Singers to recognize Armenian Genocide through music

The Armenian government is teaming up with Stevie Wonder and a roster of international performers to bring a higher profile to genocide recognition efforts.

On Tuesday night, Armenian dignitaries and music promoters in Glendale unveiled plans for a five-year series of concerts, dubbed “Never Again,” to keep the Armenian genocide and other human rights atrocities in the public eye.

The series is scheduled to culminate with performances in 2015, the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Supporters say the effort is a companion to long-standing political and legal efforts by Armenian-Americans to have the United States formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.

“Something that may not be done through the power of politics can be done through the power of music,” said Anush Hovsepyan, spokeswoman for Glendale-based nonprofit Artists for Peace.

Hovsepyan said the program also is intended to highlight the many atrocities that have occurred even after a 1948 United Nations resolution condemning genocide, including those in Rwanda, Cambodia and Sudan.

Armenian diplomats voiced their support for the effort.

Grigor Hovhannissian, the Glendale-based consul general for Armenia in the western United States, said the Armenian government supports the effort.

Hranush Hakobyan, minister of Diaspora for Armenia, said that cultural and educational efforts to spread the word about genocide will spur better global understanding of the plight of Armenian people around the world.

For the last several years, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has sponsored legislation formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide, but lawmakers who say the measure would antagonize Turkey, a key U.S. ally, have worked to keep the bill from coming to a floor vote.

More than 40 states, including California, formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. Earlier this month, state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and others introduced the annual resolution to set aside April 24 as California Day of Remembrance for the Armenian Genocide.

The first “Never Again” concert is scheduled to take place April 17 at the Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal City with Wonder; Canadian songwriter and producer David Foster — who has worked with Celine Dion, Josh Groban and others — and Flora Martirosyan, a popular Armenian performer who recently recorded the genocide-themed song and video “Never Again.”

Promoters are hoping to add other names to the roster of performers.

Hamlet Nersesian, a Glendale real estate agent who attended Tuesday’s press conference, summed up the vision of the sponsors and the Armenian diplomats regarding “Never Again.”

“This is an important event. This is a meaningful way to raise genocide awareness, so we can prevent other genocides in the future,” he said.

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