Armen Chakmakian’s professional recording career began in 1991 when he joined the GRAMMY® Award-winning band, Shadowfax as their keyboardist. It was his unique style of World Fusion blending indigenous Armenian and Arabic influences with contemporary jazz, and world elements that helped win him the prestigious job. A prolific composer, Armen began incorporating his signature style when he co-wrote the music for Esperanto. This led to him receiving his own GRAMMY® AWARD nomination when the Shadowfax production was nominated as Best New Age Album of 1992. For the next four years, he co-wrote, recorded and toured with the band as they produced an impressive body of work including the albums Magic Theater, Shadowfax Live and a 90-minute concert video of the Live album.
During his formative years with Shadowfax, Armen made an important discovery. “The instrumental pieces I write are very autobiographical. My best tunes emerge from deep within while I’m composing for a special occasion or someone meaningful in my life, “ he recalls. This awakening led him to compose his first solo album, Ceremonies after experiencing a number of endings and new beginnings in both his personal and professional relationships. “It was such a transformational period during the mid-nineties filled with graduations, weddings and transitions of birth death and renewal that I was inspired to compose music to reflect these rites of passage.”
Armen launched an indie label, TruArt Records in 1998 releasing his first solo album, Ceremonies to rave reviews. The album debuted #1 on the New Age/World radio charts (NAV Top 50) and received airplay on more than 600 stations worldwide. Two tracks from Ceremonies entitled Gypsy Rain and Distant Lands were featured on the European compilation CD series, Buddha-Bar and Buddha-Bar IV, which were released in 2000 and 2002, respectively. To date, both albums have sold more than one million copies.
In 2004, the label released Armen’s second solo album, Caravans, a 12-track production melding the artist’s unique, contemporary jazz compositions with exotic world percussion and textures. Like its predecessor, this collection received dozens of glowing reviews continuing to build TruArts’ worldwide audience.
In addition to his solo career and time with Shadowfax, Armen has contributed to a variety of other project and productions including performing as keyboardist and backing vocalist for Roger Hodgson (co-founder of Supertramp) on his 2017 South American tour, co-producing DOUG LUNN PROJECT featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and guitarists Mike Keneally and Peter Maunu for the AbstratLogix label, Orientica, a 13-track CD compiled by Peter Tremi, Feather on the Wind, a Native American album by Golana (he co-wrote and performed on Above the Sky). Tumbleweeds, a soundtrack featuring the Shawn Jones Band (he co-wrote and performed Long Way Down), and performed as the keyboardist for Miles Beyond by Suzanne Teng & Mystic Journey and Come Alive by Jefferson Thomas and several albums with the Shawn Jones Band .
Armen had the rare opportunity to join Cirque du Soleil’s flagship show, Saltimbanco as the keyboardist for its first ever South American tour in 2006. The nine-month tour experience afforded him the chance to spend several months living in the vibrant cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires. “The Latin rhythms, percussive instrumentation, dance and the passion of the people fills the very air in these exotic locales, and I found the culture influencing my composing. My time spent there was a real stepping stone in my evolution as a musician and composer.”
In 2009, the artist was so moved by a news story coming out of Iran of the needless death of a young woman named Neda Soltan, he produced a dramatic video tribute. “No one in Iran was allowed to mourn publicly for Neda, and as I read about all the outpourings of grief, I felt compelled to create a memorial tribute. I began with composing music that expressed the sentiment I was feeling and I posted it to my blog at armenblog.com and gave it away for free as a download. I realized that a visual to accompany the music might reach more people and have a greater impact, so I added images and text in a video format hoping that eventually someone from her family would see this and know that she was remembered for her sacrifice. I researched the meaning of her name and found it meant ‘Divine Calling’ in Farsi, so I gave her tribute the title of Neda’s Calling.”
Armen received a tremendous number of accolades from a worldwide audience after the public viewed his online tribute. “Most of the responses to Neda’s Calling were from people previously unknown to me, and I found that very touching,” he shares.
A passionate artist moved by world tragedies and personal events, Armen Chakmakian continues to man his independent label, compose for television and film and to fulfill the call of his muse.