in 2020, in which musicians from 115 countries participated, she won the grand prix in the ‘Music of the Nations’ category. But, collaborations with musicians from across the world playing a variety of instruments forms the major part of her works.
Even her concert in Thiruvananthapuram had her collaborating with a set of local musicians—darbuk player Jishnu, tablist Mahesh, keyboardist Rohith, and vocalist Amritha, a group which she now calls “my Indian band”. Earlier, she had collaborated for online performances with tablist Amit Mishra and others. Rock musician Jay Pillai of the band Lazie J, who is part of an large community of independent artistes, suggested her name to the organisers of the festival here.
“I don’t know any of their languages, but I can comfortably play with these artists from across the world. Generally, I read a lot about various natural cultures, music and films. At home, we watch a lot of Indian movies. My mother, especially, watches the two Indian channels available on our television regularly,” she says.
The musical influences from all the artists she has collaborated with has reflected in her own music too, although she often goes back to re-interpreting classic compositions by Paganini, Chopin, and quite a few others.
“I don’t play only sheets or notes. I play history. This is my history, as well that of my country,” says Marianna.