Carpet Jam Provides Platform for Armenian Musicians

First published in the Jan. 1 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

By Ani Duzdabanyan
Glendale News-Press

Under the dim lights surrounded by art works and antiquities dating back hundreds of years, Arpenik Hakobyan recently presented her new program — “In Love by Christmas” — at the Pasadena Antique Warehouse.
For the show, Hakobyan — an Armenian American musician well known for her work with Cirque Du Soleil — performed jazz versions of well-known Christmas songs. She and the band — composed of drums, piano, bass guitar and cello — performed via Carpet Jam, a music platform created by a Glendale-based contractor. This intersection of endeavors by Armenian Americans, which could have a global reach, might just shift the musical landscape — at least, that’s their goal.
After a successful 42-year career in planning and construction, Arthur Aghadjanians traveled to Armenia in February 2020 for a development project but had to stay there longer than he planned — the coronavirus pandemic began, and all flights out were canceled. He knew only a few people, and the 12-hour time difference made it difficult for him to communicate with his family in Glendale. In order to pass time and to entertain himself, Aghadjanians turned to his passion — music — and started to write songs, something that he said he always wanted to do but never had a chance because of the busy life stateside.

Photos courtesy Lilit Mansuryan
Carpet Jam, created by Glendale-based contractor Arthur Aghadjanians, aims to bring Armenian musicians’ performances to a global audience.

Little did he know that it was going to be a life-changing opportunity for him.
Eventually, Aghadjanians was able to engage with musicians and singers who started to perform his songs and their own original works on a platform that Aghadjanians ultimately called “Carpet Jam.”
“Carpet is something that everybody has,” he explained, referencing Armenia’s famous rugs, “and jam simply indicates that musicians are gathering together and having fun.”
Aghadjanians said he took many music classes when he was young, but he never had the opportunity to play professionally. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in building science and dedicated his whole career to construction. It turned out that his training in planning and building was crucial in his new career.
“The song writing starts with a plain piece of paper. You put on the words, chords and suddenly you create something,” he said, adding emphatically, “You construct a song!”
With Carpet Jam, Aghadjanians said he aims to create a bridge between the diaspora and homeland, where all the musicians and artists can unite and create art together. He said he is convinced that no matter how big the platform becomes in Armenia — with a population around 3 million — it can’t be as effective without the involvement of the worldwide diaspora, which numbers 5 million. Aghadjanians is returning to Armenia at the end of January, from where he will take the platform to Russia and its Armenian population of at least 2 million.
“There has to be an internationally recognized platform that is Armenian and connects everyone to Armenia. Everybody knows what [NPR’s] Tiny Desk is, and it’s a U.S. thing,” Hakobyan said, during a break from her performance. “This is my way of bringing awareness to my country and involving the diaspora. Culture is just as important as everything that we are trying to do.”

Photos courtesy Lilit Mansuryan
Arpenik Hakobyan, known for her work with Cirque du Soleil, performs jazz versions of popular Christmas songs at a recent show.

Her vision of Carpet Jam, Hakobyan added, is a music festival that can take place in Glendale, Fresno, Montreal, Yerevan and many other places.
“It’s a platform that can go everywhere,” she said.
This concert is one of the many that Pasadena Project has organized throughout 10 years of developing a creative laboratory for artists, producing events and promoting cultural exchange. Started around 20 years ago as a dream project in the back yard of founder Karmen Kameiyan (also called Karmen Yerevanci), Pasadena Project now collaborates with Chris Agazaryan, owner of the Pasadena Antique Warehouse.
With a rustic interior decorated with constantly changing exhibitions, a bar assembled with parts of an old red Chevrolet and backed by an antique mirror conveniently located in the corner, the shop/concert venue has proved an effective space to host 80-100 guests who can reconnect with culture over a glass of wine. As if illustrating that, Aghadjanians surveyed the room with visible excitement, concluding that everything seemed just right for his new adventure.
“Music speaks to you,” he said. “It takes emotions out of you that you never knew you had.”