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Gurumiran: How Places and Relations Can Affect a Musician's Sound

Ahead of his December 27th gig at CJC, we catch up with Lebanese/Armenian artist Gurumiran for a quick one on one chat about what inspired his unique sound.

Half Lebanese, half Armenian, Miran Gurunian aka Gurumiran has been developing a fresh take on electronic music production, where he cites Berlin and Beirut as the biggest inspirations to his sound. His music is hard to pin down to any genre or style, his work is abstract to an extent, and although it might seem like his album Aberrance delivers a certain message, the artist insists that there wasn't any in mind when he first set out to make it. We catch up with the RBMA (Red Bull Music Academy) alumnus ahead of his gig at Cairo Jazz Club on the 27th of December.So, let us start by asking you a bit about your musical background, did you study music academically, or are you self-taught?

Self-taught. I started drumming at a very young age probably round 5. I picked up the guitar at 13 and took a couple of lessons learning to read notes but then continued on my own playing along my favourite tracks and transcribing music.

Most of the literature available online describing your sound is very broad, hitting on a lot of genres and different styles. Can you describe your own sound briefly for us?

I’m glad it’s broad and hitting lots of genres. I never sit down and decide to write a specific ‘genre’ of music or song. I listen to a wide variety of music (jazz, traditional music from Armenia and the Middle-East, rock, electro, glitch, punk, etc.) and they all blend naturally in my compositions. 

You cite Berlin as a major influence for your sound. What were some of the experiences you had there that directly affected you? 

Just living in Berlin for a while, inspired by the noise on the streets, the people and their vibe, the music in underground venues, dance club scenes, experimental musical events, classical concerts, etc. All of this had an influence on my solo debut Aberrance.

What’s your relation with Red Bull, did you attend RBMA at some point? If so, please tell us about the role they played in your musical career.

Yes, I was part of one of the first RBMA in the Middle East, in Dubai specifically, 2013 if I recall well. It’s there where I met one of my co-producers on Aberrance Carl Ferneine and decided to work with him thereon in the studio and live. Also, Red Bull have been very supportive of the music I’ve been producing over the past couple of years including the latest RBMA concert in Beirut and the various vertical stages since 2013.

You played your music in a multitude of events around the world, from Berlin to New York, Beirut to Cairo to Dubai and beyond. What were some of your favourite gigs this year?

My favourite gig last year was in the MuCEM museum in Marseille with Rabih Abou Khalil - the setting and stage were sublime, the audience was very special, ranging from early 20’s to 60’s, who despite a cold and rainy night showed up, listened so very carefully, and danced to the tunes so gracefully and beautifully. You've performed in Cairo Jazz Club before and is set to appear there again this month. How did you find CJC last time around?

It’s a beautiful venue, with the kindest organisers ever, and the audience is simply charming, welcoming, and attentive to every note played and every word sang.

Your album’s name - Aberrance - is self-explanatory, yet we’re having a hard time trying to pin down the exact meaning of the album. What are some of the messages that you are trying to convey?

I don’t think there’s a premeditated and specific message I ‘intend’ to convey. Aberrance is a change in many ways for me as an artist since I started Blend in 2003. It’s the first time I sing on a record, it’s the first time I compose all the songs alone, write the lyrics, etc. It’s also the first time I release an album solely electronic where the only ‘acoustical’ elements are my voice and guitar. 

The album is a series of stories about human relationships, societal and political events that shaped the last decade of my life. The album was written following a musical hiatus during which I was busy taking care of my mother who had a stroke, lost my friend and talented musician Iman Elhomsi, who passed away after battling cancer, in addition to a decade-long relationship that fell apart. But also, Aberrance was written after spending some time in and being inspired by Berlin, meeting interesting people, and falling in love again. I guess the message is that the only constant in life is change.

Who are some of the people or organisations that have really helped you throughout your journey, key figures that really affected your career?

There are too many to name in here and I’m afraid to forget someone mistakenly. Of course, I’m thankful for my parents who played me all the Armenian/Arabic/Greek music while I was growing up, took me to concerts, and bought my first guitar. The people in Red Bull who were always supportive. The great producers I worked with - Philip Tohme, Fadi Tabbal, and Carl Ferneine. All the artists I listened to, bought their records, or collaborated with in Beirut and beyond. Grant Green, Miles Davis, Thom Yorke, George Orwell, Nick Cave, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David Bowie, Anton Checkov and Salvador Dali. Also, Rima Freiji for the inspiration, support, advice, unconditional and generous love.

Can you name some of your favourite tracks at the moment?

Some of the records I’ve been listening to lately: Glenn Gould - The Goldberg Variations, Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool, Grant Green - Remembering, Jack White - The Acoustic Recordings, David Bowie - Low, Spoon - They Want my Soul, Blur - The Magic Whip, Miles Davis - Round Midnight, Destroyer - Poison Season, and because tis the season Charlie Byrd - Christmas Carols for Solo Guitar.

Follow Gurumiran on Facebook here and check out his website for gig dates and his Soundcloud for more music.

For more information on his December 27th show at the Cairo Jazz Club click here.