Sayat Nova’s 300th Anniversary

Sayat-Nova, born as Harutyun Sayatyan on 14 June 1712 in Tiflis, was an Armenian poet, musician and ashugh who composed in a number of languages, including Armenian, Georgian, Persian and Turkish. His adopted name Sayat Nova meant “Master of Songs” in Persian. This year marks the 300th anniversary of his birth.

Sayat-Nova’s mother, Sara, was born in Tbilisi, and his father, Karapet, either in Aleppo or Adana. He himself was born in Tbilisi. Sayat Nova was skilled in writing poetry, singing, and playing the kamanchah, Chonguri, Tambur. He performed in the court of Erekle II of Georgia, where he also worked as a diplomat and, apparently, helped forge an alliance between Georgia, Armenia and Shirvan against the Persian Empire. He lost his position at the royal court when he fell in love with the king’s sister, and spent the rest of his life as an itinerant bard.

In 1759 he was ordained as a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church. His wife Marmar died in 1768, leaving behind four children. He served in various locations including Tbilisi and Haghpat Monastery. On November 22, 1795, at the age of 83, he was killed in the monastery by the invading army of Mohammad Khan Qajar, the Shah of Iran, for refusing to denounce Christianity and convert to Islam. He is buried at the Cathedral of Saint George, Tbilisi.

File:Tiflis sayat nova-IMG 0516.JPG

In Armenia, Sayat Nova is considered a great poet who made a considerable contribution to the Armenian poetry and music of his century. Although he lived his entire life in a deeply religious society, his works are mostly secular and full of romantic expressionism. About 220 songs have been attributed to Sayat-Nova, although he may have written thousands more.

Sayat-Nova is considered by many to be the greatest ashugh (folk singer-songwriter) that ever lived in the Caucasus. Composer Alexander Arutiunian wrote an opera called “Sayat Nova”. There is a street and a music school named after him in Yerevan, Armenia, as well as an Armenian-American dance ensemble in the United States, and a pond located in Mont Orford, Quebec, Canada. In Armenia, Sayat Nova is considered a poet who made a considerable contribution to the Armenian poetry of his century. Although he lived his entire life in a deeply religious society, his poems are mostly secular and full of Romantic expressionism. A book on his life and work by Charles Dowsett was published in 1997 titled Sayat’-nova: An 18th-century Troubadour: a Biographical and Literary Study. After the 18th c., the Armenian odes were first translated in France by Elisabeth Mouradian and the french poet Serge Venturini in 2006 ; the book was dedicated to Sergei Parajanov.

One of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century, Sergei Parajanov’s “Color of the Pomegranate”, a biography of the Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova (King of Song) reveals the poet’s life more through his poetry than a conventional narration of important events inSayat Nova’s life. We see the poet grow up, fall in love, enter a monastery and die, but these incidents are depicted in the context of what are images from Sergei Parajanov’s imagination and Sayat Nova’s poems, poems that are seen and rarely heard.

The Color of Pomegranates Poster

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5 thoughts on “Sayat Nova’s 300th Anniversary”

  1. One of my favourite things about traveling in Armenia was that his name was so distinctive, it was easy to remember the streets named after hime!

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