- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
June 04, 2004

Ageless: Pioneer of Armenian rock regroups (on cd) across continents

In the early 1980s, when rock music was still an evil in Armenia, a band formed to test the limits of “glasnost” and “perestroika” and bring the previously-forbidden music to a ready audience of rebellious youth.
The faces have changed, but not the music.

Four musicians formed Thessilck in 1983, and as the controls of communism were lifted, the rock band became popular to a generation welcoming the freedom to wear jeans and listen to western music.

Many rock bands followed, but Thessilck was among the first.

Khachik Melekyan, Artur Safaryan, Harutyun Stamboltsyan and Hovhannes Shadanyan, rocked Armenia toward independence, before the dark days of struggle forced them apart.

The band broke apart in 1989, a victim of necessity, as its members went off in search of better living conditions.

And it broke up leaving behind only memories of live performances for its fans.

Now, 15 years since they last performed together, the music of Thessilck has returned on a 17-song compact disc put out by founder Melekyan from a studio in Los Angeles.

“This cd seems to be an embodiment of the old days. We’ve been thinking about creating it for a long time, but a small incident took place last year which simply obliged us,” says, Melekyan, the founder and artistic director of Thessilck.

Melekyan relayed the incident to ArmeniaNow during a visit last week, telling about a phone call he got last year while on his first visit back, since moving to California in 1991.

A stranger called Melekyan (while Melekyan was here to promote a solo instrumental cd “Mysticity, The Influx”), saying that he was a big fan of Thessilck, that he’d traveled to all their concerts, and was disappointed that the band’s music was not on record.

“Isn’t there a single record? Can’t we even listen to your songs?”, the fan asked.

A year later, the answer is “yes”.

“Great desire and modern equipment allowed us to overcome time and space,” Melekyan says. “All of us, the four members of the band, live in different cities but we created and recorded together.”

Of the four members of Thessilck, only Shadanyan still lives in Yerevan. Safaryan is in Moscow; Stamboltsyan, in Florida.

The distance was bridged by Internet.

To create the new cd, Melekyan first recorded general instrumental parts, emailed files to the other members who added their respective parts, then Melekyan put it all together in Southern California.

“Thessilck is like our baby, we gave birth to it from our young dreams and emotions,” says Melekyan. “Even though we live so far from each other, we’re always united with the history and the past of Thessilck.”

When Melekyan returned to Armenia this time, he brought cds (on sale throughout Yerevan and through and posters, announcing to Armenia’s first rock generation now with children of their own, that Thessilck is back – at least in recorded form.

“This is neither rabiz, nor folk, nor even techno or hip hop. This is Armenian rock,” the musicians claim.

It is a music born of chance in a time of change.

None of the members of Thessilck are academically trained musicians.

“We learned to play music on a neighbor’s piano,” Melekyan says.


Melekyan and Stamboltsyan met in the yard and accidentally found out that they both play guitar and started rehearsing and writing songs together.

“We found out that some guys from a neighboring yard had formed a band and they perform, so we thought why don’t we have our band, too?” says Melekyan.

Then in their early ‘20s, members of Thessilck had difficulty finding instruments, not to mention countless other obstacles.

But in 1986 Thessilck participated in the first rock festival in the Soviet Union, in Rostov, where they won the first prize. Afterwards, there were concerts, tours and fame.

Other Armenian rock bands of those years, such as Vostan Hayots, Ardzagank, 36.6, were in serious competition.

“Others were envious when we were appearing with a new song, and we were envious of the success of others, but all of that is left in the past since if we were competitors with Yeghish Petrosyan from Ardzagank, today we’re friends,” says Melekyan sincerely.

The songs of Thessilck are remembered and reborn in a new way performed by young singers, just like the most famous song of Thessilck “Andzrev” (Rain) is performed by Arsen Safaryan.

Old songs get new soul through videos as well. Based on Melekyan’s instrumental work director Hrach Keshishyan and actress Nare Haykazyan produced a video and another one is being prepared.

Melekyan says they have to keep the soul of Thessilck since together with them their baby grows up and it can get lost in the maelstrom of life.

“Even the word ‘Thessilck’ (it means ‘vision’) has become a cliché for us and in our speech the word mirage substitutes amazing, beautiful words,” Melekyan says. “We’re looking for our past in a mirage; we re-find in ourselves those young ones with endless dreams and folly.”

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