Syrian Armenian singer Lena Chamamyan played a show in Istanbul on July 17 as part of a somewhat melancholic “return” to Turkey for the jazz musician, a half-Armenian, half-Syriac artist whose family roots lie in Kahramanmaraş.
“Coming to Turkey makes me sad,” she told the Hürriyet Daily News. “This is my first visit to Turkey; I am really happy meeting with Turkish people and also Turkish-Armenians. … Meeting with Turkish-Armenians, it’s like meeting with old friends. … I am so glad to be here but it’s so weird in the mean time. My feelings are so mixed.”
Damascus-born Chamamyan, who played at Yıldız Palace alongside pianist Tuluğ Tırpan, cellist Özer Arkun and kanun player Göksel Baktagir, has also had to abandon her homeland due to the civil war and is currently living in Paris. Nonetheless, Chamayan vowed to one day return to Syria. “If the fight were to finish in Syria, I’ll return to my country. As an artist, I can’t live under a foreign sky.”
Chamamyan also talked about her family’s story in Kahramanmaraş during the massacres perpetrated by Ottoman forces against Armenians in 1915. “My grandfather told me his brother went to the army that time. My grandfather arrived in Syria.”
The singer, who combines jazz and classical Armenian music, was born in Damascus, where over the course of her elementary and secondary education she participated in many school concerts, the first of which she held at the age of 5. She started studying music at the age of 9 and graduated from the economics management department at Damascus University in 2002. She studied at the higher institution of music in Damascus and graduated as a classical vocalist in 2007.
She has also worked with many vocalists and musicians of different nationalities in many jazz festivals in Syria.
As part of her musical trajectory, Chamamyan has mixed classical with oriental jazz and Armenian music to reflect the unique essence of her style as a vocalist. She was charmed from the very beginning by the idea of mixing simple oriental tunes with cords.