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Music / Sirusho

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Sirusho, pictured in 2016.

"The images in my songs are varied. The song "Havatum Em" is the contemplations of a mature girl, a woman. The songs "Erotas" and "I Like It" are about a much more cheerful girl who can rejoice selflessly. "PreGomesh" is the image of a strong, disobedient person, whether a woman or a man. All these are people that are very different from one other and perhaps also conflicting, but all those kinds are within me and they are expressed in my songs."

Sirusho (Armenian: Սիրուշո, born Siranush Harutyunyan) is an Armenian singer, jewelry and fashion designer, and political activist born in Yerevan, Armenia, whose musical career has been active for over 20 years. Releasing her first studio album at the age of 13, Sirusho reached international recognition after becoming the Armenian spokesperson for the Eurovision Song Contest, featuring as a judge in 2007 and a contestant in 2008, and again reprising her role as a judge in 2009. Growing up between Armenia and Canada, Sirusho became fluent in English as a child, and currently alternates residing in Los Angeles, California, and Yerevan.

While only enjoying modest success in the United States (primarily among Armenian-Americans), Sirusho has obtained borderline-icon status throughout Central and Eastern Europe in addition to Armenia. In 2013, W Magazine named her as one of the "6 Un-American Idols", describing her sound as "blending folksy and militaristic percussion with clubby, driving synth. In the video ("PreGomesh"), Sirusho shows off spirited choreographic maneuvers including dust-kicking and vogueing—particularly impressive, as she's weighed down by what appears to be every piece of silver jewelry on the planet."

From her symbolic protest moment while acting as a judge on the 2009 season of Eurovision onward, Sirusho has shown herself to be heavily influenced by her culture's history (namely, the Armenian Genocide and the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh) and has incorporated that influence into both her music and her personal life. She is a political activist and philanthropist in addition to her career, frequently promoting Genocide recognition through her music and various social media channels, as well as advocating the belief that Nagorno Karabakh belongs to Armenia and offering support/encouraging awareness about the various massacres and hate crimes that are committed in modern-day times (most notably the massacre of Armenians in Kessab, Syria in 2014, and the cease-fire violation/subsequent civil war in Nagorno Karabakh in 2016.) This has, obviously, gotten her into trouble before.

Studio Albums:

  • Sirusho (2000)
  • Sheram (2005)
  • Hima (2007)
  • Havatum Em (2010)
  • Armat (2016)

Notable Singles:

Sirusho provides examples of:

  • A Million Is a Statistic: A recurring theme in her songs relating to the Armenian Genocide.
  • Animal Metaphor: Most prevalent during the PreGomesh era, Sirusho tends to use a water buffalo as a symbol of strength and endurance of spirit.
    • The word "PreGomesh", which the whole song centers around, is a herding call shepherds use to herd water buffalo in Armenia. It's also the name of her jewelry line.
  • Animal Motif: Water Buffalo. See above.
  • An Aesop: A lot of her more recent work frequently discusses the Armenian Genocide and the need for its recognition, which is still blatantly denied by the perpetrators (Turkey) and not officially recognized by quite a few countries. Can count as Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped, depending on who you're talking to.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Huh-Hah" when performed live.
  • Badass Boast: The opening lines of "Zartonk" are the same as "Gini Lits" and contain the same badass boast in the beginning with the lyrics, "The Turkish throne fell to the ground, let me tell you about Talaat's death, fill the wine my friend!" note 
  • Battle Cry: Battle Song: "Zartonk", "Gini Lits".
    • The video for "Zartonk" shows Sirusho frolicking/drinking/dancing among soldiers in Nagorno Karabakh before implying that she joins them in battle as a fedayi.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Where Were You", "Der Zor", "Huh-Hah", Qélé, Qélé, "I Like It".
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Bilingual Lyrics: Sings in Armenian and English.
    • Her single "Erotas" is sung entirely in Greek.
    • Most prominently shown in "Qélé, Qélé". The phrase "qélé, qélé" itself, which is repeated throughout the song, translates to "come here, come here." The song is primarily sung in English, with an opening entirely in Armenian.
    • Also done with the English translation of "Kga Mi Or", "Where Were You". The ending of "Where Were You;" has the same Armenian-spoken outro as its Armenian counterpart.
  • Book Ends: The music videos for "Kga Mi Or" and/or "Where Were You" end with Sirusho, in traditional period dress pertaining to the Armenian Genocide with a rifle slung over her shoulder, staring into the distance in front of two wooden doors. "Zartonk" begins with the exact same shot.
  • The Chanteuse: Channels this in the video for Havatum Em.
  • Child Prodigy: Her first song "Lusabats" won her an award at the Armenian National Music Awards as a little girl. She began writing her own lyrics in both Armenian and English at the age of seven, and her own musical compositions by age nine, winning another award for one of her compositions at the same age.
    • Her first album, the self-titled Sirusho, was released to national acclaim when she was 13.
  • Christian Rock: Christian Pop: While not directly a Christian artist, her faith is heavily referenced in her recent work.
  • Cover Song: "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, "1+1" by Beyoncé, "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys.
  • Devoted to You: The theme for "Havatum Em." The lyrics also have shades of Did Not Get The Guy.
    • The video has Sirusho, dressed in black, singing against an all white backdrop while typical symbols of love (roses, wine glasses) shatter and break all around her, further driving home the point of having invested all of your hope and faith into a relationship that you know is ultimately doomed, but you're praying it isn't.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: During the 2009 Eurovision semi-finals, "We Are Our Mountains", a pro-Armenian statue near the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert, appeared in the Armenian postcard. Since Azerbaijan and Armenia have been embroiled in a decades-long conflict over Armenian independent territory Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), Azerbaijan promptly complained, since it recognizes the region as its property. The statue was edited out for the which Sirusho responded by having the aforementioned statue be her backdrop, and taped a picture of it to her clipboard. Disproportionate Retribution ensued.
    • The entire filming process during the making of the music video for "Der Zor" qualifies as this. Part of the video was filmed in a ruined church in Ani (a ruined Western Armenian settlement in the modern-day Turkish province Kars, visible from the Armenian border.) A documentary about shooting details how they had to leave their equipment at the border, which they then smuggled into Turkey. They also illegally filmed using a drone, and had to be told by security guarding the ruins that they had to cease filming on the premises. Sirusho and company responded by filming the rest of the video on a cellphone. Bear in mind, this is for the music video about a song pertaining to a genocide the country it was partially filmed in not only denies, but has strict laws about discussing, and people (notably Hrant Dink) have been assassinated for openly discussing. Oh, and the Turkish-Armenian border is, for all intents and purposes, closed—it is incredibly difficult for Armenian citizens to gain temporary visas or visit Turkey in regular situations.
      • At another point in the documentary, Sirusho confronts an old Turkish woman outside her home in Kars. She asks, in English, if the woman is Turkish, introduces herself as an Armenian, and proceeds to tell her she is living in an Armenian home on Armenian land. It's obvious the woman has no clue what she's saying, but it's ballsy nonetheless.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Following the DYJFOC moment mentioned directly above, Azerbaijan's Ministry of National Security proceeded to interrogate the 43 people who voted for Armenia, considering them to be a "a potential security threat". The EBU ultimately fined Azerbaijan over its misconduct, alongside allegations that they tried to censor the Armenian entry during the final. All because Sirusho showed off a statue.
  • Downer Ending: Mentioning again, a lot of her recent work concerns the Armenian Genocide. While some songs have a nice Hope Spot thrown in, this is almost always a given.
    • "Where Were You" basically states that she's resigned herself to the fate of the Armenian Genocide never being fully recognized by the majority of the world while simultaneously demanding to know where the rest of the world was during the genocide itself. The only inkling of hope in the entire song is Sirusho not giving up on fighting for recognition.
  • Due to the Dead: A recurring theme in her work, especially coupled with her Armenian Genocide songs.
    • "Mez Vochinch Chi Bajani" is about her deceased aunt.
  • Family Business: Sirusho's mother, Syuzan Margaryan, was an incredibly well-known pop star in Armenia whose career hit its zenith during the eighties and nineties—basically, throughout Sirusho's childhood. Because of growing up with famous parents, in addition to having a predilection for musical composition and performance in the first place, it's almost not surprising that Sirusho became a highly celebrated pop star at the age of 13.
    • Sirusho has also done numerous performances and duets with her mother.
    • Her husband is Levon Kocharyan, the son of the First President of Armenia. In recent years, she's became very involved in Armenian political activism.
  • Folk Music: Possibly pioneering the folk pop genre, if such a thing could exist.
  • Genre Mashup: The woman does pop covers of Armenian Folk songs while keeping the folk element and incorporating various dance/EDM influences ("PreGomesh Remix" off Armat being the most glaring example) as well as dabbling with R&B, hip-hop, and rock.
  • Genre Shift: Inklings of this were obvious with the release of "PreGomesh", sounding much more folksy and culturally inspired in comparison to "Qele Qele."
    • Armat, full stop.
  • Gospel Music: Gospel Song: "301". Bonus points for having a prayer in Armenian within the song, and for the title of the song itself—301 A.D. is the year Armenians officially adopted Christianity as their religion.note 
    • Sirusho makes numerous references to her faith and the faith of the Armenian people throughout her songs. In "Huh-Hah", there are the lines "The holy land of the Ark called Hayastan / Our faith has kept us go on through the hardest times" and in "Where Were You" there are the lyrics "To this day I pray I never lose my hope / I still believe in humans and my one true God."
    • The line in "Huh-Hah" referencing Noah's Ark is a bit of Truth in Television. According to the Bible and most theologists/historians, Noah's Ark supposedly crashed in ancient Armenia, on Mount Ararat.
  • Grief Song: "Mez Vochinch Chi Bajani", "Der Zor", "Kga Mi Or/Where Were You", "Antarber Ashkharh".
    • "Kga Mi Or/Where Were You" are especially significant because the song(s), which are entirely about the Armenian Genocide, were released on April 24th, 2015...the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The music video doubles as a TearJerker because in addition to Sirusho wearing a solemn, black, traditional Armenian dress and headpiece, footage of the Armenian Genocide Memorial's Eternal Flame in Yerevan, protesters demanding recognition of the Armenian Genocide, historical images of said genocide, and battle scenes are interspersed throughout the video. The rest of the video is filmed in a ruined church with desolate lighting and color.
      • The English version of the song itself is pretty heartbreaking.
    The broken dreams that we left
    As we fled from our soil
    Why's there so many now dead?
    Are we no longer loyal?
    How do we escape now,
    Where do we begin now?
    When the world around us
    Doesn't seem to care.
    • "Der Zor" is also centered around the Armenian Genocide, but more specifically an area in the Syrian Desert called Deir ez-Zor. Der Zor to Armenians is what Auschwitz-Birkenau is to the Jewish, to put it succinctly.
    • "Antarber Askhkarh" is a slow, mournful ballad that roughly translates into "Indifferent World," accusing the world overall of being indifferent to the pain of the Armenian people, who only seek to be accepted after years of denial and being shrugged off.
    You've appeared apathetic, world
    And you don't care about us
    But look at the people with trust
    They are eager to meet your love"
  • Gratuitous English: "I Like It", "Qélé, Qélé", "Der Zor", "Huh-Hah", "Where Were You".
  • Happily Married: To the former President of Armenia's son, Levon Kocharyan. They have a son, Robert, together, too. Their second child was born in May 2016.
  • Hope Spot: "Kga Mi Or" roughly translates to "the day will come". When you consider the song is pleading that the Genocide be universally recognized, it gives a nice feeling of hope and optimism to the otherwise very depressing material. Notably, "Kga Mir Or"'s English counterpart "Where Were You", barely touches on the subject of hope, being an accusatory rant toward the world that turned a blind eye to the Genocide and to Armenia, with the only lyric pertaining to this trope being "To this day I pray I / Never lose my hope / I still believe in humans / And my one true God." note . Translating the chorus of "Kga Mi Or" from Armenian to English gives you these completely different lyrics:
    "There is the sun, but a century of darkness
    There is no rain, but bad blood
    The day will come
    There will be no laughter in pain
    Fame will come back a happy man
    The day will come"
  • International Pop Song English: See Bilingual Dialogue and Gratuitous English.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: Sirusho, like her mother, became a famous Armenian pop star. See Follow in My Footsteps above.
  • Location Song: "Der Zor", which is about what was essentially a concentration camp (and holds the horror/significance of the Holocaust's counterpart, the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau) in the Syrian Desert during the Armenian Genocide.
  • Lost in Translation: A bit of this and a subversion of Bilingual Bonus with "PreGomesh". The song in Armenian is about the strength and fortitude of the human spirit. However, in the Armenian language, the word "pregomesh" translates in English as "go, buffalo!" and is what herders/farmers use to herd buffalo. Casual listeners who tune into the song without knowing the buffalo is used in an Animal Metaphor context or the cultural meaning of the song itself will have no idea why she is singing about herding buffalo.
  • Love Theme: Love Song: "Erotas", "Havatum Em".
  • Mood Whiplash: The incredibly sad, mournful "Der Zor" is immediately followed by the upbeat, guitar-pumped, ultra-patriotic rally song "Gini Lits".
    • In terms of music video continuity, "Zartonk" immediately picks up where "Kga Mi Or/Where Were You" left off.
  • Ominous Armenian Chanting: "301" in spades.
  • One-Woman Wail: Stunningly beautiful example at the end of "301", though she has done this in other songs as well.
  • Odd Friendship: With Serj Tankian, of all people.note 
  • Patriotic Fervor: HUGE theme in Sirusho's recent work. Notably demonstrated in "Gini Lits", a modern rendition of an old patriotic Armenian song. "Zartonk" heavily falls under this trope as well.
    • This is the general theme of her album "Armat".
  • Pop: Well, yeah.
  • Protest Song: Anything Sirusho has released since PreGomesh, basically.
  • Regional Riff: Her sound has evolved to incorporate both American and traditional Armenian music influences.
  • Renaissance Woman: Is fluent in two languages in addition to showing at least being proficient in Greek, runs and designs pieces for a jewelry line, acts as a judge on singing competition shows, is raising two kids kid between two countries, and is an international pop star.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Began with PreGomesh and went on from there.
    • Her album Armat. Its sole purpose is representing the Armenian culture with all its aspects.
      • "Armat" literally means (cultural) "roots" in Armenian.
  • Self-Titled Album: Sirusho, her debut album.
  • Shout-Out: Her first song that earned her critical acclaim was a rendition of "Lusabats", a song by Armenian national treasure Komitas. Throughout her career she's repeatedly paid homage to him through her music.
    • PreGomesh is her most famous example. It's "directly influenced and inspired by Komitas' works." It's been met with varying degrees of criticism by, critics.
  • Special Guest: "Time To Pray" is in Armenian, English, Hebrew and Serbian, and has her singing with Boaz and Jelena.
    • "Oror", "Aregak", and "Inchuick" are all duets with her mother, Syuzan Margaryan.
  • Title Drop: "PreGomesh", "Havatum Em", "Huh-Hah", "Der Zor", "I Like It", "Kga Mi Or", "Where Were You", etc.
    • Omitting "Der Zor", if Sirusho does a Title Drop, expect to hear the title in the song repeatedly. "PreGomesh" does it almost ad nauseam, she says either "PreGomesh" or a variant of it upwards of ten times in the song.
  • Un-person: Again, most of her recent work is thematically based around the Armenian Genocide. As Turkey denies it, she tends to slip into accusing them of viewing the Armenian people as this.
    • This is the underlying tone of "Where Were You" as well.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Most notably with "See" (featuring Sakis Rouvas) and "Tariner" (featuring Harout Pamboukjian). See also Special Guest.