The Armenian-American hard rock band System of a Down (SOAD) marked the centennial of the Armenian genocide late on Thursday with a first-ever concert in Yerevan that attracted tens of thousands of people.
The free concert in the city’s central Republic Square closed SOAD’s latest “Wake Up the Souls” tour dedicated to the memory of some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War.
Despite nonstop rain, the world-famous California band led by Serj Tankian kept the mostly young crowd electrified for almost two and a half hours with its hits popular in Armenia. Tankian and the three other SOAD musicians are Americans of Armenian descent who have used their worldwide fame to raise international awareness of the 1915 genocide.
“This is not a rock-n-roll concert. To our murderers this is revenge,” Daron Malakian, the band’s second vocalist, declared at the start of the performance, which also drew many young people from neighboring Georgia and Iran.
“Armenia, we have come and we’re not going to go,” Tankian said for his part.
Tankian, who has had two solo concerts in Armenia in the past, spoke to the crowd about the genocide at the end of the show broadcast live by Armenian television. “For the last few days I haven’t been able to sleep well,” he said. “All I can think about is my grandparents. My grandmother was very little when she went on the …. on the road with her grandmother. It was a Turkish mayor that saved my grandmother.”
“The government of Turkey should be hailing these saviors as heroes instead of denying the obvious history,” he said. “My grandfather was five years old when he saw his own father die and lost his sight from hunger.”
The 47-year-old rock star went on to denounce as “appalling” the U.S. government’s failure so far to describe the mass killings and deportations of Armenians as genocide. He also hit out at Armenia’s political leadership, saying that it must finally start “getting rid of the institutional injustice” in the country.
“We are System of a Down and it is our responsibility to tell you these things and to rock you at the same time,” added Tankian.
Tankian similarly called for boosting the rule of law and combating corruption in Armenia during his previous trip to his ancestral homeland in 2011. He also deplored serious fraud that was reported during Armenia’s last presidential election held in 2013.