Arthur Meschian is often referred to as one of the greatest Armenian musicians, artists and poets of our time.
Many still hold memories of live recordings of Meschian and “Apostles” in the late 60′s and 70′s recorded on boom-boxes. They began as three architecture students at Yerevan Institute of Technology — the “Apostles” quickly rose to become the voice of a generation. Amalgamating Armenian gospel with rock rhythms, the band left an unforgettable impression on their audience. Those were the times of suppression and Soviet censorship. The voices of the “Apostles”, like many in that era, were heavily muffled and even banned. Yet repetitive attempts of the governing powers to ban or sabotage the band’s concerts by shutting down the electricity, or blocking entrances of the concert venues, were in vain. Some still remember the candlelit concerts where Arthur’s voice soared over his acoustic guitar and reached every person in the back row clear as day. Nor will they ever forget the sight of thousands of students breaking though police barricades to get into concert halls where the “Apostles” were performing.
Still the band managed to find ways to avoid the red tape. In 1970, the “Apostles” performed a theatrical piece “The Insane Asylum”, which quickly became recognized as the first Armenian rock opera. Then they went on to tour a number of Soviet Republics, playing at college campuses across the USSR.
In 1975, while still with the “Apostles”, Meschian was commissioned by the great Catolicos Vazken I to write a requiem dedicated to those fallen in 1915, bringing together the pioneering style of his rock band and the classical sounds of the Armenian Chamber Orchestra. In search of the lyrical content for this piece, Meschian turned to a book called “The Suffering” (Tarapank) by the great Armenian poet Mushegh Ishkhan, who had experienced the Genocide of 1915 as a child fleeing death with his remaining family. Through Ishkhan’s words, Meschian and the “Apostles” delivered the true essence of the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
1978 – Even though the “Apostles’” music was banned from the media, Meschian managed to get the band onto a national television network by scoring the music for a televised play called “The Cannibal” (Martaker). Although the play had a political undertone it somehow managed to slip through the cracks of censorship, and the “Apostles” managed to appear live on national television.
None of the details of the “Apostles’” disappearance from the scene in the late 70′s ever became public. The void that followed was being filled by quickly emerging singer/songwriters trying to recreate what was lost. Then in 1984 Meschian emerged on his own with a new lineup. The lineup included two of his protégés – Vahan Artsruni and Gourgen Melikian. This marked the beginning of Meschian’s flourishing musical career.
Though the doors to main concert halls were still closed for Meschian’s concerts, he continued packing auditoriums of every type possible. The “Apostles” fans, now as mature adults, continued to show. Also new faces began to appear. A new wave of college students caught wind of what was happening in the underground and with every show their numbers increased. The dates were announced by word of mouth one or two days prior to the concerts, so as to prevent the local authorities from seizing the chance to interfere.
Meschian’s charisma won the attention of a number of Armenian film makers. Meschian was hounded with multiple offers to appear in films. He continuously declined every single offer that came his way. Then in 1984, film director Rouben Kevorkiants made him an offer he could not refuse. Kevorkiants was preparing to shoot a film about the life of the great Armenian poet Michael Nalbandian. He promised Meschian full creative control over the music if he would agree to appear in the lead role as Michael Nalbandian. Meschian agreed. This was his first and last opportunity to professionally record his music while still living in Soviet Armenia. The film included three instrumental pieces and the song “Ancient Land” (Yerkir Hnamya), written especially for the film.
In 1988 a new political movement started. The Armenian region of Artsakh (Karabakh) decided to declare autonomy from the republic of Azerbaijan. A giant wave of supporters began gathering in front of Yerevan Opera House in demonstration of their support for the struggling region. This is the kind of movement Meschian had been waiting for. New faces began to emerge as leaders of this political movement. They soon became known as the Pan Armenian Movement Committee (PAMC). During this time Meschian, along with other singer, staged a concert to uplift the spirits of the protesters who would sleep on the steps of the Opera House. The concert caused an unexpected controversy. PAMC saw this concert as a threat. Still, they could not stop the concert from happening. Imagine the look on Arthur’s face when the electricity went off after his fourth song. His first thought was “the communists?” — imagine his surprise when a representative of the Pan Armenian Movement Committee claimed the responsibility for shutting down the electricity…
In 1989 Arthur moved to the US, seeking opportunity to record and document twenty years of musical work. He settled in Watertown Massachusetts, blissfully unaware that he had an amazing fan base abroad. It would not be long before he would appear on concert stages throughout the US and in 1990 released an album, appropriately named “Catharsis.” What began as an end to twenty years of work marked the beginning of a new musical and creative journey.
Post-Soviet turmoil back home weighed heavily on Arthur. And while he made every effort to make a life for his family Stateside, his entire being was dedicated to following, analyzing and reliving every little piece of news that he could get. His personal agony, worry, longing, nostalgia and a healthy dose of guilt, in 1992 gave birth to a body of work known as “Monologue of the Crazed Violinist.” The record landed itself to a theatrical production, and a chain of sold-out concerts took place at various venues across the US, among them the famed Ambassador Auditorium.
In 1996 another controversial body of work was released. “Communion” raised questions many of us would not dare to ask and a gut ranching prayer for the betterment of men kind. It too found a place in an entire second half of concerts that followed.
In December of 2001, his four volume box-set was released. Aside from two new songs, it included four CD’s complete with every piece of work that Arthur ever recorded. 2001 also marked his so called “RETIREMENT” from stage which would soon be proven false.
As early as 2003 Arthur headlined a bill at the famed Kodak Theater, and as many predicted sold it out. Then in 2005 he lived up to his original promise and returned to Armenia for good. While in “retirement” he managed to embark on a countrywide tour which also included a performance at MMDM in Moscow. The tour which spanned two years was captured on two audio releases and was surrounded by a multitude of TV interviews.
No matter what the next chapter of Arthur Meschian’s biography brings, it will always have an unwavering point of view, an impeccable work ethic, and a clear orientation towards the present and the future.