Nicola’s Leg by Natacha Pavlov – cover reveal

35 years ago today, our Russian grandfather Nicola passed away.

I’m humbled and thankful to have written his amazing life story, which has taught me as much about part of our family history and dynamics, as it did about myself and the kind of person I wanna be 💙 I see that as one of the many great reasons to dive into family history, and a helpful reminder of how certain traits can potentially get passed on (see: Bible, epigenetics)–of course; provided they are activated and amplified by our own thoughts and actions (personal responsibility is key) 🌟

It was also totally NOT planned that the 2017 year–marking exactly a century since the Russian Revolution that kicks off the story–would be the year of completion, but I’m thankful for Jesus’ eternal divine timing ☦️

Hence, the cover to the upcoming book titled Nicola’s Leg which will be available in April:

Nikita and Natacha, of Russian nobility, flee the Russian Revolution to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. Thus is born my grandfather Nicola’s story: from adolescence in Eastern Europe, to serving in Egypt during World War II, to his imprisonment at the onset of Israel’s Six-Day war, his journey unfolds, eventually culminating in the loss of his legs.


On 8/15/15 in various parts of France, Catholic church bells to ring for Middle East Christians

As stated by a French Facebook group called AraMic TV, in about a day (technically even less if in Europe), Catholic church bells will be ringing in France for Middle East Christians. I appreciate this show of support, and truly wish the US churches—and other countries’ as well—would get ON IT stat and do the same!!

Check out the event page, although I note it is in French:

The map below shows the dioceses that are participating (in purple). The list is growing, which already includes other countries like Spain, Canada, Iceland, and Switzerland.



“Delbedel” album by Saideh Eftekhari & Khatchadour Khatchadourian

Saideh Eftekhari and Khatchadour Khatchadourian have come together to deliver a breathtaking release appropriately titled “Delbedel” (which translates to “soul to soul”). The album is a soothing blend of Middle Eastern instrumental devotional pieces coupled with Armenian lyrics (sung by Khatchadour) and Farsi lyrics (sung by Saideh). Saideh and Khatchadour’s vocals are simply beautiful and compliment each other amazingly well, effortlessly sweeping you away to places far and wide.

The album download file includes a PDF with the lyrics as well as other album media. Get the album here:

To check out a previous interview with Khatchadour, click here.

To view Khatchadour’s two previous albums (available as free downloads), click below:

Arshaluys (2011)

Ascent (2013)

 Khatchadour Khatchadourian and Saideh Eftekhari:



Spiritual, meditative music with Armenian duduk woodwinds and crystal singing bowls by Khatchadour Khatchadourian

I’ve recently had the chance to discover some lovely Armenian-influenced, spiritual music created by Khatchadour Khatchadourian. The following interview provides a highly interesting peek into the musician’s background and creative journey that culminated in 2 albums, “Arshaluys” and “Ascent”.

-Give a bit of your background story. What first made you want to sing? How does it make you feel?

KK: I began singing while in Syria, through a children’s chorus. That was my vocal upbringing for six years. Then my family immigrated to the U.S. I stopped singing for a decade, and it’s only recently—within the past two years—that I returned to my voice, or rather began searching for a new voice. For me singing, particularly with such emotionality, is ecstatic, healing, and profoundly relieving.

-Who and/or what are some of your inspirations?

KK: I grew up on Armenian and Arabic traditional and cultural music. I love trance music as it can elevate me to intense emotional states. I am also fond of Eastern European music, and love Bluegrass and Indian music.

-In ‘Arshaluys’, the use of the duduk (Armenian double reed) is prominent. Give some background on it and why did you specifically choose this instrument? 

KK: I began my musical return in the U.S. through the duduk, and worked with my teacher Shea A.J. Comfort for over four years. The duduk is an ancient double reed woodwind. At first, I picked up the duduk out of curiosity, but once I saw the level of work it took to train and the sheer beauty and presence of its sound, I began working more seriously with it. Since then, I have formed an affinity and acquired profound respect for Wind as a living, transformational element. ‘Arshaluys’, or Dawn in Armenian, was my first project; experimental in approach. I met my late partner Robert Kudrna (Bob) and shared some duduk samples with him. We both knew that singing crystal bowls and the duduk related well musically. So, we collaborated for over nine months and produced ‘Arshaluys’ in March of 2011. 

-In the first album, the tracks are dreamy and vary in duration. How do you get your ideas for the way a piece will sound? Do you go into it knowing how long it will be or let it unfold on its own? 

KK: The tracks unfold naturally. Initially, Robert and I were just experimenting and hearing how the tracks sounded. After a few takes we knew we wanted to begin and end on certain notes, but did not plan how the pieces would progress. This spontaneity gave us quite a bit of varied material. 

Arshaluys-Tell us a bit about the eye-catching cover art of the first album done by Armenian artist Seeroon Yeretzian. What made you choose this artist? Did you have an image in mind or did you let the artist channel her own vision? 

KK: I was curious about Seeroon Yeretzian‘s artwork and wanted to take lessons. She is located in Southern California, and I had to leave back to Berkeley, so we couldn’t arrange a time then. When the album was nearing completion, I approached her asking about her artwork. She donated the cover art from a piece she had previously done. She is a very generous and wonderful artist. Among many of her unique styles, she adapted and perfected a rare Armenian art-form called “Trchnakir” (bird calligraphy) where Armenian alphabet is illustrated with images of birds and other beings. 

-Give some comparisons/contrasts between the 2 albums? 

KK: Both ‘Arshaluys’ and ‘Ascent’ were experimental, and both were home recordings, which inevitably suffer from being far from a professional audio mix. I have learned the technical, sound engineering aspects of recording while recording. ‘Arshaluys’ was my opening up to the vastness of inner music, be it healing, experimental or otherwise. It was an open-ended pathless album. ‘Ascent’ on other hand had a bit of directionality to it. I knew I wanted to do a solo album, and experiment with cinematic sound and see how far I could push meditative music. 

Ascent-Although both albums have meditative and comforting undertones, there’s a palpable intensity to the second album. Is this in any way tied to its title ‘Ascent’?  

KK: At the time of making of ‘Ascent’, Robert had passed away, I was going through unemployment, topped with a severe neck and hands injury. In a word it was a very intense period. I felt that out of this intensity I would either hurt myself or move the energy in a positive manner. The title of the album ‘Ascent’ reflects my inner journey and response to the arising challenges. You know, we can’t control life, but can choose to work through it or reflect about it in a certain way. ‘Ascent’ was my prayer to myself and others to work through negativity with humility and hope. 

Some of the tracks came to me unexpectedly too. Track 3, for instance, “Madness of Father Gomidas“, came to me in two days, in its entirety—and I’d never worked with electronic music before. The track is unique in that it consists of 29 separate sounds…! In hindsight, the track and the album as a whole reflected my breakdown, and rebuilding of sorts. 

-What do you hope to achieve through your music? What do you hope listeners may take away from it? 

KK: I hope the music helps the listener as they are going through their life motions: ups and downs and in-betweens. Besides that, I can’t emphasize any element over others, and wish to let the listener see which tracks work for their corresponding emotional states. I do music to move energy, and in order to chart my own mental and para-psychological states. Currently I am studying sacred art and sound and want to experiment with cymatics (sound made visible). I hope to bring attention to the importance of finding our voices, our inner resonances, and ask if music can be healing? And if so, how far can we go with it? Can we create ethical, and healing soundscapes; do ecological restoration through sound? These theoretical questions of sound I hope to delve into as my life career.

To listen to the lovely sounds and learn more, be sure to visit the bandcamp pages for each album (or click the album covers above):

Arshaluys –

Ascent –

30 things to know before going to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

After 2 visits to Palestine & Israel–the first time for 2 weeks and the second time for 3 months–there are definitely things I’ve noticed and have kept in mind (and yes, have turned into inside jokes with friends and family, not gonna lie).

As such, I’ve created my own rather detailed list based on things I’ve experienced and which may be helpful to check out before going.

*Sidenote: my short story collection “Twisted Reflections” features 2 stories set in the Holy Land. 🙂

Continue reading

Middle Eastern Music in the SF Bay Area: MC Raï and The Georges Lammam Ensemble

With the onset of nice summer weather and events in the Bay Area popping up, I was very pleased to bring a friend (who then brought his friend, naturally) to check out Berkeley’s World Music Festival last weekend. It was a day full of music of all kinds, and although I ‘only’ saw 2 performances, they were great fun–and all the more awesome for the sheer fact that it was an entirely free event!

Thanks to growing up in Brussels, Belgium, (as well as spending a year of college abroad in Paris, France), I’ve had my fair share of exposure to Raï music. This musical style consists of Algerian folk music and blends French, African and Arabic music genres, to the themes of social and/or political unrest. While Cheb Khaled is synonymous with this style of music (and with my own first exposure to the genre), Cheb Mami is another gifted and renown Raï singer,whose name should ring a bell for those who recall Sting’s lovely “Desert Rose.” With that said, I was particularly interested in checking out Tunisian singer-songwriter MC Raï‘s performance, since his genre and name sounded very familiar. It eventually dawned on me that I’d already seen MC Raï and Cheb i Sabbah 3 years ago during MECA’s “I Save Babylon” Benefit Concert. (If I recall correctly; this event was also supposed to have Cheb Khaled as the headliner–which I was naturally super excited about!–but resulted in the singer canceling. :()

As for the Berkeley event itself, MC Raï’s performance was great and very spirited, thanks to both the performers and the attendees. It’s interesting how different cities channel different energies, and you can always count on Berkeley to deliver a laid back vibe. The band was great, and I found the singer’s voice to be very smooth and at times not unlike Cheb Mami’s. The songs are the epitome of diverse; mixing Middle Eastern elements with rock, jazz, and blues influences, which are sung predominantly in Arabic with some French thrown in. Some songs played included “Is’ha”, “Mafia”, “Clandestin” and what I’m guessing may be new tracks (a forthcoming new album perhaps?!). It was definitely worth it to sit in the hot sun and enjoy the tunes… and develop a sunburn to last me the next 4 days. LOL! The sacrifices one makes for art!

Later I was also able to check out the awe-inspiring, talented Georges Lammam Ensemble which delivered some AMAZING Arabic violin melodies. Simply breathtaking!!! There is definitely something to be said about an intimate setting mixed with live instruments… It gave us all chills, literally. Their beautiful sounds can be checked out here.

Since I love me some free events, I checked out yet another MC Raï performance a few days later, this time at San Francisco’s Union Square. The vibe definitely differed from Berkeley’s, but it was enjoyable nonetheless (because I enjoy good music wherever it may be :)). I’m pretty sure I saw the same hippie guy I’d seen a few days before in Berkeley, who was just as ready to get his groove on a second time around. 🙂

A few pictures and video clips below.

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Video clips:

(Don’t know the song title of this one)

Performing “Clandestin”:

Two-part Al Jazeera documentary on the Palestinian Nakba

This 2-part documentary is a highly informative account of the events that led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, referred to by Palestinians as Al Nakba, or the catastrophe.

The documentary highlights the ways in which the creation of the State of Israel was made possible through several factors, on top of the fact that the mistreatment of Palestinians shockingly (or not?!) started well before the creation of Israel.

Totaling about 3 hours in length, it’s as heartbreaking as it is comprehensive. It’s clearly not easy to stomach all the injustice and atrocities involved, but it’s well worth watching. +

Part I:

Part II:

Other languages: link to the same documentary with Arabic, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles:

Christians face troubles in the Old City during Easter 2013 festivities

Some pretty disturbing videos showing some of the tension during Easter 2013 celebrations in the Old City, Jerusalem.

Christians denied entry at the New Gate. Violence erupts:

The clip below shows an Orthodox priest being roughly handled by Israeli soldiers in the Old City. It speaks for itself:

This one is from Al Jazeera and is in Arabic, but definitely conveys some of the chaos:

A drama-free one, showing Christian Palestinian celebration in Bethlehem:

Happy Orthodox Easter 2013!! And memories of Easter in Jerusalem

Some videos I took from my 2011 Easter experience in Jerusalem. I’ll never forget the intensity of the crowds, how frighteningly packed it was, the energy all around… Definitely an experience to say the least!

This clip below on the Ethiopian lighting of the fire doesn’t have great resolution, but it still conveys the energy and vibe of the moment!