Restart Gyumri

Civil Initiative Centre NGO

“Rabis” music. Culture or counter-culture? . Diana Abrahamyan

This article examines the diversity of perceptions surrounding “Rabis” as a musical genre, focusing in particular on the dilemma of whether “Rabis” is a music culture or an anti-culture. By studying the origins and development of the genre, the possible changes in the perceptions of the performing arts and society over time, an attempt has been made to understand the place of the phenomenon in the field of cultural perceptions of society.

Thus, when we try to understand what culture is, and what is the boundary from which one side or the other begins or ceases to be a culture, we are usually faced with a problem, which is how to define it. The definitions in the theoretical and professional literature are varied, but none of them objectively expresses the whole content of the phenomenon.
In the professional literature, in the context of the perception of culture, according to another theory, culture is seen as a value. Therefore, everything that is not “valuable” ceases to be a culture. From this point of view, the categories of culture, anti-culture and subculture are distinguished. Let’s try to touch upon each of them briefly.

In this context, by culture we mainly mean the dominant culture in the society, which is accepted by the broad layers of the society, corresponds to the normative perceptions, its existence is aimed at the development and preservation of the society.

A subculture is a culture operating in a dominant culture system that differs in characteristics that do not endanger the existence of a dominant or common culture. Subcultures are mainly groups of people gathered around certain commonalities that can be in harmony with the dominant culture, usually include a limited number of members of society have no intention of expanding on everything (e.g. emons). They are comfortable communicating with each other in narrow circles. Counterculture or counterculture, I think, can be understood in two senses. We derive the first meaning from the Armenian translation of the word – event, which is not considered culture at all, which does not correspond to the value-normative perception of culture. And in the second sense, which is more common in the accepted professional literature, culture, which, in contrast to the subculture, tends to take the place of the dominant culture. This process takes place over time, depending on the existence of other derivative circumstances. An example of a counterculture is the penetration of Christian culture into paganism.

Turning to our topic, let’s try to decide whether “Rabis” music is about a culture or an anti-cultural dilemma.

The story of the origin of rabbis music. features, transformations

If we take a look at the historical process of the formation of “Rabis”, we will notice that it is probably an urban music culture, which exists in both Armenian and Greek (rembetiko), Turkish (mugham), Flemish (flamenco) in the urban cultural environments of a number of other peoples. This genre of music is a synthesis of local folk-professional, European, Eastern music.

The word “rabis” is based on the words “rabochaya isustva” (labor art), which expresses the form of culture the scope of its spread from the beginning.

In the 1920s, special structures were set up throughout the Soviet Union, which initially included the best representatives of the creative intelligentsia (Leon Karakhan, Soghomon Seyranyan, etc.). The purpose of these institutions was to educate the common people. The two main functions that were performed were to organize concerts, to serve the daily needs of the people during the ceremonies of joy and sorrow.

After 1930-1940, creative unions were formed, which took on the function of organizing concerts, at the same time, ceased to meet the living needs of the people.

The best specialists of creative structures were recruited in these structures, then “Rabis” has a staffing problem. As a result, due to the lack of vacancies in the field, less professional specialists are involved in the structures.

1950-1980s This field mainly received the function of serving the music life of the society with a corresponding audience and environment. The institution was subordinated to the Soviet Union and was headed by the Bureau of Orchestral Musicians. The professional committee operating here allowed individual musicians, bands, to work in restaurants, entertainment venues, as well as to provide musical services for citizens’ family feasts and funeral rites. According to the service sector, the orchestras were gradually divided into two groups: mourners and mourners. Regardless of the sphere, both groups were representatives of rabbis culture, whose task was to fulfill the client’s musical desire, to provide a mood typical of the event. Focusing on Rabis’s supposedly musical genre, we should note that in the Armenian environment it was mainly fed from 4 sources. Maintaining the influence of the three regions that have become the basis for the formation of the genre: European (Tbilissi), Eastern (Baku), People-Professional (Gyumri), the Armenian rabbi was nourished by the fourth source of fraternal culture brought by the immigrants.

In the post-Soviet years, Rabis experienced his transformations. Positioned exclusively as a genre of music for the service of joys, ceremonies of sadness, and commercial in nature, it began to be unnecessarily criticized and even rejected by the majority of the intelligentsia. Rabis “singer. Instead, they considered themselves folk singers, some even ashughs (Aram Asatryan). In fact, if we try to compare the art of troubadour աբ rabbis, in fact there are many similarities (functions, popularity, style of performing arts, musical instruments used, similarity of song themes, environment for their realization, etc …). Unlike the intelligentsia, this genre is widely accepted by the people, and the representatives of the genre enjoy the love and respect of the general public. Proof of this is the millions of views on the Internet, the high salary of rabbi singers compared to singers of other genres, the recognition, the circulation of songs on the streets, in food outlets, shops, and other public places. To summarize the story of Rabis’s origins, it is illustrative to quote the following idea:

The character of the rabbi singer has a certain model. As Hrach Bayadyan noted, the language in which the representatives of that genre create is literary Armenian, which could very easily be the rabbis jargon. The next feature is the ability to have nicknames for singers. In the first decade of the 2000s, we saw quite a few duets between rabbi singers, pop singers, including rap performers. At the same time, it is obvious that the offers are from representatives of other genres, which allows us to “once again make sure” that the demand for rabbis is higher than that of performers of other genres. The demand can be attributed to the presence of television programs in the post-Soviet years, with the tendency to appear on the market in various DVDs and CDs imported by traveling merchants from nearby countries, which created fertile ground for the spread of the genre.

One of such programs was the program “Saturday Night” broadcast on Hay TV. Later, the series of similar programs was supplemented with some differences, but with some unchanged conceptual programs (H2 TV – “Favorite Songs”, Yerjan TV – Yerjan in Songs, ALM TV – “Young New Names” …) As Lon Abrahamyan noted, All types of rabies are formed in a marginal environment (for example, jazz). And finally, a feature that is unique to this musical form, it is impossible to duplicate.

Returning to our main question, we can see that such dilemmas have existed at all times. Rabis is conventionally considered a popular culture, which is rejected by the Elite (in this case, let’s say the intelligentsia), is considered as a counter-culture. However, historical experience shows that, in the end, such countercultures penetrate the field of elite culture over time, creating a new situation, imposing other perceptions and attitudes.


  1. A. Sargsyan, Theory of Culture, Economist, Yerevan 2003
  2. H. Bayadyan’s “Photography. People’s Rabies “, Hetq, 2012
  3. V. Ishkhanyan, Rabis: Underworld Culture, 2007
  4. H. Pikichyan, “Characteristics of Modern Urban Music: Rabbis and Television”, National Idea N5,2010
  5. H. Muradyan, The Formation, Activities and Transformations of the “Creative Unions” in the Soviet և Independence Period of Armenia, Region and World N2,2020

The article was written by Diana Abrahamyan, a participant in the second round of the “Article Contest” organized by the “Restart Gyumri” Initiative Center NGO

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