Ana Bagayan was born in the capital of Armenia; Yerevan, and moved to the United States when she was six years old. In Burbank California, she frolicked amongst tall grasses and dancing bears until she entered Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where she earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration.
Bagayan’s work is inspired by the metaphysical – E.T.s, aliens, spirits, ghosts, intergalactic space creatures, ethereal beings, anything that hints at the idea that we are just a small part of the unimaginably vast Universe. Ana defines her work as ‘Futurealism‘ because she believes anything we can imagine, we can manifest into our physical reality.
Soseh Keshishyan’s soulful voice is enough to bring anyone to tears. It carries the intensity of the Armenian-American experience: one of pride and suffering, but also new hope. Her beautiful voice pays homage to the traditional folk songs of Armenia but she also writes her own songs in English. Soseh began traveling with an Armenian dance and song ensemble at the age of 7, and has been a part of various cultural song and dance groups since. Growing up in Los Angeles was a breeding ground for absorbing the styles and energies of diverse world music. She combines her experience in Brazilian Batucada, Bulgarian Woman’s Choir, the Armenian band Element, and her UCLA ethnomusicology degree to create her own unique sound. Find out how she overcame fierce stage fright and how her day job compliments her music. —Kirsten Incorvaia
Q: What did you get out of your UCLA ethnomusicology degree?
It was one of the most important things I have done so far as a musician. It gave me a really strong musical backbone. I got to study so many different genres of music from all over the world. It also taught me how to listen to music in a different way. It has made me a better performer and gave me confidence in my work because I can back it up now. I had the privilege to work with the best musicians and researchers in the field. It was amazing.
Q: How did traveling at age 7 with an Armenian dance and song group set the scene for your music career?
It gave me a nice base to work with. It introduced me to the sounds and nuances of Armenian music at a very young age. The style and ornamentation comes more naturally to me now as a result of that. I had my first solo with that group. I cried backstage because I was so nervous. There were about 800 people in the audience and I was 7 years old. I’m proud to say that that was my first and last backstage breakdown.
Q: What draws you to Brazilian Batucada and the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, SuperDevoiche?
There is an energy that I felt when I performed with those two groups. When you have 15 people playing different rhythmic patterns on drums, bass, snare, bells, tambourines, and cowbells, it literally vibrates around you. You feel it in your gut and the energy is insane. It is also very unifying. You have to listen and be in tune with everyone else is playing. I miss it so much. Singing with the Bulgarian Women’s Choir also gave me the same rush. It is so dissonant at times that you can feel the energy and vibrations within the group. I can’t really describe it. It’s just so much fun.
Q: How do you fit into these ethnic music groups as an Armenian?
I never felt out of place. The ensembles I was in involved people from all backgrounds. It was very inviting.
Q: How will your new songs in English differ from the traditional Armenian folk songs?
They are very different from each other. The songs I perform in English are originals with guitar and vocals or just piano and vocals. Singer/songwriter style I guess. I don’t really know how to categorize it. I don’t do any songwriting in Armenian.
Q: What do you sing about in Armenian?
I perform folk songs that are generally about life in the village. These songs were sung everyday, to accompany work or as entertainment. The work songs are great because some of the rhythmic structures mimic specific tasks like the milling or pounding of wheat. There are also really sweet love songs.
Q: Are you very involved in Armenian activist groups?
I’m not involved with any specific groups but I do rally for Armenian Genocide recognition throughout year.
Q: How does your repertoire of international music experience affect your personal sound?
I think it had a big impact on my sound. It is difficult to describe but when you perform and train in different genres you get to create a unique sound whether its just a vocal style or arranging. I don’t use all the techniques that I have learned though it does pop up sometimes. I might use an ornamentation that I picked up from Bulgarian music. I don’t realize I am doing it. It just happens. I notice that in many musicians as well. Some of my favorite artists site influences that sound nothing like their music. When you listen carefully you hear bits and pieces of different artists. It’s like adding spices to a dish.
Q: What do you do at the 722 Figueroa Showroom?
I am the Showroom Manager and I rep 5 amazing lines (Huffer, Ludwig, Rivi Jeans, Harveys Handbags and C-PAS).
Q: Does your day job take away from your music?
Not at all. I have great coworkers and my job is fun. I don’t have a job where I am writing or creating for other people. It leaves me room to be creative. I can sing, write, arrange and do all the fun stuff without draining myself out.
Q: Do you play any instruments?
I have been trained in piano and violin and am self-taught on the guitar. I am constantly buying new instruments though. I guess it’s the only thing I collect. Last year I bought a cello and an Armenian percussion instrument called the dhol. I am looking into purchasing an accordion. I’m very excited.
Q: What is the most important characteristic to look for in potential band members?
Musical taste and personality. You can train someone to be a better musician but you can’t change a bad attitude.
Q: How committed are you to Element Band vs. your solo music?
I am equally committed to both projects. It can be tricky sometimes because I want the best for both projects and want to put an equal amount of effort into both. It’s tough to balance sometimes because one project might require more time than the other. But I don’t see it as work so it’s easy for me put my energy into it. It’s like going to Disneyland; you do it because it’s fun, not because you have to.