The spirit of Turkish and Armenian reconciliation found in music

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin have formed a Turkish-Armenian duo that symbolises the reconciliation between people through the melancholic but hopeful sounds of duduk and saz. From nostalgic to playful rhythms, their music shares forgotten stories and transfers listeners to distant lands.

The release of their first album Adana was extremely successful performing at more than 80 concerts from Belgium, to India and Panama. It appeared at the time of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.

With the second album – Karin – the duo continues their exploration of the links between Turkish and Armenian traditions and broadens their journey by addressing the rich musical heritage of the troubled region covered by Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. The lyrics are sung sometimes in Armenian, sometimes in Turkish, Kurdish or Georgian. The melancholy sound of the duduk responds perfectly, flowing effortlessly alongside the resonant strings of saz and tanbur.

Why Karin as a title?

This was the ancient name of Erzurum, a town now situated in Turkey, a region populated with a lot of Armenians. What also makes an impression is their unaccented French – the duo has been in Belgium for many yearsEmre was born in Brussels and Vardan moved to Brussels straight after he finished the music conservatory in mid 90s.

Driven by a deeply itinerant soul and guided by their friendship without borders, the duo weaves links between languages ​​and styles according to their music and instruments. The resulting album is a eulogy to the meeting of others and feeds on sharing and generosity.



’’We are deeply connected with the ground our origins come from. However, it is important not only to reconnect with the traditions, but to add something to them. If people always play the folk music, they will consume the tradition. You have to create,’’ say the musicians.

They draw on the profusion of traditional repertoires, some of them dating back to the 16th century, bringing back to life lost treasure from the past, complementing them with new compositions addressing contemporary subjects such as the fate of refugees.

And this is the message that their music conveys.

Immigration is a big part of our lives today – says Emre, thinking about borders is a non-sense nowadays. There shouldn’t be a difference in the folklore we include. “Oh, this is from Armenia, this song belongs to Afghanistan.’’ The people tend to be naive to have nationalistic views. That is why, they go into a lot of wars that shouldn’t exist.

They are produced by Muziekpublique

A non-profit organisation, label and academy based in Ixelles with a great cause. The organization keeps music and dance traditions alive through programme of concert, courses and projects. Their goal is to promote music in Brussels from all over the world. The place where, the Musicians and the Public would have the chance to talk to each other.

“The label promotes the artists that are living in Belgium, because you don’t have to cross the world to see diverse musicians. There are a lot of great musicians in Belgium. Our idea is to promote them outside the country. We produce the albums and then we help with managing and booking. We contact the promoters, venues and festivals and follow each artist for at least 2 years,’’ says Lynn Dewitte, the label’s coordinator.

But is it hard to reach the public when you don’t promote mainstream music?

’’The people have to be interested in it. But also, the music is so deep that even people unfamiliar with the style explore it for the first time and appreciate it immediately. This kind of music is the opposite of mainstream and actually there is a demand for it. The message underneath is very profound. Sometimes people come because of the message, sometimes because of the music.’’



So far Muziekpublique have produced 10 albums and the 11th is coming in February. It is a creation of the band Refugees for Refugees – 10 musicians coming from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet. ’’They arrived as refugees and we decided to make something together, mixing the cultures. ’’ – says Lynn with a smile.

Meanwhile, Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin will perform again in Brussels on 5th of December and in more Belgian cities.

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