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Legend

Soundtrack of my life
A tribute to Vigen

By Roozbeh Shirazi
October 30, 2003
The Iranian
 
Right now, I don't know where to begin; I'm listening to Mahtab, with tears rolling down my face.  His voice was so beautiful. The voice was unmistakable; it was as rich and resonant an instrument as any I have heard. But Vigen's voice carried so much more than just his lyrics; it carried histories, memories of my childhood, resilience, hopes of seeing Iran, and often a joy that I find is rare in our music.

A son of Hamadan, Vigen was a contemporary of my grandmother, from humble origins and once a familiar face in that city. Like so many of us had to accept, or in my case, my parents had to accept, the revolution would change life and kept him from ever going back to Iran. This did not stop him from continuing and even making new music, and helping those Iranians out of Iran make sense of their new world -- the revolution never stopped him from living.

Like so many others among us, Vigen brought his incredible talents to a new world and continued to use them to make our lives better. His music is part of the soundtrack of my life, inextricably linked to many experiences I have lived, and a bridge between this land and my homeland. 

I often felt Vigen was a part of my own family. I remember twenty years ago when Vigen's voice would sing to me on Saturday mornings when my father would wake up early and bake bread in our small apartment; I remember being a young boy, his voice lulling me to sleep across dark and vast empty stretches of highway as we drove across the country on our family trips.  Mostly, I remember the faraway look in my father's eyes, one of peace and longing simultaneously, as he sang along with his hamshahri, so many times experiencing an emotional release through the music of one of our greatest artists. 
 
To me, Vigen is a legend. He defined what I love about Iranian music, and having grown up here, I admit there wasn't a whole lot of Iranian music I enjoyed.  But Vigen was more than just his music. Vigen was the people's artist, like Chile's Victor Jara, tirelessly performing for us, both in concert and for free, and sharing his beautiful gift time and time again, and not for his material gain.  His music is a way for us to connect with one another, more so than any politician ever was. 

To me, Vigen lives on in his music, in my father's voice, and in the hearts of all Iranians. He transformed Iranian music, brought elements of Spanish Andalusian guitar, Duke Ellington, and his own Armenian heritage to form a new, fresh, incredible sound. He was a talented an inspiring innovator, who sang not only in Farsi, but in Armenian and Spanish as well. He is one of a few Iranian musical artists who maintained his passion, dignity, and artistic integrity until his last moment; he sets an example for us all. 
 
And though he did not ultimately return to Hamadan, and though he sang of this wish in his song, Barmeegardam, Vigen still gives me hope and inspiration. He never let life's adversity stop him; he took life's struggles and transformed them through his art.  He remained humble. This is what made him great. One of our greatest has now left us -- and I miss him.

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