Lena ChamamyanTuesday, November 29, 2022
Lena Chamamyan (born 27 June 1980) is a Syrian-Armenian singer-songwriter known for her soprano voice and unique style, which fuses jazz, Middle Eastern folk music and Western classical music.
Lena was born in Damascus to Artine Chamamyan, an Armenian Catholic from Aleppo with roots from Marash, and Ghada, a Syriac woman originally from Mardin. Her paternal great-grandfather, Sarkis Chamamyan, was an Armenian Catholic from Marash, Cilicia, and a calligrapher. She has said that his educations and skills saved him and his family during the Armenian genocide, since the Ottoman army made use of his skills to write military communiqués and spared him his life. After the war, he and his family settled in Aleppo, along with a large number of Armenians who had been deported from Cilicia.
Her grandfather, Hovhannes Chamamyan, worked as a tailor in Aleppo and member of the Syrian Communist Party. While many of his friends and family repatriated to Soviet Armenia in 1947, Hovannes chose to remain in Aleppo. In the 1960s, as the Syrian government began cracking down on political dissidents, Hovhannes was arrested. His possessions were confiscated and he spent many years in prison. As a result, most of his children migrated to Canada, except for Artine, Lena's father, who chose to remain in Aleppo. After finishing his high school education, Artine received a scholarship to study engineering in Damascus, there he met Lena's mother, Ghada. The couple married in 1977 and Lena was born a few years later, in 1980.
Lena grew up with her identity split between her father's and her mother's community. As a child, she attended an Armenian Catholic school in the old city of Damascus, where she has stated that she had a hard time finding her place, as the children considered her only half-Armenian.
Chamamyan is multilingual and speaks four languages fluently: Arabic, Armenian, English and French.
Chamamyan's music is known for its fusion of Arab (particularly Syrian) and Armenian folk songs together with Western classical music and modern styles, such as jazz. In her style of singing, she has stated that she was strongly influenced by Lebanese singer Fairuz, who revolutionized Arabic singing styles with her extensive use of her "head voice".
Throughout her musical work, Chamamyan sings mainly in Arabic and Armenian. Chamamyan has stated in interviews that the multilingual nature of her music is significant and important to her, and she hopes to perform in more languages in the future, such as English, French or Greek. Lena remains close to her Armenian roots, both cultural and musical, and includes an Armenian folk song in each of her albums and concerts. Chamamyan is known for her style of combining folkloric music with modern styles and arrangements, crossing genres and creating a new fusion of both the traditional and the new. She has stated that she keeps an open mind when it comes to musical style. She sees music as a universal language and takes inspiration from all sorts of musical genres, including the Portuguese Fado and the Spanish-Andalusian Flamenco.