Singer Bedouine's journey from Syria to Kentucky to LA to Johnny Brenda's
Azniv Korkejian will arrive in Philly on Sunday at the tail end of a two-month tour that has taken her from the Pacific Northwest, through the U.K., and back to the East Coast. The itinerant lifestyle is nothing new for the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. Her stage name, Bedouine, reflects not only her Middle Eastern roots but the fact that she's rarely called one place home for very long before packing up and moving again. Tour bus travel, she says, has only accelerated that process.
"That first morning when you wake up in a new city is always really exciting," Korkejian said over the phone from a Bushwick coffee shop.
"'Where do I start my day? Where do I have lunch?' The possibilities are endless. On tour, you just never get past that point. It becomes a reoccurring daily thing."
Born in Aleppo, Syria to Armenian parents, Korkejian grew up in an American compound in Saudi Arabia where her father worked. After winning a Green Card lottery, the family moved to the United States, settling first in Boston, then Houston. After high school, Korkejian spent time on a horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky before spending a year in Austin and then studying sound design in Savannah. She finally ended up in L.A. five years ago, where she's worked as a dialogue and music editor in Hollywood.
While she took piano and trumpet lessons as a child and was raised hearing traditional Armenian and Arabic music while watching MTV, Korkejian didn't start writing songs until college. She'd picked up a guitar at a pawn shop during her travels and was inspired by the singer-songwriters she began to discover and whose music is reflected in her own — introspective, folk-tinged artists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell.
"I went from living in Houston, which is a huge suburb where people were just getting spoon fed whatever was on commercial radio, to North Lexington, where I was meeting people in local bands. I was on my own for the first time and privy to older records that you don't hear on the radio as much, which was inspiring to me."
Much of Bedouine's self-titled debut album deals with coming to peace with being alone with oneself. The relationship songs reflect on love lost or parted, while "Solitary Daughter" is a meditation on the joys of being alone, left "to the books and the radio snow," surrounded by a few spare mementos of past experience. In its rejection of clutter and stuff, it's a gently SoCal version of the Bedouin lifestyle that Korkejian so admires, even as she seems to have found a place to, however temporarily, call home.
"That name resonated with me because I'd grown up in the Middle East,"
Korkejian explains, "so it was always in my periphery, seeing tents or a row of camels walking through the desert. I really respect the simplicity of the Bedouin lifestyle; how they're not so intertwined with commercialism, don't have the same capitalistic influences. I'm trying to strike a balance now where I can feel like I've put down roots but not collect too many things I don't need."
While the bulk of the album is similarly inner-directed, Korkejian does take stock of her troubled birthplace on "Summer Cold." The song protests the U.S. weapons supplied to opposition forces in Syria that wound up in the hands of terrorists, declaring, "I've had enough of your guns and ammunition."
"We all thought our lives would revert back to Syria eventually, which obviously is not the case anymore," she says. "I was reading a lot in the news about how the opposition was laced with terrorist groups, and my country was perpetuating this turmoil with weapons getting into the wrong hands. My family was literally in the crossfire. It was maddening, and I can no longer really take a side. Blood's on everybody's hands."