Biography | Armenian Vocalist Singer | Songwriter
Nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award (Outstanding World Music Album of the Year for her album In the Light) and two Canadian Folk Music Awards (Traditional Album of the Year for In the Light and Best New/Emerging Artist) in 2008, Mariam Matossian is an example of the musical treasures that exist in the world next door. Vancouver born and raised, Mariam has been collecting traditional Armenian folk songs and creating her own melodies since she was a child and initially, singing them mainly in her community. Most of the traditional songs she sings have been passed down through her family – songs that have been favourites of her grandmother and her mother, and now they have become her own favourites. With over ten years of training in classical voice, Mariam brings the range and control of a classical singer to the spontaneity and passion of the folk tradition and combines the two to produce a synthesis that has earned her rave reviews from everyone who has heard her.
In 1998, she travelled to Armenia, the first member of her family to set foot in the Homeland. She volunteered for an English language newspaper there and through that work, learned about the plight of the many street children. In 2002, she took a leave of absence from her teaching career to return to Armenia to work with these children. It was during this time that Mariam’s passion for singing met her new commitment to bring attention to contemporary Armenia. When she returned to Vancouver, she continued to perform the songs she had learned from her family and songs she had learned in Armenia, including those taught to her by some of the children she had worked with in Yerevan. Those who heard her sing told her she needed to record.
In 2004, Mariam released her first CD, Far From Home and began performing with her ensemble which includes accomplished musicians from the jazz and world music scene in Canada. Her debut recording has won rave reviews and has had airplay across Canada, in the United States and Europe. It was chosen as one of Echoes 25 Essential Albums for 2005 in the United States on NPR. Mariam’s interpretation of Groong/The Crane was also featured in Canadian-Armenian filmmaker, Araz Artinian’s moving documentary, The Genocide in Me, about the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which Mariam’s grandparents survived as children.
In 2007, Mariam released her second album, In the Light, which is a compelling combination of her interpretations of traditional Armenian folk songs and her own original compositions.Produced once again by Adam Popowitz, Mariam and her ensemble including Elliot Polsky on percussion, Gordon Grdina on oud, Jesse Zubot on violin, Pepe Danza on flutes, Adam Popowitz on mandolin and banjitar, and Martin Haroutunian on duduk teamed together to create this album which has airplay across Canada, the US, Europe, the Middle East and has been on independent music charts in Canada.
Showcasing Matossian’s pure vocals, this acoustic folk/world music album has been praised for its “emotional resonance” and has been called “impressive” by Canada’s folk music magazine, Penguin Eggs (Spring 2008). KPFK’s Yatrika Shah-Rais chose In the Light as one of the “Best of 2008.”
With a voice that’s been described as “uniquely lilting”, “mesmerizing” and “innocent”, this rising artist is fast making a name for herself, and the rich music traditions of her Armenian heritage are finding a new and appreciative audience. Mariam has been featured on CBC Radio and Radio Canada many times and her concerts have been recorded by the CBC and broadcast nationally across Canada. She has performed with acclaimed Canadian musicians such as Jesse Zubot, Ernie Tollar, Francois Houle, Elliot Polsky, Gordon Grdina, Andre Thibault, and Catherine Potter, among others. She has also performed with master oud player John Berberian. In the US, where she now lives, Mariam’s band is comprised of the highly talented members of the instrumental world fusion group Free Planet Radio, which includes River Guerguerian (percussion), Chris Rosser (cumbus, guitar) and multiple Grammy award winner, Eliot Wadopian (acoustic bass).
Blessed with a beautiful voice and a natural stage presence, Mariam is passionate about sharing with the world at large her repertoire which includes the traditional folk songs of Armenia and her own creations as she and her band are invited to perform at festivals and in concert halls across the country. And in this way, Mariam is delighted that her dream of sharing the beauty and richness of her beloved culture with a world audience is being fulfilled.