Armenian rock bands that became especially prominent during the 1980s are now the representatives of the great legacy of the exceptional and unique Armenian rock music.
Armenia is a country with a rich culture and music. Even though folk music is very popular in Armenia, genres like jazz and rock are widely respected too. Rock and Jazz started gaining popularity in Armenia in the 60s’.
Armenian rock preserves the best traditions of classic rock while offering Armenian alternative rock. Despite this fact, Rock music was greatly restricted during the Soviet Era and was viewed as a Western anti-socialist influence.
Nonetheless, the first international rock festival was held in the Soviet Union in the early 70s’ and many Armenian rock bands participated, presenting their art to the world through music. During that period classical rock and heavy metal bands appeared with features of Armenian spiritual music.
This not only complemented the traditional rock but also gave it a special aura making a revolution in the history of Armenian rock.
The Origin and Development of Armenian Rock Bands
Indeed, during the period of the eighties, Armenian folk-rock groups were founded that combined Armenian folk music with rock. One of the most notable and popular representatives of that period are Vostan Hayots that. It was founded in 1986, in Yerevan. Another one is Bambir that was founded in 1978, in Leninakan (prest-day Gyumri).
Elips, Asparez and Ayas were other important Armenian rock bands of the era. The most popular song of Elips, “Patkeratsrek” (Imagine), continues to be one of the bright examples of Armenian rock.
During the late 1990s, it was the US-based Armenian rock band, System of a Down, that had a considerable impact on the popularity of heavier rock in Armenia.
In 2006, the band’s B.Y.O.B. won a Grammy for the best hard rock song. By the way, a number of top-class concerts have been organized in Armenia featuring legendary rock groups, including visits of Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and many others.
Armenian Rock bands #1 | Bambir
Bambir, one of the most popular progressive ethnic Rock’n’Roll bands, was formed in Gyumri. The founder of Bambir is Jag Barseghyan. The band has a history of about 4 decades.
Furthermore, it had more than 50 musicians passing through its ranks. Currently, sons of the original members are playing in the band with four main members. It is noteworthy that this rock band won the “Folk Music Award” at the International Festival in Lida, Belarus in 1982.
Bambir was one of the most prominent rock groups in the Soviet Union, performing traditional Armenian songs, medieval Armenian music and modern arrangements of one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology, Komitas.
The band celebrated their 20th anniversary in Moscow, in 1998 and in the second largest city in Armenia, Gyumri.
On the 30th anniversary of Bambir, the band released an amazing album that was called Armenian Scotch. It was dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns and the 140th anniversary of Hovhannes Tumanyan.
The current members of The Bambir are:
- Arman Kocharyan (bass, vocals)
- Arik Grigoryan (flute, percussions, vocals)
- Sergo Tonoyan (keyboards)
- Vardan Paremuzyan (drums).
Their music is written by Narek and Arik.
Notably, members of the original band reunite for special concerts. Moreover, Jag continues to actively record and collaborate with local and international artists.
Armenian Rock bands #2 | Dorians
Armenian rock bands, Dorians was founded in 2008 by Vahagn Gevorgyan. In 2009 Dorians participated in the international Eurovision Song Contest that brought a huge popularity to the band.
In 2009, at the annual Tashir Music Awards in Moscow, Dorians won the “Best Newcomer” award. In the same year, the band celebrated its one-year anniversary and performed its first big concert in Yerevan.
Notably, Dorians had a charity concert within the frame of the project Rock Aid Armenia where they met legendary musicians Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath).
The band provided the profit to the reconstruction of a music school in Gyumri.
In 2010, the band was announced as the “Best Rock Band of the Year” at the National Music Awards of Armenia. The next year Dorians also won the “Best Video of the Year”, the “Best Rock Band of the Year” and the “Best Vocal of the Year” awards at the National Music Awards of Armenia.
The band also won the “Rock Number One” and the “Man Number One” awards at the radio award VAN Music Awards in 2011.
2011 was a remarkable year for the band as they recorded their first album, named “Fly” and performed at the opening act of Serj Tankian’s concert in Yerevan.
In 2012, Dorians had a concert with a prominent rock musician, keyboard player Derek Sherinian, along with a living rock legend Glenn Hughes.
In 2013, Dorians represented Armenia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in Malmö, with the song “Lonely Planet”.
One of the members of the group is Gor Sujyan, the lead vocalist and one of the most beloved musicians in Armenia. The other members of Dorians are Edgar Sahakyan (bass), Gagik “Gagas” Khodavirdi (lead guitar), Arman Pahlevanyan (keyboards) and Arman Jalalyan (drums, percussion).
Armenian Rock bands #3 | Empyray
Empyray is one of the most famous rock bands in Armenia that was founded in 1993. It continues to remain one of the most influential rock bands.
Empyray has successfully given concerts and has presented three albums. Some of their songs became movie soundtracks and were simply loved by rock fans.
This band works in heavy rock and hard rock genres. Their songs are generally characterized by surprising melody transitions, imposing vocal and thoughtful lyrics.
Empyray composes both in Armenian and English.
This Armenian rock band was formed on the initiative of Sargis Manoukyan and Karen Arzumanyan. Empyray got wide recognition especially in 2005.
In 2006 the band gave its first solo concert and won Armenian National Music Awards in category “Best Rock Band”.
Interestingly, the word “Empyray” comes from the Greek word ‘empuros’, which means the highest part of the heavens.
The members of this group are:
- Sargis Manoukyan (vocalist, band’s manager)
- Karen Arzoumanyan (guitarist, composer)
- Gisaneh Palyan (keyboardist, author of lyrics)
- David Khurshudyan (bass guitarist)
- Koryun Bobikyan (drummer)
Armenian Rock bands #4 | Dogma
The best musical metal band this side of mars. Amazing bass player. Brilliant vocals. Searing guitar. Thundering neutron drums. This band feature instruments which are weapons of mass destruction…. Oh, to be so young.
Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Armenian ethnic progressive rock/metal band Dogma was created in 2008, in Yerevan. The music of this band is absolutely unique. It represents a compound fusion of Armenian ethnic melody and progressive metal elements.
It was found by two famous Armenian musicians, guitarist, Heno Grigoryan and bassist, Vardan Grigoryan. A young and charming vocalist, Zara Gevorgyan joined them a bit later. Soon, famous musician and drummer in the metal genre of Armenia, Derik Vardumyan, teamed up with them, thus making up a four-piece group.
After a number of sold-out concerts, private concerts and well-received festival appearances, the band celebrated its first anniversary at the beginning of 2009.
They started the studio work on the debut album with the unusual title “Ethnic-Methnic”. The second album titled “Under Dogma” was released in 2014 and Dogma’s 3rd album titled “Na Ne” was released in 2016.
In 2014, when drummer Derik Vardumyan decided to take a time-out, Dogma invited drummer, Gor Avetisyan, who accepted their offer to make part of this amazing group.
Dogma has three music videos, “Renaissance”, “Melancholy” and “Nane”.
In 2010, Zara was invited by Ian Anderson to do the guest act for his show in Yerevan on September 24. During the concert, Zara performed with Ian and sang two songs of Jethro Tull and two songs of Dogma.
In 2015 Dogma toured in Armenia and performed in almost all regions of the country thus, bringing the highest international standards into the cities of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.
Dogma won awards “For The Best Video 2012 (“Renaissance”)” and “For Music Development” 2014 (Melancholy)” in “Phoenix’ Caucasian Music Award” held in Georgia.
In 2011, the band gave a big concert with the title “Under Dogma”. Furthermore, since 2008 Dogma has been the headlining band for “Erebuni Yerevan” City Day celebrations.
By the way, Dogma members are owners of Vibrographus Company. It is the only recording studio and musical company in Armenia that is specialized in promotion and organization of live concerts and festivals.
It promoted concerts of well-known artists, such as Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, John McLaughlin, and realized the production of Joe Cocker, Placido Domingo, Ian Gilan, Goran Bregovic, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli and the concerts of many other performers in Armenia.
Armenian Rock bands #5 | Vostan Hayots
“3rd wave” Armenian rock music representative, Vostan Hayots is one of the well-known and beloved Armenian rock bands. It was founded in 1986 by Areg Nazaryan.
Vostan Hayots became popular in Armenia soon after its creation. Furthermore, the members of the band were one of the founders of the Armenian national movement.
Besides, that band members had established one of the first rock-clubs in Armenia, known as the Stop Club that is one of the most favorite places for the younger generation to relax and spend a nice evening.
By the way, in 2012 Vostan Hayots had a big concert in Yerevan celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band.
Armenian Rock bands #6 | Vordan Karmir
Vordan Karmir was formed in 2005, in Vanadzor on the initiatives of Vahan Poghosyan (vocals), Davit Galstyan (bass), Davit Grigoryan (guitar) and Vardan Paremuzyan (drums).
The band has played a number of concerts in different clubs in Armenia, UK, Germany, US, Georgia, Spain and Russia.
In 2010, Vordan Karmir entered its second age when one of the members of the group, Vardan Paremuzyan left the band and Paykar Chakhoyan replaced him as a drummer.
The band believes that art is a powerful tool for change and this approach is reflected in the lyrics and the musical projects of the group.
Some major issues such as corruption, social indifference and injustice are explored in their songs.
For this reason, the band was not being allowed to perform at certain public events in Armenia. The first full-length album of Vordan Karmir, known as ‘A4’ was released in 2013.
Interestingly, Vordan Karmir was invited to play at SXSW 2015 in Austin, TX, US, thus becoming the first band ever from Armenia to perform at this event.
Armenian Rock bands #7 | Voo Doo
Progressive New Metal band Voo Doo that was founded in recent years believes that that rock music won’t die or get sick.
The group assures that even though Rock experiences its ups and downs, it will continue on as long as there are people who love it.
Voo Doo already has studio recordings and tracks.
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