Levon Ishkhanian Discusses Komitas

Musician Levon Ichkhanian

Interview by Araxie Altounian


  1. What does Komitas mean to you?
  2. Komitas for me is the embodiment of the Armenian spirit. The survivor, preserver, and the visionary.


  1. Komitas’ role in Armenian culture, in your opinion.
  2. He set the model and the standard for identity, musically and otherwise. His flame will burn eternally as the preservation of identity is central to all Armenians, especially in the diaspora.


  1. Your thoughts about Komitas as the founder of an Armenian school of Classical Music.
  2. “The founder” is a crucial title to celebrate as Armenians, and to share with the Western world. Also, we must add to “founder”- Komitas “the supreme ethnomusicologist.” Firstly, for his methodology to discover Armenian national music, and the fact that he also predated Bartok in these endeavours. He accumulated his findings in its natural terroir.  He hid behind trees and listened to peasants singing, and transcribed as they were going about their chores; In the case of Bartok, the peasants performed for him and their singing was captured by means of a phonograph.


  1. Your thoughts about Komitas as the ambassador of Armenian culture in the Western world.
  2. I believe as Armenians we need to learn everything, we can about Komitas on a deeper level, and be the ambassadors for Komitas. Now, there are great books on Komitas in English. We (Armenians) need to champion and support all Komitas endeavours in Western platforms to introduce, share, engage, inspire and initiate discourse with his music.


  1. Your favourite Komitas works.
  2. Groung – To me this the Anthem for all Armenians

Der-Voghormia – I was an altar boy in my teen-age years, it brings back great memories of ending the week with his Sacred music.

Gakavik – This is my kids’ favourite song, we used to “jam” it when they were growing up.

Shogher Jan – The melody and the rhythmic variations speak to me at a very deep level, this (and others) could have a place in the Jazz “standard” repertoire canon.


  1. Any future plans involving Komitas?
  2. Yes, there is recording project, performances in Armenia, and my upcoming dates at the Jazz Bistro on November 7, 8 and 9.


  1. Could you briefly comment on presenting Komitas’ music in a jazz setting, and/or in a “world music” setting?
  2. The improvisatory and interpretive nature in Jazz naturally lends itself to performing the music of Komitas. His music is strong melodically and rhythmically, it allows for a great opportunity to re-imagine textures and aesthetics.


  1. Could you also tell us about your upcoming concert at the Jazz Bistro: dates, participants, and give us an idea about the program?
  2. Levon Ichkhanian and friends “Jazz Armenia”, featuring a multitude of guests on Eastern and Western instruments (duduk, Kemanche…), a union of antiquity and contemporary, and art installations- performing the music of Komitas and his contemporaries, even ones that are generally not known to have an Armenian connection, such as Michel Legrand.