THE ARMENIAN EPIC SONG MOGKATS MIRZA
|Once upon a time there was an Armenian orphan with a beautiful voice. He was born in Kutina, Kotahya in Turkey. He sang most of the tunes he heard around whether Armenian, Turkish or Kurdish songs. But as a little boy he spoke only in Turkish. In his town and times in mid 19th century, it was dangerous to speak his mother tongue. His exceptionally beautiful voice eventually earned him a boarding scholarship to study at the Seminary in Edjmiadzin (the Holy See of Armenian Apostolic Church). Upon graduation as an archimandrite in 1894, he was given the pseudonym Komitas, after the 7th century Armenian Catholicos, the Supreme Patriarch and acclaimed hymn writer. In 1996, thanks to Catholicos of the day, Khrimian, Komitas secured a scholarship to further his musical knowledge and expertise in Berlin. Adding to his profound knowledge of Armenian chants, folk songs and ancient notations, Komitas studied other Near Eastern chants and notations (Coptic and Hebrew neginoth) such that his graduation thesis at Friedrich Wilhelm University, focused on Kurdish music, the first ever on the topic - albeit, alas so far 'lost'. Upon graduation in Berlin in 1899, Komitas joined the International Musical Society as a founding member.
Komitas' pioneering studies and research in comparative musicology, demonstrated for the first time to the musical world of the West that Near Eastern nations such as Armenians, Kurds, Arabs, Jews, Turks, Copts, Assyrians and Iranians, had their own musical culture born of a rich tradition of centuries. Komitas' own collection of several thousand songs belonging to Near Eastern peoples served as the primary source for his comparative studies.
In 1915 Komitas was one of many hundred intellectuals, artists, scientists, doctors, lawyers and poets who were dragged to their death in an attempt by the Young Turks to wipe out first the intellectual leadership of the Armenian nation preceding its "final solution"--Genocide. International intellectual outrage could save Komitas but only to let him survive another twenty years of disturbed existence. He died in a Parisian suburb in a mental hospital named Ville-Juif, on 22nd Oct 1935. A vast number of mourners, including musicians and musicologists of world distinction gathered at his funeral in the Armenian Church in Paris, where Curt Sachs, the eminent musicologist, delivered the eulogy. A year later, Komitas' body was transferred to Yerevan, the capital city of the then Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, and was interred in the Pantheon of artists, musicians, writers and scientists. Eventually the Yerevan State Conservatory of Music was named after Komitas.
This is what Komitas thought about the epic song MOGKATS MIRZA
"This ancient song has come down to us from the heathen times. Observe how the lyrics and the tune are in compact unison. It has its birth in the high mountains, waterfall cascades and petulant rocks. It has burst out of the soul of our valiant forefathers”.
The song is both praise and a lament for the Armenian freedom fighter who genuinely believed in peace, hence accepted the offer for peace from the invading Persian Pasha, the usurper Kholod Pasha. Enticing the Armenian Prince of Mogk with the promise of a peace deal, the Persian Pasha poisoned the valiant freedom fighter that had come, on his Bedouin Horse, to meet the Persian Pasha in Jezireh. Mogkats Mirza is poisoned during a sumptuous banquet hosted by the usurping Pasha himself. The rage of the folk poetry and music is directed not towards the neighbouring people –in this case the Persians—but against their usurping ruler.
Here are the lyrics of the Epic Song in English:
LAMENT FOR THE PRINCE OF MOGK
Transcribed by Komitas Vardapet (1869-1035)
English translation by Khatchatur Pilikian
It was Friday, becoming Saturday
In Malakiava it was a festive day,
When a letter arrived
From the town of Jezireh
It was handed over to the Prince of Mogk.
Alas A thousand lament for the Prince of Mogk.
He read with his sweet voice
But soon wrinkles besieged his eyes
And the Furies pulled down his chin
A red harvest coloured his face.
Alas A thousand lament for the prince of Mogk
He called upon the farmer of his lands:
“Bring me fast my Bedouin horse
Place on her the saddle made of oyster shells
I am going on a journey
To the land of Jezireh”,
Alas A thousand lament for the prince of Moigk.
. . .
(Eventually the Prince succumbs to the Pasha’s poison)
There came the Mogkites and assembled
They gathered around the Prince of Mogk
They carried him to the mountain cave
And left open the west-wind gate.
Do rest in Peace
For a thousand years.