‘Aram Bajakian: Solo Guitar’ review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
Aram Bajakian humbly carried his own guitar, sheet music, and water bottle to the stage of the Laura C. Muir Theatre, wearing a normal outfit of a dull blue button-up, jeans, a grey zip-up hoodie, and grey sneakers. Seeing this man anywhere else, I would have never guessed the talent that lay within him.
Bajakian performed a free show on August 27 as part of the weekly Arts at One concert series. The audience was hushed as Bajakian awkwardly tuned his guitar. Looking around the theatre, I saw everyone captivated by the delicate reverb of the notes Bajakian played. A strange trance state came over me as well, for the notes from his instrument had an odd, mystical quality to them. With the soft indigo lights shining behind him and reflecting off the audience, the entire scene looked as though we had been transported into an eerie, dreamlike place.
While the first song he played was merely an improv on electric guitar, he then switched to acoustic; his fingers skillfully traversing up and down the entire fretboard as only a master’s hands could. His body moved fluidly, feeling every note of his guitar strings.
“I’m going to play a Beatles song. It’s about the first girl I ever loved,” he said to the audience. The crowd roared in “Aww,” followed by Bajakian laughing and saying, “It’s not an ‘aww’ story!”
He made great usage of piano (quiet) and forte (loud) levels of his playing within the silence of the theatre. Although the concert did not have much vocal communication, that may have been the most beautiful part, since people weren’t there to be entertained; they were there for the music. He then swapped his acoustic for a crisp-sounding electric, proving he is a man of many guitars and an all-around skilled player of the instrument. The clean notes peeking through the electric squeals and noise emitted powerful emotion, kind of like a monologue by some character telling a story.
“Let’s start that one again, you can’t butcher that song,” Bajakian said at one point, pausing mid-song to restart. As an audience member, I couldn’t tell he had made a mistake at all, but it was admirable that he felt the need to provide his audience with a performance that was to the best of his ability.
He also appealed to all the people in the room by playing songs from a wide spread of genres. One of the pieces he performed sounded like an alien abduction, fit with loud noise, jingles, and meditation bells moving on the fretboard of his electric guitar, which was a technique I’ve never seen before. He spoke about the technique later, saying that he experimented with the bells in a variety of different ways, but that not knowing how they would to react to the guitar in a live setting keeps him, the musician, on his toes and keeps things exciting. Another exciting technique he used involved running his hands down the side of his acoustic guitar making drum sounds as though it were a dhol, an Indian instrument.
Bajakian created an amazing ambience using only a few instruments and lights (which had changed to hot pink by the end of the show)—truly an experience for a Thursday afternoon.