“Apricot Stone” is the Pits: Must Success in Eurovision Come at Expense of Armenian-ness? Or of sensible lyrics?

“Apricot Stone” is the Pits: Must Success in Eurovision Come at Expense of Armenian-ness? Or of sensible lyrics?


Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a lengthy column by the author, a California-based contributor to Asbarez newspaper, on his relation with Armenian music. Find the entire piece at www.asbarez.com

When I was in the Homeland in 2006, working as a news anchor and talk show host for Armenia TV, I curiously reported on the selection process for Armenia’s first entry into the Eurovision Song Contest. I loved our music and wanted us to share it with the world.

The artist chosen by H1 State Television to represent Armenia in some 160 million homes around Europe was Andre Hovnanyan, a singer who had grown up in front of the cameras as a solo with an Artstakh choir.

Andre’s music video “Mi Boud Choor” (Drop of Water) was very popular at the time as was his first album. The video on all the Armenian channels was made of images with Andre in the role of Komitas. Dressed in a white hospital gown, our legendary chronicler of Armenian music was losing his mind having just seen corpses in the burning orchards of Western Armenia.

Andre scored big during Armenia’s debut on Eurovision and garnered a top ten spot by having enough viewers vote for him in their respective countries. It was an exciting moment for Armenia, for Armenian artists, and for this Anteliastsi-Sepastatzi-Erzurumtzi-Fresnotsi news anchor from New York watching all this on live television in Yerevan.

The following years brought Haiko, Inga & Anush, and Sirusho Harutyunyan to world audiences. All three were popular, established talents in the Homeland and in our Diaspora. All were big winners, all in the top ten. Sirusho’s “Qele Qele” was my favorite Armenian entry to Eurovision. She was hot. The music was hot thanks to the Canadian repatriate producer Der Hova. The beat was fun. I was giddy.

But one thing that all our entries lacked were sophisticated lyric-writing. Even simple pedestrian poetry was missing. Their lyrics were, in some cases, worse than the poetry my fellow seventh graders wrote in Mrs. Dias’ poetry workshops . . .

That was then, and this is now when suddenly out of nowhere, an unknown but tall and beautiful half-Armenian named Eva Rivas from Russia gets to represent you and our culture throughout some 155 million homes, singing another sophomoric set of lyrics.

VIVA EVA

When I first heard this year’s entry to Eurovision, the song was one of a handful of nominees. I was rooting for Mihran and Emmy, but I did notice that Eva looks like Angelina Jolie.

At first I thought she was singing ‘apricots don’t’ and was confused until I Googled the lyrics and found that she was saying “Apricot Stones.” Par for the course, our Eurovision entrants really need to address their pronunciation and diction. We should be able to understand someone saying ’stone’ and not hear ‘don’t.’

Apricot Stone – which apparently is about the apricot pit – is a catchy song, but you can’t call it an Armenian song. It’s Flamenco, it’s Gypsy, it’s Arabic and Turkish and maybe even can be claimed as Greek.

The use of a zurna, dhol, and duduks in a song doesn’t automatically mean the song is Armenian. Didn’t Komitas and Sayat Nova teach us anything about our unique musical styles, tones, and chords? Didn’t our Cultural Ministry or the gate-keepers at H1 take music classes in school or at the university?

On the plus side, the song has an interesting Armenian – or should we say universal – intellectual theme about returning to one’s roots. I guess that’s not specifically Armenian, though it fits our mindset.

But with lyrics like “when I was going to lose my fun and I began to cry a lot,” who in the world can take our art and culture seriously – not when the likes of Celine Dion (1988), Tina Karol and Mihai Traistario (2006), and ABBA (1974) have been the previous contestants. Google Traistario’s “Tornero” or Karol’s “Show Me Your Love” to see Romania’s and Ukraine’s mesmerizing entries during Armenia’s debut year.

Yes, Eva’s very easy on the eyes. Her long, flowing hair reminds me of our ancient princesses and queens. She reminds me of that legendary Armenian heroine who used her long hair as a sling to throw stones while fighting off the enemy. She’ll play the part well, but whose part is she playing?

Whether our Eurovision 2010 song is an Armenian song or not, it’s our national entry; and if you listen to Apricot Stone twice, it grows on you. You want to hear it again. You want to hit the repeat key.

Perhaps H1 has found a first-place winner this year. But someone please explain to me the meaning of: “But I was too scared to lose my fun, I began to cry a lot, And she gave me apricots. And I’ve got an avatar, Of my love to keep me warm, Now I’m not afraid of violent winds.”

Now all we can do is wait until May and see how active our Euro-Armenian activists can be with their cell phones and how many votes our “Armenian” entry wins.

What we don’t have in lyric-writing talent, we can make up for by our passion for all things Armenian.

That ought to land Eva in the top ten again, and why not at number one? It’s a popularity contest after all, and we have millions of Euro-Armenians who can call-in and vote.

Just remember what they say about eating too many apricots…