This title is obvious, because Ara in Armenian mythology refers to the name of a monarch, and his name comes from Malik, which means king among the Orientals. This title becomes a certainty when you see him on stage playing his violin with such magnificence. His music captures and uplifts us into his overflowing energy that dazzles while he plays to enthusiastic audiences around the world. His secret? An immense gift discovered from early childhood and an atypical career has marked him out as a unique musician and composer, and a committed artist who creates the music of happiness. In order for mankind to come together under a common identity, finding in art and culture, the joy of living together in peace.
His childhood was brief because his father Jiraïr, who was an instrumentalist for a famous singer of that time, wanted him to become a great violinist. “At the age of three, he put me a violin under my chin, and it stayed there forever.” Ara Malikian was born in Lebanon in 1968, in a family of Armenian origin, and this small Mediterranean country was quickly ravaged by civil war. I remember there were a continuous noise with the explosions of the bombs or the harsh tone in my father’s voice, while forcing me to practice violin until the tears come from my eyes. This highly demanding attitude helped him reach the highest level of excellence today. “I’m so grateful to him now, but I would never do that to my son!” Ara was a calm and shy child, and he will grow up with his two older sisters in the neighborhoods of Beirut. To forget the insecurity and long hours hiding in shelters, he starts playing the violin as a professional interpreter. His talent is quickly noticed, and he will give his first violin concert at the age of 12 in front of an audience of 800 people. Two years later, he got recognized by the conductor Hans Herbert-Jöris and win a scholarship to study at the Graduate School of Music in Hanover, Germany. “It was a difficult and critical time of my life, because there was a terrible blockade in the country, and I had a choice to make involving a root shock leaving my family, my homeland and my friends.” He was 15 years old. Later, he will remember his grandfather, who escaped the Armenian genocide of 1915, pretending to be a false musician who goes to perform a concert, a violin in his hands. “The same violin saved me from the war, once again! ”
He came alone in Germany and quickly be projected into adult life. “I understood that my future depended solely on me.” He is the youngest student of the prestigious school and one of the most assiduous. “I kept my eyes on my violin, practicing relentlessly 10 to 12 hours a day.” A stressful moment of his life, also because he had to learn a new language and make new friends, then become part of the new land, adopting the European customs and culture. “This transition was a sharp one but since, I can feel good anywhere in the world.” He will continue his training in England, at the London Guidhall School of Music and Drama, and will take classes with prominent professors such as Franco Gulli, Ruggiero Rucci or Ivry Gitlis and Hermann Krebbers. Then a combination of circumstances occurred: a fire in his apartment, a friendly break and he decided to move to Spain. He will establish himself in Malasaña, Madrid and become a Spanish citizen, leaving there for more than two decades now. “Shortly after my arrival, I was entrusted with one of the violin seats of the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.” He will remain there for seven years, playing with Mstislav Rostropovich, who will say that he is the best violinist of his generation.
With an insatiable insatiable need for revival, Ara Malikian also needed to create a music of his own, feeling himself limited by the very academic world of classical music. Curious and with a great sensoriality, he wanted to know everything about the cultures which inspire him like the music of his Armenian roots, with its oriental and gypsy harmonies, then according to his encounters: klezmer music, Spanish flamenco, Argentina tango or the Cuban rumba. “I wanted to create and play my own music” and the result is amazing with an unclassifiable mix of classical and popular tracks, all transcribed in a very personal, virtuous and scenic approach. “Because I understand this music, without wanting to imitate anyone!”
His has an incredible journey in a career that spanned more than thirty-five years now. This lover of Paganini and Bach, gave over 300 concerts and produced a broad spectrum of interpretations with a large number of distinctions throughout his career. As a solo violinist, he has toured five continents and more than 40 countries, invited by major musical groups in prestigious concert halls. He has also published masterpieces by contemporary composers such as Franco Donatoni, Malcolm Lipkin, or Lawrence Romany and Yervand Yernakian, On his record, more than 40 albums to date!
Yet, despite the success, Ara Malikian keeps his feet on the ground and exercises his natural modesty in all circumstances. “I don’t do this job to sell albums or to be famous. But only to be on stage and share with the public a music that makes us happy”. His first world tour was called “Ara Malikian Tour 15” and it will last two years. A personal and even autobiographical musical piece generating sounds that reflect his specific musical background, with all the countries and cultures that have inspired him. Ara comes back today with his unbridled creativity, for a new tour entitled “The incredible story of the violin”, which started in 2017. He takes us again in classical or modern music with pop or rock enhanced versions of previous titles by Led Zeppelin, Radio Head, David Bowie or Jimi Hendrix. He also plays more personal compositions that all have a history, such as those for the 100 years anniversary of the Armenian genocide. On stage, he is transformed. A quite shy person in everyday life shifts and electrifies the audience with its incredible rhythms as his bow flits across the strings of his fiddle with devilish speed. He lives there intense moments of grace and joy. This artist upsets the codes of classical music. We can see the violinist moving and dancing on stage, “and it was such a liberation for him! His look is also crazy, without eccentricity. “It was my two sisters who advised me to grow my hair to cover my ears that they thought were too big. In reality, I have never sought anything but to become myself!”
Feeling the vibration of his audience all over the world, allows Ara Malikian today, to take a stand and defend the arts and culture that can bring people together and produce peace and understanding It is our common identity that banishes frontiers, destroys divisions, and makes every nation finally live in harmony and sharing. He also works to raise our awareness and to reduce the dramas of our time; “and it is a duty when you are an artist”. He supports many humanitarians causes to protect lives and livelihoods, address hunger, meet humanitarian needs, protect displaced people and shore up both security and social stability. “Hunger could be down at home or in a distant country.” Then the fate of the immigrants “who must be helped at all costs, the time they find their country and their dignity”. An inexhaustible human wealth which is finally, its most beautiful message. At the age of 50, Ara Malikian has lights go on in his eyes, and his creative art is in full flow. He is preparing a new album for 2019, which will take him on to tour the world again, with Paris in october, at the famous Olympia theater. Indeed, love gives him wings starting a family with his wife Natalia and their son Kairo, now 4 years old, who fills their life with happiness.
Ara Malikian is a hyperactive, hard-working and empathic person, with a lot of humility and a great sense of humor. And most of all, a disconcerting artist by his charisma, his history and his career. Sometimes with a calm temperament or passionate attitude, he never cheats and that is his greatest force. He pursues his mission with a remarkable intuition and an impressive accuracy. In the end, one is struck by his true passion and vibration that comes from his deep, lifelong love of music. And you just can’t help but get caught up in this energy, that is capable of transforming the world. Violinissimo !
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on November 14, 2018
Link to the website of Ara Malikian
“Music gave me access to my inner world. It brought me deep within myself and allowed me to feel what exceeds my comprehension as a human being. Whether in inspired moments of music composition or interpretation, it brings actually a path to oneself, which is source of joy and ecstasy. Authenticity is therefore a personal journey and each of us have a specific way to reach this land. For some, it’s meditation or sport; forothers, dancing or cooking. For me, it’s when I’m on stage and I play music in front of an audience. It’s my way of meditating and so, I try to convey all that energy, peace and happiness that I have to be there. It’s like the vibration of a violin that extends to the audience and the musicians, and we all vibrate together as a bloc. These are intense moments where there are no more barriers, apart from being there together. That’s why I do this job and share music that has the power to make us happy and touch us deeply.
I really like classical music and I keep playing it, but at some point, I needed to find my true individuality. However, this quest for authenticity comes at a price. That’s why, I think learning discipline and the great works of the past is not enough in all forms of art. What is crucial is to go beyond them at some point, so that everyone can express its personal resonance. That’s why, we have to learn more about what makes us different, and how to come to it in order to find out our vocation. My whole life is a process towards this freedom of creation that I acquire more and more every day, to play a music that is a very faithful reflection of me, and that I can share with the audience in my concerts.
To be true, you must always keep your feet on the ground, and stay open and humble. The uncontrolled ego can ruin the career of an artist! This look should not be turned in on ourselves or on our performance because everything can stop suddenly and the fall become as brutal as the rise. An artist has to be prepared physically and mentally, and never stops working. Musical vibrations manage to control the mind and help us reconnect and re-experience certain emotions until they escape to leave more room for great peace. That’s why, music is my therapy and it must be played without arrogance, because this type of music can reach the whole world. I also use humor and take a positive view in all circumstances, because creation in fact is a way of giving meaning and beauty to everyday life. I do not control where the inspiration comes from and many musicians, places and styles can inspire me. This is my musical concept and I need these exchanges to discover new things and keep moving forward to do otherwise.
Yes, when I have some time for myself, to relax, to spend time with my family and with those I love… it’s a real luxury! These are simple moments, like visiting a place that I do not know or discover something new. In all my travels, what matters most is the people I meet. And wherever I am in the world, I feel at home when there is welcoming, openness and mutual respect. Human relationships are genuine richness if they are lived by accepting our differences and diversity. There are many artists who are committed to changing the world and ending conflicts of all kinds. I am convinced that art and culture can finally bring us together and live in peace.
For my part, my vocation, my reason to live, is to transmit the true happiness that I feel when I am on stage, playing music for and with the public. I found real fulfilment with the violin, and what I wanted to do in life. I am eternally grateful for that!”
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on November 14, 2018
Link to the website of Ara Malikian