If your music library is feeling a little stale currently, how about some Armenian-Ukranian underground rap with lyrics and a music video that takes a tongue in cheek look at the middle-eastern phenomenon of bride kidnapping?
It may sound like I whimsically typed that opening paragraph out for a laugh, but I can assure you this is the subject matter of the debut single Maria from the Los Angeles/Kiev based rap outfit, Samuum.
This legitimately unique musical duo is the collaboration between The Voice of Ukraine star Lusine Kocharian and music producer/film director Andranik Berberian, a Ukrainian pair with very strong Armenian heritage. And while taking pride in that, they certainly don’t shy away from taking a huge, satirical swipe at women’s rights in the Middle East. I chat with Berberian to find out more.
“Lusine is the heart of the project,” Berberian says. “She brought the idea, she brought her pain, and all of the cultural misunderstandings that we’re singing about. She returned from Armenia in 2015, and she was telling me about the pressures she had felt as a woman there, having her freedom and choices limited.
"She had come back with some anger, and a very big energy inside her. And I could feel it because I knew her before. So I asked her, ‘what if we make the project about this? Being a woman in the Middle Eastern culture?’ She was really inspired by the idea, and we made the songs really fast.”
When I ask Berberian if it’s common for people to move from Armenia to Ukraine, he tells me that “it’s common for people from Armenia to leave Armenia! It’s a glorious, magnificent place. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in the nineties, we had the conflict with Azerbaijan, so a lot of people fled the war — places like the US, France, and of course the nearby countries like Russia and Ukraine. My parents came to Kiev. Lusine had a similar story, she was moved from Armenia to Ukraine when she was five years old.”
Maria sees Samuum astutely combine ethnic instrumentation and sounds with elements of hip hop and modern dance, not to mention a killer bassline from Berberian. I enquire with Berberian how Samuum’s sound took shape.
“It’s always had this punk energy inside,” he says. Especially just for a Middle Eastern girl to even speak her mind like this, stepping out of the tradition. It feels like punk in a hip hop shape.”