Araxes sees the A.G.A Trio continue their exploration of the ancient history of the South Caucasus and Anatolia, highlighting how the diverse musical traditions of these regions have evolved. From Armenia, Georgia and Turkey respectively, Arsen Petrosyan, Mіkaіl Yakut and Deniz Mahir Kartal draw from their rich musical backgrounds to reinterpret the ancient melodies of these intertwined lands. Each instrument, the kaval, duduk and accordion, common in their respective countries, brings a distinct voice, which, when brought together create an enchanting and harmonious union of their respective traditions.
This, their second album, is fittingly entitled Araxes after the Araxes river which flows through the Transcaucasus. Known for its meandering course and stunning beauty, the Araxes has provided a lifeline for the communities thriving along its banks for centuries. Its waters have borne witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, echoing ancient melodies and carrying the stories of diverse cultures.
Inspired by this iconic river and its majestic mountainous surroundings, the trio embark on a musical journey which in their words, “brings together the haunting melodies of Armenia, the lively folk tunes of Georgia, and the rhythmic pulse of Anatolia, taking you on a captivating journey through the heart of this culturally rich region.”
Each member of the trio has contributed their own beautifully crafted compositions for the album. The opening track ‘On The Road’, was composed by Arsen Petrosyan, who has become a leading proponent of the Armenian duduk, following in the footsteps of the great Djivan Gasparian and his mentor Gevorg Dabaghyan. Having performed all over the world, this opening piece is inspired by Arsen’s joy of being on the road and embarking on new adventures.
Next up is the heartfelt ‘Dark Elf’ which in the words of the writer Mikail Yakut is “a song for the individuals and cultures that have been marginalized and oppressed throughout history.” Of Georgian descent, Mikail’s sublime accordion playing reflects his many influences from the traditional music of Anatolia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe to classical music and jazz. The penultimate track ‘Kavkasiuri’ is another fine example of his versatility. Something of a Caucasian tango, it’s a blend of passionate melodies and intricate rhythms that capture the very essence of the Caucasus.
Deniz Mahir Kartal is a true multi-instrumentalist who has performed and studied traditional Anatolian music since the age of five. On Araxes, Mahir plays the kaval, an instrument synonymous with his Anatolian homeland. His own compositions beautifully recount memorable experiences of his life, such as ‘Dancing Horses’, drawn from a chance encounter with a herd of wild horses, along with ‘Wind Of Araxes’, a piece about Mahir’s visit to the Ani ruins in Kars province on the Armenian border with Turkey.
The closing track ‘Shalakho/Kintauri/Karabağ’ provides a fitting collaborative conclusion to the album. This dance, known by the different names of Shalakho in Armenia, Kintauri in Georgia, and Karabağ in Turkey, serves as a cultural bridge that unites the diverse communities across Anatolia and the South Caucasus.
- 01 On The Road 04:13
- 02 Dark Elf 04:04
- 03 Dancing Horses 04:22
- 04 Wind Of Araxes 06:09
- 05 Wedding In Machakheli 03:16
- 06 Hayrikis 05:07
- 07 Salkım Söğüt (Weeping Willow) 04:37
- 08 Kavkasiuri 03:17
- 09 Shalakho/Kintauri/Karabağ 03:22
Our first album MEETING is released by Naxos World Music.
Catalogue No: NXW76153-2
Release Date: 09/2020
12 Tracks, Total Playing Time: 00:47:21
You can order the album here
You can listen our album on streaming platforms:
1. Erzrumi Shoror
Some stories we can trace back to past centuries and find narrative forms that have been handed down for thousands of years. Humans have been using dance and music for thousands of years in order to talk about themselves, to articulate their respect for nature and their beliefs, to imitate what they see and to transmit their experiences. The village squares have always proven to be a particularly suitable place for such performances. Erzrumi Shoror (‘The Dance of Erzrum/Erzurum’) is an Armenian piece and is one of the ‘Ağirlama’ melodies to which people usually dance at the beginning of the performance. Erzurum is a city located in today’s Turkey. Until the beginning of the 20th century, a large Armenian population lived in this city.
2. Adanayi Voghpe / Adana Ağıdı
This lament is dedicated to the thousands of Armenians who died in the city of Adana during the massacres instigated by ‘Young Turks’, a leading political movement in the late Ottoman Era. A large number of Armenians lived in Adana until 1909. It held great religious significance, as it was the capital of the old Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. At the beginning of the 21st century, this song resurfaced as a love song in Turkish pop music, initially without any references to its Armenian origins. We would like to interpret this piece again as a persistent symbol against the deniers of history.
The Armenian folk song Bingyol, with lyrics by Avetik Isahakyan, is also known under the name Çabakcur and means ‘violently flowing water’. The city of Bingöl is located in what is now Turkey and in Turkish bears the name of ‘one-thousand lakes’. As oppression and threats to the Armenians increased in many areas of Anatolia in the late Ottoman era, between 1914 and 1915, the Armenian people in Bingöl, like everywhere else, began to worry. After years of living side by side with other peoples, their fears grew day by day when hearing of tragic events from other places. After a while their fears became true as the people in Bingöl started losing their neighbours overnight, they just disappeared, they never received messages from them again. Children who had played together in their neighbourhood, sisters and brothers with whom they had shared their food, seemed to just disappear silently. They had only taken the most necessary things that they could carry with them and joined the deportation treks without knowing where they would take them.
4. Tal Tala / Daldalan & 5. Tamzara
In Anatolia there is a typical dance style for almost every region. These dances have taken on their characteristic shape in accordance with the climatic or geographical conditions and historical events. The pieces Daldalan and Tamzara are played almost identically in Turkey and Armenia, even though there are some choreographic differences in many areas of both countries. We offer these dances on our album in the form of a potpourri.
6. Dzveli Kartuli Satsekvao
Dzveli Kartuli Satsekvao (‘Old Georgian Dance’) is a piece from the region of Kartli, which also includes the capital of Georgia: Tbilisi. The melody is originally played with the salamuri, a wooden flute and accompanied by panduri—a three-stringed plucked instrument. Here we hear an interpretation in which the different instruments are represented by only one instrument—the accordion.
7. Noubar-Noubar & Yare Mardu
Noubar-Noubar is a traditional Armenian love song. It tells the beauty of a young girl named Noubar. The work has become extremely popular in recent years. Yare Mardu is a bard song from the 20th century. The lyrics are written by Ashugh Havasi (1895–1978), music by Levon Katerjian (1940–).
8. Siretsi Yars Taran
This is a traditional Armenian song. The lyrics of Siretsi Yars Taran (They Took My Love Away) were written by the poet Avetil Isahakyan. The song, which belongs to the classical repertoire of the Armenian Duduk, is dedicated to lost lovers.
9. Naz Barı & Nazpar & Halay
In the 1950s, with the support of the TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation), a group of researchers came together who made numerous expeditions to Anatolia to record the folk tunes that people sang in the villages, fields, at weddings, marketplaces, farewell parties for soldiers, festivals and for special occasions. This project was extremely important, especially as rapidly expanding urbanisation and the relocation of people for economic reasons, or by force, threatened the continuation of this important cultural heritage for future generations.
However we are faced with the fact that the sources of the works are unknown or unnamed, and the titles, texts and regions have been changed by methodical errors and deliberate manipulation. While Azerbaijan is named as the place of origin for the piece Naz Barı in the TRT repertoire, Alexander Alexanyan is listed as the composer in the Armenian archives. We have interpreted this piece, the titles of which are even identical, however there are small melodic and rhythmic variations between the versions known in Turkey and Armenia. We played a “Halay” (circle dance) at the end of this potpourri, which is also a common dance melody for the people of both countries.
10. Kara Koyun
A long time ago, a shepherd fell in love with the daughter of the owner of a large estate. This love was, of course, a thorn in the side of the father. To get rid of the shepherd, the father gave him an almost impossible task. He said: “We will feed the herd salt for a few days, but no water. If you can get the herd to cross the river without drinking a drop of water, you shall have my daughter as a wife.” Finally, the father ordered the shepherd to lead the thirsty herd to the river. When they came to the water, the shepherd raised his flute and played heart-breaking melodies. All of the sheep stopped, forgot their thirst and followed the shepherd through the river. Only one black sheep stopped, lowered its head and stuck its snout into the water. However, it did not drink, but looked at the shepherd and followed the herd.
The father stood by his word. Before the wedding he asked his future son-in-law why the black sheep stuck its snout into the water. The shepherd replied, that because of his fault, the black sheep’s mother had died at his birth. For this, the black sheep wanted revenge. But when it heard the flute, it realized how the mother’s death also hurt the shepherd and forgave him.
Kara Koyun (‘Black Sheep’) is one of the rare solo pieces for Anatolian Kaval. It’s told that the story above comes from Eastern Anatolia and that the river was the Aras which starts in Turkey and then flows along the border between Turkey and Armenia.
11. Tsekva Kartuli ‘Keto da Kote’
Georgian Dance is a part of Georgia’s first comic opera ‘Keto and Kote’. Composer Victor Dolidze also wrote the text book, based on the romantic comedy ‘Khanuma’ by Avksenty Tsagareli. The opera premiered in 1919, in Tbilisi, since then Tsekva Kartuli has been played as the standard for all celebrations for over 100 years.
12. Patara Gogo
Where the Elbrus and Kazbegi mountains meet, there are valleys, hills, and highlands that were created by the patiently and stubbornly flowing water.
This song reminds us of the film “Mamluqi” by director Davit Rondelli, which deals with human trafficking in the 17th century. In a Georgian village, there are two young shepherd boys named Xvicha and Gocha. When one day they playfully wrestle with each other, Xvicha realises that one of Gocha’s ears is smaller than the other and asks him why. Gocha laughs and answers: “Because I was born that way. My mother says, it is good. If I get lost in the world, she can always recognise me”. The two boys are kidnapped by riding traders and taken to Istanbul by ship. Xvicha is sold to the Ottoman Court to be trained as a warrior. But Gocha is bought by a French merchant and taken away.
Years later, the armies of the French and the Ottomans face each other. On the battlefield, the commander of the Ottoman army, Mahmud (Xvicha), stabs the French commander in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground. As he falls, he screams, “Voy nana!” (Oh, mother). Mahmud is startled. “Who are you?”, he asks the fallen commander and lifts him on his lap. When he sees, that one of the man’s ears is smaller than the other, Xvicha recognises his friend Gocha, but receives no answer to his question.
The song “Patara Gogo” also deals with the topic of stolen children. It begins with the words “I’ve lost my little girl, didn’t you see her?”. In the last four-line verse of the song, the lost girl is told: “Don’t fly so high, you may fall down and the trafficker may catch you, what if I lose you for good?”. As the mothers of Xvicha and Gocha pleaded with God, hoping to see their children again, the melody of the song is the sound of desperate prayers trying to stop the feeling of turmoil – like the patiently flowing waters that have been trying to tame the wild mountains of the Caucasus for centuries. Sometimes they become a flood, sometimes they are a babbling brook, where the lambs find peace of mind. Elbrus and Kazbegi greet each other.