A Human Dynamo Passes Away

Ontario, January 2019

"Renaissance Man" is a descriptive that's far too often bandied about with scant justification. But if being an author, translator, director, actor, poet, amateur historian, cinephile, patriot and activist make a person worthy of the phrase then the late Hovhannes I. Pilikian deserves the title.

Hovhanness I. Pilikian's portrait by Mariusz Kaldowski

Prof. Pilikian passed away on December 22 in London. He was born in Mosul, Iraq in 1942. Following his family's move to Lebanon, he attended the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian Secondary School for Boys in Beirut, graduating in 1959. Four years later, he received B.A. degree from the American University of Beirut, following which he did post-graduate studies at Munich University. He was also one of the earliest graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

Ontario, January 2019

"Renaissance Man" is a descriptive that's far too often bandied about with scant justification. But if being an author, translator, director, actor, poet, amateur historian, cinephile, patriot and activist make a person worthy of the phrase then the late Hovhannes I. Pilikian deserves the title.

Hovhanness I. Pilikian's portrait by Mariusz Kaldowski

Prof. Pilikian passed away on December 22 in London. He was born in Mosul, Iraq in 1942. Following his family's move to Lebanon, he attended the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian Secondary School for Boys in Beirut, graduating in 1959. Four years later, he received B.A. degree from the American University of Beirut, following which he did post-graduate studies at Munich University. He was also one of the earliest graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

In the '70s Prof. Pilikian was busy directing masterpieces of the Ancient Greek theatre. He staged Euripides’ Electra (1971), followed by Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Aeschylus' Agamemnon and other plays. He was recognized as a unique commentator of the Greek classics. As well, he staged Racine's dramatic tragedy Phèdre, Shakespeare's King Lear, and Schiller’s The Robbers. His directorial repertoire exceeded forty plays. He performed in England, Germany and Iceland and garnered many awards, but the dearest to him was the Petros Adamyan award presented by the Ministry of Culture of Armenia in 1985.

Pilikian's published works include My Hamlet (1961), An Armenian Symphony (1980), Armenian Cinema (1981) "HAY", The First “People” (2011), The Sea Scene on My Mother’s Day (2012) and others. To promote recognition of Armenian cinema, he helped present ten-day Armenian film festivals in England (1981), Venice (1983) and in France (1986).

Although he lived in the world of the arts and sciences, Pilikian contributed to the Armenian national life, especially by supporting the Armenian New Liberation struggle in the Diaspora and subsequently in Artsakh. Prof. Pilikian played a great role in clarifying to non-Armenians the essence and significance of the Armenian people's struggle.

He was courageous and never hesitated to support the struggle to restore justice not only to Armenians but wherever he saw injustice. He supported just causes through correspondence with friends and foes alike, including celebrities, and movers and shakers of political life. He was a life-long backer of Kurdish self-determination.

Keghart.com and its friends extend their condolences to his widow, son, the extended Pilikian family, comrades and friends of Hovhannes. RIP

*****

Kurdistan's Joan Baez Sings in Armenian

By Edwina Charles, BA (Phil), BSc Hon (Psych), London, 17 December 2014

Many are the classically-trained opera singers who sing in languages which are not their mother tongue. But rare is the 'foreign' singer whose articulation is as good as that of the native speaker's, and even rarer the person whose command of the foreign tongue surpasses that of some native speakers.

Aygűl Erce, the Kurdish folk singer based in London, seems–I am assured by Prof. Hovhanness I. Pilikian, an Armenian philologist–enunciates in Armenian better than most Western Armenians.

This is not surprising as Prof. Pilikian had recognized the talent of Ms. Erce (classically trained as an opera-singer) and had recently taken her under his wing, and translated into literary Armenian (in a way that is understood by Eastern and Western Armenians) one of Ms. Erce's famous songs, originally in a double version of Kurdish and Turkish (They Stole My Years Away).

The professor's musically fitting translation is a glorious mixture of both literary Armenian dialects. For example, "Yess hakin em vznots-s" (I am wearing my scarf/necklace) in grammatical form is in Eastern Armenian, but perfectly legible to Western Armenians, with the added ambiguity of the scarf meaning necklace as well. There are also magnificent puns in the line "[email protected] ints bantetsin" (the police {also soldiers} jailed {but also killed/murdered} me). S-bannel echoes (the sound from the two words murder, kill).

Apolitical Pop

The de-politicization of the pop world by the American ruling elite over several decades has succeeded in inventing a fantasy drug-fueled world of no more than androgynous male singers usually singing in Beatles-type falsetto, and female pop divas with lyrics emptied of serious content. Gone are the days when Bob Dylan and Joan Baez could raise global consciousness against the war in Vietnam and topple American authorities.

Idolizing Joan Baez as an artist, Ms. Erce's bonus value is that she is preserving and modernizing Ms. Baez' tradition of writing politically humanitarian protest songs, shaming the evildoers of the world, and displaying compassion for the underdog, the unfairly abused, and the masses lacking social justice, oppressed by brutal governments.  

And here is her best hitherto–Puşe (Scarf)–about a young and innocent (presumably Kurdish) university student, waiting at a bus stop to go to university and  instead, the 'Americanized' brutalized genocidal Turkish police arrest him, beat him up with batons, and throw him in jail, all because he happens to wear the Palestinian-type scarf worn by the Intifada youth … The Kurdish student is put on trial, as in Kafka's novel, never knowing why. His university cut off, his dreams of a career destroyed. For wearing a Palestinian-style scarf.

The story is true, and was reported in the Turkish press. It inspired Ms. Erce to her most melodious and easily remembered, heart-breaking song.

Prof. Pilikian seems to have coached Ms. Erce, working meticulously on her Armenian enunciation, but especially musically on a selective translation that takes into account the complexity of the song's political themes and their evocative semantic dimensions, frequently rendering explicit what is implicit in the original. For example, by describing the scarf with a single word ("Palestinian"), Prof. Pilikian has linked the struggles of the two oppressed peoples, whose lands are conquered by the oppressors: Kurdistan by the Turks, and Arab Palestine by the Israelis.  

Two extremely rich moments in the narrative occur when Prof. Pilikian contextually vibrates with a single word several socio-political layers of references: "Anonk ints voghchagizetsin" (they–the brutal genocidiers–who holocausted me", referring to the Holocaust, and in the main refrain of the song–"O yaman, yaman, yaman". Mourning in his cell, the young student remembers his mother ("Oi mama-s, mama-s, mama-s), apologizing to his mother for causing her grief, while expressing longing for her maternal love and warmth. 

Aygűl Erce and Joan Baez

 "It was not at all difficult to work with Ms. Erce", Prof. Pilikian said. "She is pitch-perfect–rare even among experienced opera-singers. A fount of melodious harmonies, her lyrics are always deeply significant, highly political, profoundly compassionate and humanitarian. Her musical phrasing is smooth and tuneful, richly and memorably tuneful. In other words, a second Joan Baez. No wonder the legendary Ms. Baez is Ms. Erce's ideal and idol. I was very pleased when on a recent appearance of Ms. Baez in London, Mark Spector, Ms. Baez' agent performed the impossible miracle: Upon my recommendation, he arranged for the star to meet her young acolyte, hence this most beautiful sisterly picture."

Ms Erce is so pleased with her work with Prof. Pilikian that she said she already feels like an … Armenian and that she is almost certain she must have had an Armenian grandmother. She knows her husband does. Indeed her Kurdish husband had discovered some time ago that he had an Armenian grandmother, like many Kurds nowadays re-discovering their Armenian origins.

"In today's Turkey," said Prof. Pilikian, "so many Turks and Kurds have had the courage to come out of the woodworks and claim their part-Armenian heritage. It has become almost trendy to claim an Armenian connection… And imagine, Talaat Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of the Interior with Enver and Jemal who planned and organized the genocide of two million Armenians…Talaat who had bragged to the American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau that he was determined to leave only a single Armenian, for a taxidermist, to stuff  it for a museum as a sample of the race. The proto-Nazi must be turning in his grave hearing of several million modern Turks being proud of their Armenian grandmothers–almost a 'new race' I call Armeno-Turks.  History shall never be on the side of genocidiers."

Lyrics of Aygul Erce’s Song Puşe
Translated into Armenian by Professor Hovhanness I. Pilikian

Eem Vzno-tz-e(h)
 

Ba-gh eh ot-e(h) aissor
Yess hakin em Vzno-ts-e(h)-s
Otobiuss-e(h) che(h)kav jamin
Yess ch-hassa hamalsaran

Vostikanner-e(h) in-ts bante(h)-ts-in
Vzno-ts-s getin nete(h)-ts-in
Vzno-ts-s Pa-gh-estin-ian
Ou-zeh-ts-in giank-s p-ja-ts-neh-l     

O yaman, yaman, yaman
O yaman, yaman, yaman,
Oi mamas, mamas, mamas
Ou-zeh-ts-in giank-s p-ja-ts-neh-l

Anonk ints voghjakizeh-ts-in
Go-gh-ts-an giankiss tarinere(h)
Giankiss jame(h)re(h) vatne(h)-ts-in    
Hamalsaran-s ve(h)rja-ts-ou-ts-in

Yev Yess ch-ou-ne(h)m patas-kh-an
Te(h) in-ts he(h)t in-ch patah-e(h)-ts
Anonk in-ts dataran han-ts-ne(h)-ts-in    
Arran-ts im han-ts-ank-e(h) passtel-ou

O yaman, yaman, yaman
O yaman, yaman, yaman,
Oi mamas, mamas, mamas
Ou-zeh-ts-in giank-s p-ja-ts-neh-l

 

Puşi (Kurdish) PUŞİ (Turkish) Scarf (English)
Hewa pir sare îro Hava cok soguk bugun The weather is cold today
Min puşîya xwe gireda Taktim yine Pusimi I wore my scarf called Puşi
Otobus jî nema hat Otobuste gelmedi  
Dereng mam ji dibistanê xwe Gec kaldim okuluma The bus did not arrive on time
    and I was late for my Uni
Xistin zindane Xistin Tiktilar iceriye  
Avêtin puşîya min erdê Attilar Pusimi yere Suddenly, the Police put me in prison
Qey min puşî gredayî Pusi takmisim diye They threw my Puşi on the floor
şewitandin biqesdanî Yaktilar bile bile  
    Because I wore a large scarf
Oy eman eman eman Oy aman aman aman They wanted to ruin my life on purpose
Oy eman eman eman Oy aman aman aman  
şewitandin dayê eman Oy aman yaktilar anam They did ruin my life indeed
Salên min dizîn eman Yillarimi caldilar Ai yaman yaman yaman
     
Ciwanîya min dest diçe Gencligim gidiyor elden Ai yaman yaman yaman
Dibistana min zu qetîya Okulum bitti erken Ai yaman they burnt me alive
Ewa ku serê min hat Basima gelenlere They stole my years away
manayek Hên nikaribum Bir anlam veremeden  
Dadgehê ava kirine   My Life’s time is wasted
Cezayê min birîne Mahkemeyi kurmuslar My Uni is over
Çi govan heye çi selmin Cezamida kesmisler  
Salên min dizîne eman Ne tanik var ne delil And I really have no answer
  Yillarimi calmislar As to what happened to me
Xistin zindane Xistin    
Avêtin puşîya min erdê   They put me on trial
Qey min puşî gredayî   They sentenced me
şewitandin biqesdanî   Without any evidence of what my guilt was
     
Oy eman eman eman    
Oy eman eman eman    
şewitandin dayê eman    
Salên min dizîn eman    

 

2 comments
  1. Kurd Scarf

    The Kurds have their own scarf. It looks similar to the Palestinian scarf, but it isn't the same.

Comments are closed.

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