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Element Band Brings New Energy to Traditional Armenian Music

Sebouh Krioghlian
Staff Writer

Element Band Photo: Vache Geyoghlian
Element Band – Photo: Vache Geyoghlian

On Sunday, November 12 at 5PM, the Element band performed at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Fresno, California.

Element consists of members Ara Dabandjian, Saro Koujakian, Shant Mahserejian, Gars Sherbetdjian, Chris Daniel, and Jeremy Millado. Dabandjian, responsible for the musical arrangements, fusing Greek and Latin sounds with traditional Armenian folk music fluidly, was constantly switching from accordion, to keyboard, to guitar as well as other stringed instruments throughout the performance.

It’s hard not to allow his humble stage presence to fool you into thinking the leads he plays are simple, but they are far from it. Meanwhile, Saro Koujakian, responsible for much of the songwriting for the English pieces, lent his deep, graceful voice, while also playing rhythm guitar. Then there was the most energetic of the group, Shant, playing the violin while also involving the crowd, by clapping or playfully dancing on stage.

Gars sang beautifully, backing Saro’s vocals through many of the songs, but also letting her true talent show while taking the lead. Chris was found behind the drum set, laying down the rhythm for the pieces, while bringing order to the group. Finally there was Jeremy, who emphasized the rhythms, blending them perfectly with Chris’ drumming, and often taking the lead by playing a wide variety of styles. There was an obvious comfort that they shared with each other on stage, and were often found improvising the songs they chose to play. This comfort expanded also to the audience, with whom they spoke between songs, as if they knew each other personally. This natural comfort helps them create a warm atmosphere, making their concerts much easier to enjoy.

They started off the evening by playing an instrumental piece, which helped set the upbeat mood, while warming up the musicians as well as the crowd. Some beautiful Armenian songs that were modernized with Latin and Mediterranean styles followed this piece, which included: “Mekhagner,” “Ayn Kisher,” “Ambets Gorav,” and “Sareri Hovin Mernem.” Their renditions of these older, traditional Armenian songs were very accessible to the older fans, to whom they are more familiar; however, this did not prevent the younger audience from enjoying it as well. These songs were then followed by songs played in English, which shared a similar romantic theme.

“Estranged,” “Masquerade,” and “If I May,” all newer additions to their repertoire, appealed a lot to the younger fans and possessed unique qualities. They then performed more Armenian songs, which included “Noubar,” “Noune,” and “The Macedonian.” These last three songs helped end the first half very energetically, giving the audience a lot to look forward to after the intermission.

The second half of the performance had a similar pattern to it, going from Armenian to English, and back to Armenian. The songs performed were “Anoush Karoun,” “Ganchoumeme Ari,” “Tricycle Girl,” “Arabian Nights,” “Yarko Parag Boyeet,” “Hars Em Genoom,” “Anoush Hayrenik,” and “Ailooghes.” The last two songs, helped end the show with a bang, where the crowd, encouraged by the band, started to line dance around aisles of the auditorium. This was a rather enjoyable sight, as everyone had huge smiles across their faces, while enjoying the last few moments of the memorable night.

An encore performance of the song “Porompero” was played in response to the crowd’s applause, which concluded the concert perfectly. Overall, this concert was very upbeat and had wonderful individual and combined performances by each of the band members. This rather young band, with the ability to capture the attention of both the young and old, charmed the audience throughout the show with the traditional Armenian pieces played mainly off of their album Yev O Phe, as well as the newer songs that they had written in English. The title of their first album is very interesting in that it represents the last two letters of the Armenian alphabet, added later in Armenian history in order to help reproduce the sounds made by European languages. In essence, these last two letters symbolize the spirit of the band, which blends Latin, Mediterranean, and other musical styles, while creating a unique form of Armenian music all their own.

The concert was sponsored by the Armenian Technology Group.