The first rock band of the USSR performing songs in their native language

It’s my long-lost article, lost with the breakdown of an old computer, and found in archives on a third-party resource without video clips. Probably for a third-party resource, publication does not present value. So I decided to take it back.

The first rock band of the USSR

was assembled in 1967 at the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute on the architectural faculty. The leader of the group was the singer, poet, composer, and guitarist Artur Meschyan, who already had some fame for the song Ureir Astvats (Where Were You, God), dedicated to the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, sung by him while still at school.

The song became a single in the Soviet style. That is, it was re-recorded, passed from hand to hand on reel tapes, at that time this was the most accessible type of information carrier, as it is customary to say now.

The re-recorded and worn-out tapes were sometimes of such quality that it was impossible to make out the words, but the words Ureir Astvats reached everyone.

The student period was quite productive for the group, which at that time did not have a name yet. It was simply called the group of the architectural faculty. In addition to the group leader Artur Meschyan (vocals, guitar, keyboards….) the group also included Levon Melikyan (bass guitar) and Grigor Nalbandyan (drums).

This was the first rock group in the USSR that sang in their native language, at a time when many groups of that time imitated English and American music and sang in English.

The group, as it should be, was under the constant control of Komsomol organizations and individual activists of this and other structures well-known to all Soviet and post-Soviet people. It is easy to imagine the degree of hatred these activists had towards a group of students who interfered with their measured way of life.

And this at a time when representatives of the cultural elite for unclear reasons died in accidents and car crashes, like for example Armenian poet Paruyr Sevak, or world-renowned artist Minas Avetisyan who also died in a car crash, and before that his workshop inexplicably burned down. Or such people were bullied to death. The list for each nation of the Soviet Union is its own and endless.

And in the wake of all this, a group of “some newfound apostles,” as they were disdainfully called by the overzealous Komsomol workers, dared to play rock, and even in their native language. The witty Artur Meschyan picked up on this idea: “Why not!? Apostles – so be it, Apostles!”

And so it happened that the Komsomol workers christened them “Apostles” – “Arakyalner” (Arm).

In the early seventies, the group created the first rock opera in the USSR, The Insane Asylum, which was again performed in their native language during tours to Moscow and Estonia.

Moscow and Estonia were indeed the centers of rock music’s birth in the USSR. In 1971, the group was invited to a music festival in Poland for socialist countries, but only Artur Meschyan was allowed to go from the whole group, of course, accompanied by Komsomol activists.

Nevertheless, the performance took place and was a great success. In 1972, the group members graduated from the institute. It was a difficult time for the leader of the “Arakyalner” group, Artur Meschyan, who graduated with honors.

For two years, due to his “unreliability,” he couldn’t find a job. After more than two years, he was finally able to find a job at Arm.Gos.Project, where he participated in the creation of the project of Yerevan Airport “Zvartnots”.

In parallel, he sang in the cathedral choir, where he met His Holiness Vazgen I, the Catholicos of All Armenians. The Catholicos had a great sympathy for musicians, in particular, the group’s leader, Artur Meschyan.

At that time, on the 60th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, the group led by Artur Meschyan began to create a requiem. The text was taken from the banned Western Armenian poet Mushegh Ishkhan.

In 1975, the group, with great difficulty, using their own funds and with the direct support of the Catholicos, recorded and presented the Requiem project in Echmiadzin. However, recording such a project in the USSR was impossible.

But in the USA, the recording and publication were thwarted because the material of the “Requiem” without the author’s knowledge and permission had already reached the USA in 1975, and many songs from it were performed in mutilated form in California restaurants by petty, thieving singers.

For many years after this, Meschyan did not perform songs from the “Requiem”, but later, succumbing to the persuasion of friends and fans, in a somewhat reworked form, he included some songs from it in albums released in the early 90s in instrumental form.

No matter how long the rope is twisted….

For those times, the group “Arakyalner” did the impossible: it advanced the banned direction in music, based on the poems of a banned poet and on the undesirable topic of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

And not only did they not break down, but they also provided an outlet for such musicians. like Gevorg Mangasaryan, Ashot Adamyan – guitar; Vigen Stepanyan, Gevorg Zhanguyan, Movses Muradyan – keyboards and Ashot Egikyan, Stanislav Bunatyan, Rostom “Sand” Oganyan, Grigor Balayan – drums.

Among them are musicians who were widely known beyond Armenia and the USSR as a whole.

Festivals gathered around them, although the goal might have been to play with other musicians just for pleasure.

At one of such random gatherings with the “Cheerful Guys” and the group “Flowers” I was lucky enough to be in my distant school years. This is an unforgettable impression. And the catalyst for these gatherings were the “Apostles” – “Arakyalner”. The first rock group in the USSR singing in their native language.

by Vigen Avetisyan

Arthur Meschian A Strange Kind of Man

ԱՀԱ ԵՎ ՎԵՐՋ – Arthur Meschian (Nov. ’09)

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top