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The heart of Armenia can be found in Paris

February 7th, 2012

Article By IPA Member: Beate Agee

Company: Freelance

 

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There is a small cozy restaurant away from the crowds along a side street close to Saint-Georges in the heart of Paris. It offers excellent Armenian food and belongs to an artist who is recognized as the most popular Armenian musician in Europe.

Singer and composer, Marten Yorgantz, the owner of his namesake restaurant, Chez Yorgantz, was born 1946 in Istanbul, Turkey. He has recorded 24 albums and sings in ten different languages, mostly French, Italian, Armenian and English. His many tours feature his amazing voice and vast repertoire and have gained and impressed fans all over the world.

Yorgantz started singing professionally when he was 16. The title of his first song at his first performance was “Where are you, God?” Thousands of songs have been performed since. Most requested are his hit songs, Hayi Ackke and Hayeren Ergenk and Chkuytik. 

One of his most popular albums, Yorgantz for Children (1992) is a wonderful collection of songs for Armenian children. This collection was inspired by  Yorgantz’ humanitarian relief work following the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake. This 6.9 magnitude tremor occurred in the northwest region of Armenia and killed more then 25,000 people. Yorgantz gave more than one hundred concerts to benefit the traumatized, injured and displaced children of Spitak. 

It was in 1974 when he started singing in Armenian and composing songs about his ancestral home. At first, he  performed in the many Armenian communities in Istanbul. In the decades since, he visits and performs in Armenia regularly. 2011 marked the 20th anniversary of  independence for the new Republic of Armenia and former member of the Soviet Union. True to form, Yorgantz gave several concerts for the children of Armenia in the mountainous rural areas. 

Even though Paris has been Marten Yorgantz' home for so many years (he opened Chez Yorgantz in 1980) his soul belongs to Armenia. He is dedicated to the spreading of Armenian culture whether on tour, performing at the small stage in his restaurant  or conversing with his customers from all over the world. 

It was at a corner table when he talked to this journalist about the wonders of his beloved Armenia. He told me about the rich history of this land-locked country located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. Part of Armenia is situated in the highlands surrounding the Biblical mountains of Ararat, upon which Noah's Ark is said to have come to rest after the flood. I learned that the Kingdom of Armenia became the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion in the early years of the 4th century. Yorgantz told me he is one of about 8 million Armenians who live outside of their homeland. Many live in Armenian communities that exist across the globe. Their numbers greatly exceed the 3 million who remain in Armenia today.

It is such a delight that Marten Yorgantz shares his world with so many through his wonderful songs and big-hearted personality. It is amazing and a credit to Paris that one can experience Armenia guided by one of its most popular artists while dining at a small restaurant in the City of Light.

CHEZ YORGANTZ RESTAURANT
48 Rue St. George
Paris 75009 France



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