Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Listening to the music of John Bilezikjian, the songs of my childhood

This morning, I could not bear to listen to any radio station, as all I heard was the rehashing of the grief and torment of 9/11/01.

So I flicked on my CD player where I keep for just such occasions a CD by my cousin, my wonderful musician cousin who has saved the songs of our people on tape, film, vinyl and CD. As I write this, I listen to the CD John gifted me, "The Magic of John Bilezikjian ..."

Don't let the cover art mislead you. On this rainy September day, I can only tell you how this music has captured my heart and soul, and, in fact, has me dancing, as John sings and plays his oud to the tune of Istemem Babajim, Bekledim de Gelmedim . . . How can Marash Girl ever explain to those who do not descend from Marashtsi survivors of the genocide, what it feels like to be a first generation Marashtsi-American, (albeit a second generation Aintepsi-American)!


  1. i met john bilezikjian many years ago. i had just arrived in dana point, orange county and i knew there was a world famous musician who was a cousin of mine that i had never met. i tracked him down with the assistance of a kind telephone operator. the first words out of john's mouth were, 'are you the james bilezikian who is the son of peter bilezikian, newton, massachusetts?' stunned, i said yes, i am. his next words were right out of a story the kind in which i had been raised. you must come over for dinner tonite so my wife helen and i can have the pleasure of meeting you. i did just that and pride in my pedigree deepened. these were people who might have flown in a magic carpet, their hospitality and genuineness were so thorough. i had been well versed, having been raised in a middle east environment to denote the truly hospitable from the culturally defined hospitable. john and his dear wife, a redoubtable world class vocalist, were of the genuine order. the tapestry of their lives were woven tightly with the tapestry in which i had been raised. they could just as well have been siblings or cousins with whom my whole life had been shared. john's talent is a rare one, even rarer than since it is wedded to true humility and good will. john was performing the paganini caprices on the violin, the most technically demanding of the violin repetoire at the age of 12. his achievement was made possible because of his birthing, what he carried in his blood, and what his father offered as a great mentor. john was well on his way to a career as a prodigy on the world stage when he heard the oud performed for the first time. it was that moment of colliding with the sound of his ancestors that his desires changed from that of the violin to that of the oud. in the violin he heard and could create the love of western civilization. it was the oud that allowed him to travel back in time, to kiss the cheek of the face of his culture reaching back for centuries. it was the deep well of consciousness of his people that john tapped into on the oud and the magic his talent brought to the playing of the instrument of his oriental tapestry. the heart of his people, their longings, their honor, their beauty, their heroism, their triumphs and their losses all could be garnered in the magic of one and the many notes on this double stringed instrument, as a maiden stream meandering down a cliff side sheltered by deep caverns of ferns and trees, old and young, scents and bouquets, all played as if from an aerie, from the mountains of Ararat.
    God Bless you John. those of us who know you and your wife, Helen, love you.

  2. Dear Bethel and James,
    I wish to thank you both for writing such beautiful and compelling words about myself and Helen.
    To Bethel,
    I am so lucky to have you and James in my life and I thank you both for this moving tribute to me and my work in music. I am so flattered that you enjoyed my Magic CD. My Mother Alice,( God rest her soul) loved it as well. My Father, Andrew had already passed away before I recorded that CD.

    My wife Helen is equally in awe of what you have written about her and we both can only hope that we can continue on our path of creativity and making and singing music from our homeland.
    God Bless you, your family, our family-Long live The Bilezikjian (Bilezikian) Soul
    Genatz mer undaneek

  3. I am a Marash descendant, and I was very proud of John to tell me and my brother he was Marashtsee as well (this was at the last Armenian Festival which took place in Orange County). And to think, I just wanted to shake his hand and tell him that we're big fans of his musicianship -- the Marash affiliation was indeed a pleasant surprise.

  4. Hi, Marash Girl,

    There's not much that I can add to this discussion, but I see you're in good company over here with comments from Nonosh and the man himself, John Bilezikjian. I think that I'm going to have to add this album to my want list.

    All the best to you and yours,