On Music Performances in Restaurant Settings for TV Viewers

13.04.2012, Critique

Screenwriter by education. Writes stories, poster stories, scripts. Has worked as a newspaper journalist.

Beginning perhaps in the late 90s, live music on Armenian television was performed in restaurant-like settings — a trend that continues to this day.

Conditioned by the liberalization of the market, the appearance of "restaurant performances" on television was inevitable, but the problem is that low-quality "restaurant music" soon after and under the auspices of the ruling authorities took on a dominant role on television, leaving little room for any other kind of music and programs in general. 

This music, which is an inseparable part of Armenian parties and restaurant banquets, is now presented to TV audiences in varying forms, in an attempt to grace them with festive and good moods 12 months of the year — a non-stop party, which begins with New Year's Eve programming and never ends. 

These performances in restaurant settings are presented to viewers through not only videos, but also different music programs, competitions and festivals.

TV producers and stations offering "restaurant performances" try to find those formats and to choose names for the programs that will "legitimize" their appearance on television. For example, one such series is called "Favorite Songs" — naturally, favorite songs have to be broadcast on television, right?

Armenia TV has found a unique way of "legitimizing" its such programming, calling a series simply "TV Restaurant". In this program, where what is heard, naturally, is "restaurant music" (from Armenian folk/pop music to Russian chanson), singers from different restaurants are invited to the show to compete with one another.

Those criticizing poor-quality pop/folk music in the not-too-distant past today sit on the juries of such contests, clap, and praise this music. But it has to be said that they regularly speak of good taste and urge the "restaurant singers," among whom, by the way, are decent people, to choose tasteful songs.  

Apart from famous Soviet Armenian artists, on the jury are also well-known faces in Armenian "restaurant music" such as Hayko, Aida Sargsyan, and so on. The host often tries to crack jokes, but mostly he doesn't succeed. 

However, due to the program's creative team and the music, overall they're able to create that restaurant atmosphere.

Also serving this purpose is that the host on stage takes requests, which supposedly have been made from below; that is, the visitors sitting around tables. The written requests, which the host reads out loud, are called to entertain the audience and to prepare the next song, but they are rarely entertaining — the effort to tie the written request with the next song is felt. 

When the music is playing, the audience being filmed gets up to dance — "Armenian" dances with awkward movements to "happy" music, and the "tango" to "sad" music.

The lyrics of the song are shown on the screen, as in karaoke. It's incomprehensible why this is — do the producers believe that someone at home, sitting in front of the TV, is going to sing along with the singers or is the purpose to teach the lyrics of the song?

In any case, showing the lyrics on the screen is helpful because some performers sing in such a way that it becomes impossible to understand the lyrics. 

One third of Armenia's population is poor, while only a small portion of those who aren't poor can afford to go to a restaurant once a week. "TV Restaurant" and other such programs perform a substitute, "compensating" function.

The Armenian authorities are unable to raise the population's standard of living, but undeniable is their success in offering entertainment to the population, which is proven by the many festive performances, fireworks, celebrations and finally, the abundance of "entertaining" programs on television.

Hambardzum Hambardzumyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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