Mariam Matossian
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Mariam Matossian

Band World Folk


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"Matossian Delivers Spellbinding Concert"

Pure notes layered with emotional intensity marked Canadian-Armenian singer Mariam Matossian's Southeastern debut at the Warehouse Theatre on Saturday night.

The house was packed -- extra seats had to be brought in. People came from Asheville and as far away as Atlanta to hear the beautiful young singer accompanied by Free Planet Radio, a trio of exceptional musicians. They not only backed her but also performed their own eclectic selections.

Matossian's choice of program was a rare fusion of storytelling and vocal artistry that at times sent shivers down your spine, as in her mournful opener "Groong" (The Crane), performed a cappella. Her follow-up love song quickly changed the mood, prompting the audience to clap joyously to the pulsing rhythm of the ancient folk song.

Early on in her program, she told the story of her grandmother, after whom she was named, who at age 5 became a refugee with her decimated family in the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian genocide. The only thing the little girl took with her on her long journey from Armenia to Syria was the tattered family Bible, the songs of her homeland and hope, said Matossian. The singer added, "this is what inspires me to sing for you tonight."

Her program undulated from the upbeat to several shades of dark. From "Oror," a haunting, sweet lullaby, which she dedicated to her dad -- her parents came from Canada to hear her -- to the bittersweet "Bride's Song."

Even if you didn't understand a word of Armenian, as most of the audience didn't, you knew that love and loss were the leitmotifs of these beautiful traditional songs that she projected with pride and strength, taking each to the limit with her ringing timbre and soft-voiced high range.

During her breaks, Free Planet Radio took over and laid down some incredible chords. String player Chris Rosser riffed on Turkish cumbus and Indian dhotar, Grammy-winning Eliot Wadopian did some virtuosic bass playing and percussionist River Guerguerian showcased his mastery on dumbeg and frame drum.

While this was Matossian's first concert in the area, where she now lives with her husband and child, one hopes to hear her much more in the future. For sure, Matossian is a rare, compelling artist who can spellbind any audience.
- Greenville News, Ann Hicks Arts Writer

"Near East/Middle East Music"

It's not often that an independent's album songs sounds as good or better than that produced on established record labels - and by 'independent', I mean self-produced; not a small label with fifty artists.

FAR FROM HOME is also unusual in that it's entirely Armenian folk songs, yet doesn't sound like any Armenian music I've ever heard before: previously all Armenian music we were familiar with were sacred chants or oud-dominated dance music known in the West as 'bellydance music'.

Most of our favorite oud players are Armenian so at first we were disappointed, as the guitar is used more than the oud on FAR FROM HOME, and the songs aren't for dancing - but the beauty of FAR FROM HOME shines through and easily overcomes any preset expectations.

Mariam Matossian has a beautiful voice and the original, clever arrangements set off her voice perfectly. Fans of India's Najma, Sheila Chandra, Vass, or Enya will be delighted with FAR FROM HOME's enchanting, professional and haunting vocal style.

Unlike some American and U.K. singers who have come up with a similar (but not exactly the same) sound, the language on FAR FROM HOME is real, and the lyrics hold deep meaning for those who understand the language.

Besides guitar, other non-Armenian instruments are blended in with some Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments: for instance, West African drums like the djembe, some synthesizer, and drum programming are also used - but only in subtle ways. They never get in the way of her voice, or spoil the mood.

I've listened to FAR FROM HOME four times through so far - and it just keeps getting better and better: an exceptional production and a 'must' for any serious collection of Armenian or Middle Eastern music.

- World Discoveries

"Mariam Matossian, In the Light"

"I am sitting here listening to Mariam Matossian sing a traditional Armenian song and I feel like I am transported. Her voice is beautiful and clear, and her connection to the song and the tradition from which it comes is evident somehow in her voice and her loving treatment of the music. I know from talking to her that these are songs that she’s heard all her life, from her mother, they are part of the fabric of her being and are a vital connection to her heritage. That deep connection is powerfully present as she sings. I don’t know the words but I feel the emotions."
- Sheryl McKay, North By Northwest - CBC Radio

"In the Light - Michael Juk, Reviewer"

Mariam’s singing shifts you out of the ordinary and into a realm of pure experience. There’s a kind of “ear cleaning” that happens. Sounds, words, gestures become more vivid than you remember. She and her excellent band have found a unique vibe that sets them apart from much of the other fusiony stuff happening out there.

Michael Juk, Producer, CBC Radio

- CBC Radio

"Mariam Matossian"

"Matossian sings Armenian folk songs and her own compositions in a similar vein, with a voice that's brimming with emotional resonance, clear and unforced. Her spare arrangements draw out the essence of the beautiful melodies. Far From Home (2004), Matossian's debut, created a ripple in Canadian world music circles, and In the Light, her recently released second album, is even more impressive. It features a cluster of Vancouver's top jazz and roots musicians - Elliot Polsky on percussion, Gord Grdina on oud, Jesse Zubot on violin, Pepe Danza on flutes - as well as duduk player Maritin Haroutunian. Matossian's sister, Sarah and her mother, Haigo, help out on background vocals...the most moving song on In the Light is Matossian's Narineh, a lament on which her voice is backed only by oud. It concerns a little Armenian girl who went missing in Iraq..." - Penguin Eggs, Spring 2008

"Mariam Live"

"Rarely offered is the opportunity to listen to such an elegant voice charged with emotion. Behind this romantic and sensual voice is hidden, barely veiled, the history of a nation. Outstanding pronunciation, sublime music, superb tone of voice, the high notes of traditional Armenian culture simply to be discovered."

- BC Jazz Magazine

"Mariam in Concert"

"Matossian celebrates her heritage with a voice that is dark, rich, passionate and compelling."

- Gulf Islands Driftwood Newspaper

"Mariam Matossian Nominated for Music Awards"

October, 2008

Vancouver-born Armenian singer Mariam Matossian has been nominated for three music awards in Canada. This includes two Canadian Folk Music Awards - Best New/Emerging Artist of the Year and Traditional Album of the Year for her second CD In the Light, as well as a Western Canadian Music Award for Outstanding World Music Recording of the Year. This is the first time that an Armenian folk music recording has been nominated for an award in Canada. “We are extremely excited and honoured,” she said. “It is truly wonderful that Armenian music is being recognized in this way in Canada.”

Matossian, who has been invited to perform at festivals and in concert halls across Canada and recently in the US, began receiving public attention after her acclaimed first CD Far From Home started having frequent air play on Canada’s national radio station, CBC Radio. The same recording was then named one of the top 25 essential albums of the year by Echoes radio program in the United States. Non-Armenians began emailing her and coming to her concerts enthralled by her mesmerizing vocals and exceptionally talented band. “Non-Armenians have been the first ones to truly embrace my music,”she says. “They may not understand the words I am singing, but they love the music.” Soon after releasing her new album In the Light, CBC Radio and National Public Radio in the US, as well as radio stations in Europe, began playing her music.

In the Light, a collection of new songs that she has written and timeless folk songs she has re-interpreted, has been praised for its “emotional resonance” and beautiful, moving arrangements. Showcasing Matossian’s pure vocals and the oud, violin, mandolin and dumbec, this acoustic folk album has been called “impressive” by Canada’s folk music magazine, Penguin Eggs (Spring 2008). Moreover, her performances have received critical acclaim. In the words of theatre director, Paul Gravett, “Her unaccompanied voice soared through the theatre, blanketing the spellbound audience. Rarely have I heard simplicity and sincerity used so expertly to create such a tremendous impact.”

Matossian’s voice is often called ethereal and passionate; this passion is driven by her desire to share her Armenian heritage with a world audience. “I began this project as a vehicle through which to tell my grandparents’ story,” she shares. “My grandparents inspire me. They endured so much through the Genocide in 1915 and yet they held on to their faith in the Lord and persevered. What is more, the traditional songs I sing are all songs that my grandmother used to sing.” Matossian feels certain that with the news of these nominations, her grandparents are smiling. “If they were still here with us, they’d be thrilled that the Armenian songs that brought them much joy during such extreme hardships are being embraced by North Americans today.”

Mariam Matossian will be performing at the Canadian Folk Music Awards on November 23 in Newfoundland. She will also be performing in Los Angeles on December 18th at the Zipper Hall. For more information, visit
- Armenian Reporter October 2008


In the Light (2007)
Far From Home (2004)

From Far From Home - Groong, Almast, Gakavig, Hayastan, Hayrenik, Mayrigis, and Oror have all been receiving airplay on radio (CBC Radio 1, 2, 3, NPR; indie stations in North America; in Europe) and on the internet.
From In the Light - Hars em Knoom, Patsvaz Vart, Narineh, Dle Yaman, Khnstori Zarin Dag, Arev, Arev and Nor Yerk have all been receiving airplay on radio (CBC Radio 1, 2, 3, NPR; on indie stations in North America; in Europe) and on the internet.



Mariam Matossian, nominated for a 2008 Western Canadian Music Award (Best World Music Recording for In the Light) and two 2008 Canadian Folk Music Awards (Traditional Album of the Year; Best New/Emerging Artist of the Year) is an example of the musical treasures that exist in the world next door. Vancouver born and raised, Mariam has been collecting traditional Armenian folk songs and creating her own melodies since she was a child and initially, singing them mainly in her community. Most of the traditional songs she sings have been passed down through her family, songs that have been favourites of her grandmother and her mother, and now they have become her own favourites. With over ten years of training in classical voice, Mariam brings the range and control of a classical singer to the spontaneity and passion of the folk tradition and combines the two to produce a synthesis that has earned her rave reviews from everyone who has heard her.

In 1998, she travelled to Armenia, the first member of her family to set foot in the Homeland. She volunteered for an English language newspaper there and through that work, learned about the plight of the many street children. In 2002, she took a leave of absence from her teaching career to return to Armenia to work with these children. It was during this time that Mariam’s passion for singing met her new commitment to bring attention to contemporary Armenia. When she returned to Vancouver, she continued to perform the songs she had learned from her family and songs she had learned in Armenia, including those taught to her by some of the children she had worked with in Yerevan. Those who heard her sing told her she needed to record.

In 2004, Mariam released her first CD, Far From Home and began performing with her ensemble which includes accomplished musicians from the jazz and world music scene in Canada. Her debut recording has won rave reviews and has had airplay across Canada and in the United States and Europe. Mariam’s concerts have been recorded by and broadcast nationally on CBC Radio and Radio Canada. Far From Home was chosen as one of Echoes 25 Essential Albums for 2005 in the United States on NPR. Mariam’s interpretation of Groong/The Crane was also featured in Canadian-Armenian filmmaker, Araz Artinian’s moving documentary, The Genocide in Me.

Recently, Mariam released her second album, In the Light, which has already been nominated for multiple music awards in Canada. In the Light is a compelling combination of her interpretations of traditional Armenian folk songs and her own original compositions. Produced once again by Adam Popowitz, Mariam and her ensemble, including Elliot Polsky on percussion, Gordon Grdina on oud, Jesse Zubot on violin, Pepe Danza on flutes, Adam Popowitz on mandolin and banjitar, and Martin Haroutunian on duduk, teamed together to create this album which is having airplay on CBC Radio 1, 2 and 3; on Radio Canada; on independent radio stations in Canada and the United States; on Echoes (NPR) in the United States; in Europe (on Netherlands NPS, for example); on New Zealand’s Global Sounds, and on internet radio.

With a voice that’s been described as “uniquely lilting”, “mesmerizing” and “innocent”, this rising artist is fast making a name for herself, and the rich musical traditions of her Armenian heritage are finding a new and appreciative audience. Mariam has performed with acclaimed Canadian artists such as Ernie Toller, Francois Houle, Gordon Grdina, Elliot Polsky, Catherine Potter, Andre Thibaut, and Jesse Zubot, among others. Blessed with a beautiful voice and a natural stage presence, Mariam is beginning to share with the world at large her repertoire which includes the traditional folk songs of Armenia and her own creations as she and her band are invited to perform at festivals and in concert halls.