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Aleppo's Solitary Daughter Finds a Home in Her Music

Sep 20, 2017 Bedouine
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2017 has been a period of nascency for Azniv Korkejian, a.k.a. Bedouineas we’re settling in for our interview, the Syrian-Armenian singer is in Houston with her family, welcoming her newborn nephew into the world. Between that and the release of her self-titled debut album, Korkejian is in the midst of a very fruitful season. “It’s been a long time in the works,” she says of her LP, “and I wasn’t really sure it would get heard by anyone, so it all just feels like a bonus at this point.”

The seeds of Bedouine (a verbal twist on the Arabic Bedouin nomads) began germinating over three years ago, when Korkejian had just moved to Los Angeles. Trained in sound design with a degree from Savannah College of Art and Design, she came to work in television and film sound design. “I think I wasn’t getting so much work back then and that was working in my favor because I was writing so much,” she says of the origins of her album. “It was getting to a point where I felt like I had to put it down somehow or it was gonna drive me crazy, and I would either continue to write too similarly or I would maybe forget about something and not do it justice. I felt like if I didn’t compartmentalize some of it, it might start to compromise some of it.” Eventually with the help of producer Gus Seyffert (Beck, The Black Keys, Norah Jones), they were able to winnow down approximately 30 tracks to a tight 10 for her debut.

The music Korkejian creates as Bedouine harkens back to the lush yet simple country-folk stylings of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, and it positively glows with a hazy ‘70s auraall classic American references, but presented without the cultural ties to one nation in particular. Born in Aleppo, Syria and raised in Saudi Arabia, Korkejian and her family hit the proverbial jackpot when she was a teen when they won a Green Card lottery and moved to America. Her nomadic upbringing and the subsequent feelings of displacement have found their way into the core of Korkejian’s music. “It’s not so much moving around and seeing a lot as much as it is just feeling a little bit of a detachment from where you are.”

Though she calls Los Angeles home for now, the reality of what is happening in her birthplace of Aleppo is inescapable. “It’s so devastating,” Korkejian says of the ongoing conflict. “There’s times where I’ve had to distance myself from it a little bit, just because it’s so depressing. I mean, there was a time where I just couldn’t even get myself out of bed…I’d see children pulled out of rubble and I would just feel so paralyzed by it.”

While Aleppo may never return to its former glory, Korkejian does her best to preserve the memories of her childhood there. On “Summer Cold,” she creates a soundscape to capture the sounds of her grandmother’s street, an auditory snapshot of the place she once called home. When asked if she would want to return to Syria now, she hesitates. “I really miss it and I’d love to see it, but I just don’t think it would be the same, because it’s not quite the city that made it what it was. It was all my family being there. And so without that, I feel like it would just be like a shell, you know? I just don’t know that there’s much to gain from it.” Despite that harsh reality, Korkejian is focused on the future, and her songs are proof that in times of despair and destruction, simply to witness birth and creation is a miracle in itself.

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s Summer 2017 Issue (July/August/September 2017), which is out now.This is its debut online.]

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