By Annie Rubio

Music is a universal language, with messages and emotions that can be understood regardless of one’s background. Modern artists are always seeking new ways to push the boundaries of their craft, to continuously innovate. Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan artfully melds modern and traditional sounds into his music and he also ties in many elements from the folkloric heritage of Armenia.

On Friday, October 19, Hamasyan performed as part of the World Music Series of the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concert series at Fresno State. The concert was presented in partnership with the Armenian Studies Program and JazzFresno. The performance sold out, with many students and community members on the waitlist for tickets. With a full house, excitement filled the Concert Hall.

Hamasyan did not speak much during the concert, but rather let his music speak for itself. He performed a wide selection of songs from his latest albums, For Gyumri (2018) and An Ancient Observer (2017).

Hamasyan’s setlist displayed his wide range of skills and abilities. He not only performed on the piano but mixed several songs as part of the live performance. Hamasyan layered several tracks on a synthesizer and then would switch to the grand piano after building up the base of the song. After finishing this already impressive display, he added a final layer of his rich vocals. Each new addition left the audience in a state of awe, realizing the magnitude and diversity of his talents. After each new song, the audience responded with thunderous applause. 

Hamasyan is known for combining unexpected sounds into his music. He incorporates various sounds and is able to beautifully compose songs around them. In this performance, audience members were treated to his singing, whistling, and even beatboxing. The concert was not only a chance to listen to Hamasyan’s music but a chance to watch him as well. His performances were filled with his intense energy. It was not only heard in his music but also seen in his movements. He would bounce with enthusiasm, sometimes literally standing up while playing. Other times, he would sway with his melodies.

Hamasyan’s career has included a number of accolades, including a top piano award at the 2013 Montreux Jazz Festival and the grand prize at the prestigious 2006 Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition.

Born in Gyumri, Armenia, in 1987, Tigran grew up in a household that was full of music. The family later moved to Los Angeles where Hamasyan attended the University of Southern California. He later lived briefly in New York before settling once more in Armenia.

After his final song, Hamasyan received a standing ovation from the audience and was called back out for an encore performance. His encore left the audience stunned as he displayed his intense beatboxing and piano skills. Afterward, audience members enjoyed a reception and had a chance to meet with Hamasyan.