The Phenomenal Success Of “Artsakh”

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

Composer Ara Gevorgyan’s work “Artsakh” has passed and still passes through amazing trails, entering easily and smoothly into different branches of mass culture.

It is probably the most recognizable modern music from the very first chords, which is used as an accompaniment in various large state events, sports competitions, and becomes a commercial product. For example, digital scenery in computer games or the addition of an advertising story.

Of course, also with attempts of  “privatization.”

“I do not know whether it can be said so or not, but “Artsakh” is a piece of very successful music, which made many breakthroughs, entering games, sports, playing in the fountains of Las Vegas, Dubai, Batumi, Moscow. It was played during the Olympic Games, and it was performed in different countries. “In all cases, the creator’s name was mentioned,” said Ara Gevorgyan.

Russian figure skaters and German gymnasts participate in the world championships under “Artsakh” It is especially loved by boxers and fans of martial arts without rules.

It was performed at three Olympic Games: in Salt Lake City (performed by a Russian figure skater), in Turin (performed by a Georgian figure skater), and in Rio de Janeiro (performed by a Russian gymnast).

The music begins with drum beats, which are reminiscent of unrest, alarm, and vigilance. The harmonious and solid entry of the drums creates the illusion of a conflict. Perhaps it is this classic conflict structure that makes “Artsakh” attractive. Especially in sports and presentation events, because in both cases, overcoming the conflict and striving for victory (pedestal) is the priority.

Ara Gevorgyan explains the success of this work by the active role of drums. And he speaks of how when he wrote it 24 years ago, they played drums only when a bride came out of her house, there was no drum even in restaurants, and with the music of “Artsakh” the number of drummers increased, they seemed to start appearing. And they formed a gravitational field.

“Artsakh” was bought from the author by PlayStation3 and used in its games. Ara Gevorgyan said that it was a long correspondence, as it was necessary to confirm that all copyrights are protected.

“I demanded a token amount because it was important for me that the work be included in the international game, which will be used by the whole world.”

“Artsakh” has entered so many spheres that it is even difficult to list. From sports and soap operas (Australian) to official celebrations and PR videos. For example, the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov wanted to use “Artsakh” in his films as a strong accompaniment.

Azerbaijani ambitions

The Azerbaijanis insisted and continue to insist that “Artsakh” was written by the Azerbaijani composer Fikret Amirov, half a century ago.

This embezzlement has been going on for 14 years. Ara Gevorgyan said that if a court process had started then, probably so many problems would not have arisen. If the copyright of the music used during the official events is not protected and moreover, the work is attributed to another person, there are grounds to file a lawsuit.

“Artsakh” is heard in a film about the success of the Azerbaijani army, in another film, which presents the history of Baku.

“Artsakh” was also used during the opening ceremony of the European Sports Games in Baku in 2015. The games started with the rhythm of the Armenian composer’s drums and the flag of Azerbaijan was raised. In other words, it was an official decision, not a mistake. It was simply mentioned that the composer is Fikret Amirov, and the work was called “Karabakh – the pearl of Azerbaijan.”

Moreover, the music is performed by the composer and other famous Armenian musicians: Jivan Gasparyan (duduk), Norayr Sharoyan (drum). In other words, the Azerbaijanis simply used Ara Gevorgyan’s studio performance on Ani’s CD in 1999, not themselves, to at least substantiate that the work was Azerbaijani.

The Armenian “Artsakh” is really a great success in Azerbaijan. The President of Azerbaijan presents an award to the KVN teams under that music (again performed by the composer). The film dedicated to the centenary of Azerbaijan also features the recording of the Armenian composer.

It is a more ridiculous case when “Artsakh” was used in a film presenting Armenian carpets as Azerbaijani, where an admonition is voiced: Armenians, do not steal what is ours.

Two years ago, the Azerbaijani community of Russia created an information website (azru.org), the presentation of which was also under the melody of “Artsakh”. And even the first bell ceremonies held in Baku schools are accompanied by Ara Gevorgyan’s work. The students dance under “Artsakh” before entering the classrooms.

That musical mastery takes a very long time. And we can say that it will last. “Artsakh” provides the listener with the feeling of being victorious. And they feel it well in Azerbaijan.

It is interesting that all over the world “Artsakh” is presented as Armenian, and only Azerbaijan lives in its own invented environment. And when it is broadcast, say, on the Public Television of Azerbaijan, few people know that it is not only the work of an Armenian composer but also performed by the Armenian Symphony Orchestra.

“If they claim that it is an Azerbaijani piece, let them show where it played before 1999, that is, when my album was recorded. Of course, they cannot show it. And all my copyrights are protected,” said Ara Gevorgyan.

The reactions of the Azerbaijani media in this musical conflict are also interesting. Over the years, there have also been critical publications. The media wrote that the music stolen from the Armenian composer is used in state events. Even haqqin.az had complained that the Azerbaijani state television had used “Artsakh” calling it the anthem of the NK separatists.

Azerbaijani journalists also conducted a small investigation and talked to Fikret Amirov’s heirs and musicologists. Amirov’s son said that he was tired of insisting that his father had not written that work. Even the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan denied that “Artsakh” is Azerbaijani.

But that does not prevent the music from being used freely as a cause for pain. After the second Artsakh war, there were reports and propaganda materials that spoke of how the people of Artsakh left their homes. The music accompanying those materials was “Artsakh.”

It turned out to be a doubly painful situation: not only was the melody full of anticipation of victory privatized, but it also changed the owner to be victorious.

“There’s no problem, let whoever wants to use the works. But when they are distorted, cut without permission, or attributed to another creator, it is very frustrating,” said Ara Gevorgyan.

He is going to file a lawsuit in court. The documents were ready two years ago, but the war stopped the process. And then lawyer Siranush Sahakyan, who defended the copyright of “Artsakh,” dealt with a more important issue – the return of prisoners. Naturally, the musical suit went into the background.


Composer Ara Gevorgyan is one of the creators who pays attention to copyright. In his words, he defended them by all possible means.

For example, the US Library of Congress, which received the application in 1998, spent nine months studying the history of the work, whether it was borrowed or, perhaps, simply stolen.

Ara Gevorgyan is also a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). If the music is played in public, they find it, get the money they need, and send it to the author. Even if they do not find it, they are only happy if the author prompts them to perform his works.

Of course, he is also registered in “ArmAuthor,” which cooperates with similar organizations in many countries in France, Japan, Russia, etc.

“And the author’s fees, which are very small, have nothing to do with it. After all, when you ask the author for notes or permission to perform it in any one place, you realize that the work is not a product of the supermarket, on which the price is posted and it is unchanged. I’m just happy that people want to use my music,” he said.

There is a practice that the concert hall, by renting its hall, initially includes the author’s fees in the amount. That is, the money is spent not only on the space but also on the content. And the tenant also takes that into account when choosing the works. The concert organizer is obliged to pay for the copyright when compiling his program

“Usually I only perform my compositions at concerts. And when, for example, a few years ago we had concerts with the orchestra in France, received money and returned to Yerevan satisfied, I was very surprised that after a while a letter came that I should also receive royalties. In other words, in addition to the concert performance, whose music was also taken into account. And it does not matter that the performer is the author. And if, say, you do another composer’s work among twenty works, then you have to pay,” said Ara Gevorgyan.

He is convinced that the same principles should work in Armenia. But the institutions that are obliged to make payments do not do it.

“For example, if restaurants paid for the copyrights (which, by the way, are very fair), the composers would be rich people. But now it turns out that when the women of “ArmAuthor”‘s agency go to restaurants to get money, they are ignored. It is as if the wheel is turning upside down. Copyright must be enshrined in law. After all, the restaurant includes the renovation of the hall and the price of the food in its service price. Copyright fees should also be taken into account.”

Copyright is also related to decibels. There is a level of music height, after which only the performance enters the field of copyright regulation. If the music is played at a certain volume, then it is not for personal use, but for a lot of people and a large area. For example, it is a disco or a concert. And the agents also measure the decibels and decide that copyright payments should be made.

Tips from Ara Gevorgyan

Ara Gevorgyan advises taking a few simple steps to protect intellectual property.

Since it is important when the work was invented, there must be some document confirming the time. If the work exists on any medium, then it is already a document that can be submitted to the court.

“That is, the year must be fixed. And it does not matter where that day is recorded, in the Library of Congress or on YouTube. The easiest way to protect the copyright of one’s own work is to record the day of publication.”

Another tip: what you want to record in future disputes as an argument (be it unpublished text, music, photo, or any invention), wrap it in an envelope and mail it to yourself. A seal, stamp, and year appear on the closed envelope. And let that closed envelope stay in a dark corner of the cupboard as long as it needs to. It may not be necessary, but if there is a need to present evidence, it will always be at hand.

“If a charge of plagiarism arises, the unopened envelope will be proof. And it is very easy to do that,” said Ara Gevorgyan.

Copyright organizations work not only with various broadcasters – radio, television, concert halls and concert venues but also with social networks. Social networks pay for copyright.

They are especially strictly guarded by YouTube. And if it finds a copyright dispute, it blocks the content immediately. Improper use of music can cause content to be removed.

Ara Gevorgyan is sure that it is easier to contact the author and solve the issues of the future film, TV series, or report at once rather than leave it to gravity.

After all, no one has the right to shorten or lengthen the work without the author’s permission. Edit, use, and broadcast.

“As the laws become stricter, people, whether they like it or not, have to turn to the authors more often. It can be done calmly, without creating an opportunity for disputes. In the end, your conscience will be clear. There is honesty and justice in it.”

Nune Hakhverdyan

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