Buy a Record, Make a Difference is a new series we have created to help local musicians generate income during COVID-19. It is based on the principle that we should support and reward the hard work local artists have already put into recordings, as it is an immensely difficult undertaking to be creating new material under current circumstances. There is currently a lot of emphasis on livestreaming and innovation in our industry, and while those things absolutely have their place, we think it’s also important to boost projects that have already been completed.
In each post, we’ll ask a local artist a series of the same questions, give them the opportunity to talk about recordings they’re proud of, and ask them to talk about other local musicians whose work they admire. It’s our hope that you’ll take the time to listen to & purchase the work of local artists, or at the very least share their work with others.
1. Who are you?
I’m a guitar player, composer, educator and am also currently the New Music Curator at Western Front, one of Canada’s leading artist run centers for art and new music. I have several of my own projects, like Aram Bajakian’s Kef, which plays Armenian dance music from diasporic communities in New York and Los Angeles from the 40s, 50s and 60s, Dálava which is a collaborative project with my wife, Juila Ulehla. Most recently I released an album with poet Alan Semerdjian, entitled The Serpent and the Crane, which features poems by Armenian poets who were killed in the genocide as well as contemporary poets, including Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Balakian. It’s a really powerful album. I’ve also had an opportunity to play a supporting role for artists like Lou Reed, John Zorn and Madeleine Peyroux. And my first time visiting Vancouver, in the summer of 2012, was to audition for Diana Krall’s band, whom I played with for a year. When I arrived for that audition I never could have imagined that a year later, I would be moving here.
2. Describe your music as best you can.
I love all different styles of music, and my own work tends to reflect that. It can run the gamut from meditative to harsh noise, beautiful melodic melodious to cacophany. I love it all. But it’s also interesting, in terms of my own sound as a guitarist. I have a recording that I made in grade seven with my band Thingummy. It’s total 90s teenage angst rock. But when I hear that track, I always think that my guitar playing hasn’t really changed much since then. Sure there’s more technique and knowledge and referencing and such, but the essence of it is the same, especially the guitar solo.
3. What’s your latest recording (or a recording you’d like to promote)? Where can people get it?
This is a track from “The Serpent and The Crane.”
The History of Armenia – By 2016 Pulitzer Prize recipient Peter Balakian.Read by Alan Semerdjian. Guitar by Aram Bajakian.We'll be performing this and others at Murmmr in Brooklyn on 4.21.Along with the fabulous Angel Deradoorian, who will be performing a solo set.
Posted by Aram Bajakian on Thursday, April 5, 2018
This track gives me the chills every time I hear it. The poem is by Peter Balakian. It’s moving to me partly because I remember long walks with my own grandfather, who was an Armenian genocide survivor. Because he worked at a dry cleaning factory for most of his life. And his garden, with parsley and so many vegetables. And because it takes place in New Jersey, by New York City, which was my home for so long. The album can be found on my Bandcamp page.
4. Is there another local musician whose work you’d like to give a shout out to?
There’s so many musicians, but in thinking about this, I was thinking that it would be good to acknowledge all the amazing organizers in Vancouver. They make the city so vibrant, bringing in amazing artist from around the world, while also supporting the local scene. Obviously Rainbow Robert and all the employees at Coastal Jazz. But there’s also Barbara Adler, Cole Schmidt and James Meger with their Sawdust Collector series. There’s the incredible work of Diane Kadota and all the festivals and artists she helps support. There’s Deep Blue and Jean Brazeau and Robin Selk. Colin Cowan’s amazing venue the China Cloud. David Pay and Music on Main. Giorgio Magnanensi at Vancouver New Music. Lisa Cay Miller and all the workshops she helps to tirelessy organize throughout the year. Constantine Katsari at Quiet City. All these people and so many more help to bring incredible artists into Vancouver, and all these people also work together to help support each other. It’s a wonderful wonderful scene we have here. So I want to give a shout out to them!