Arto Tunçboyacıyan (Armenian: Արտո Թունչբոյաջյան) (b. 1957 in Istanbul) is a Turkish-Armenian musician. Arto sings, accompanying himself on the traditional six-stringed sazebo, solos on the traditional double-reed duduk, and plays percussion. A famous avant-garde folk artist (singer, songwriter, percussionist, and multi-instrumentalist), he appeared on more than 200 records in Europe before arriving in the United States, where he went to work with numerous jazz legends including Chet Baker, Al Di Meola, and Joe Zawinul as well as a semi-regular stint with Paul Winter and the Earth Band. He is also a member of the band Night Ark.
Arto fronts his own group called the Armenian Navy Band. He also worked with Turkish singer Sezen Aksu and the Greek singer Eleftheria Arvanitaki. His brother, Onno Tunç, was also a musician, and Arto pays tribute to him in the song, “I Miss You Every Moment, My Brother.”
His 2001 album Aile Muhabbeti was used as soundtrack in two films: Hemşo (2001) and Mon père est ingénieur (2004).
Serart is one of Arto Tunçboyacıyan’s latest efforts, a collaboration between himself and Serj Tankian (singer of the alternative metal band System of a Down), who have found common ground in shared Armenian backgrounds and a passion for sonic explorations in creating music that is claimed to be “completely new.”
There is a hidden track on the album Toxicity by System of a Down (right after the song Aerials), where Arto contributed, with the band playing a traditional Armenian Church hymn, Der Voghormya (Lord Have Mercy). This track is commonly known as Arto, seeing as he was a significant part of it. He also played the instrumental part of Science in the same album, and his voice can be heard a couple of times in the interlude of Bubbles, from Steal This Album!
Biography from System of a Down (SOAD) Website
Arto was born in 1957, in Galataria, a town outside Constantinople. He is the youngest child of an Armenian family whose roots are Anatolian. Arto’s family had financial problems that were solved when the elder brother Onno, became a musician.
At the age of 11, Arto started his professional music career playing and recording throughout Turkey and Europe. One of his main influences was his brother Onno, who helped him not only as a brother, but also as a friend and fellow musician.
In 1981, Arto moved to the United States to explore new musical directions. In the States, he recorded with Gerardo Núñez, Al DiMeola, Joe Zawinul, Bob Berg, Mike Manieri, Chet Baker, Marc Johnson, Dino Saluzzi, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, and many other adventurous musicians.
In 1985, Keytone released two solo CDs by Arto: ‘Virginland’ and ‘Main Root. He then started a creative collaboration with the Armenian ud player Ara Dinkjian, with whom he recorded ‘Tears of Dignity’ and ‘Onno’ for the Greek label Libra Music. The album ‘Onno’ was an homage to Arto’s beloved brother, who was tragically killed in a 1996 plane crash.
With Ara Dinkjian, Arto was a member of the group Night Ark, and with Ara, Arto recorded ‘Picture, Moments, Wonderland’ and ‘Petals on Your Path.’ In 1998, Arto participated in the Italian project ‘Triboh,’ which was conceived and co-led with the vocalist Maria Pia De Vito as well as the piano player Rita Marcotulli, and recorded by the Italian label Polosud. Arto is also a member of the group Walking Fish, along with Matthew Garrison, Jim Beard, Gene Lake, and Bob Malach. Arto recorded an album with Paul Winter (of the Paul Winter Consort) called ‘Every Day is a New Life,’ released by the Living Music label. Arto is the featured artist on Paul Winter’s Grammy-nominated ‘Journey with the Sun’ (Living Music 2000).
Currently, Arto is working with Armenian musicians with whom he founded his group The Armenian Navy Band, a small orchestra rooted in Armenian and Anatolian traditional music, yet inspired by contemporary life at the same time. The project was conceived in 1998 after a meeting in Yerevan with young Armenian musicians whose musical backgrounds ranged from ethnic to contemporary Armenian music. Their mission was to represent today’s Armenian sound, without losing yesterday’s Armenian sound.
Out of these collaborations came two albums that best represent the Arto’s improvisational, eclectic style: the first was ‘Aile Muhabbeti,’ a movie soundtrack composed by Arto, and ‘Bzidik Zinvor,’ which was recorded in Armenia and is the result of the very first meeting with the musicians from Yerevan.
Arto’s original compositions express the sounds of generations past blended with the sounds of today. Arto coined the term ‘avant-garde folk’ to describe the result. Describing his music, Arto said, “Without losing your identity, you extend your imagination.”
In 2000 and 2001, the Armenian Navy Band toured Europe to great acclaim from the public and the press alike. Their 2004 album is titled ‘New Apricot,’ and was recorded in Istanbul for the Turkish label Imaj Müzik.
In 2002 he formed Serart, a collaboration with System of a Down’s Serj Tankian. Serart released an album on Serjical Strike and Columbia Records on May 20, 2003.
Arto can be heard on various recordings including those of Chet Baker The Best Thing For You, Arthur Blythe’s ‘Hipmotism and Night Song’, Jim Pepper’s ‘The Path,’ Marc Johnson’s ‘Right Brain Patrol’ and ‘Magic Labyrinth,’ Dino Saluzzi in ‘Mojotor,’ Al Di Meola in ‘World Sinfonia,’ ‘Heart of the Immigrants,’ and ‘Kiss Me Axe,’ Bob Berg’s ‘Virtual Reality and Riddles,’ Hank Roberts in ‘Little Motor People,’ Mike Mainieri in ‘An American Diary,’ Joe Zawinul’s ‘Stories of the Danube,’ ‘My People,’ and ‘Oregon Oregon 97,’ and flamenco guitar master Gerardo Núñez Calima.
1989 - Virginland (Keytone)
1994 - Main Root (Keytone)
1996 -Tears Of Dignity (Libra)
1998 - Onno (Libra)
1998 - AVC1 (Imaj Müzik)
1998 - Triboh (Polosud)
1999 - Armenian Navy Band (Svota Music)
2000 - Every Day is a New Life (Living Music)
2003 - Serart (Serjical Strike/Columbia)
2004 - New Apricot (Imaj Müzik)
Arto's Story According to Serart:
When musical worlds collide, a new sphere of rich sound is born. Such is the case of SERART, a collaboration between Arto Tuncboyaciyan (tunk-boy-a-jian) and Serj Tankian, who have found common ground in shared Armenian backgrounds and a passion for sonic explorations.
Born in a small town near Constantinople, Turkey, multi-instrumentalist avant-garde folk artist Arto Tuncboyaciyan had appeared on more than 200 records in Europe before arriving in the United States, where he went to work with numerous jazz legends including Chet Baker, Al DiMeola, and Joe Zawinul, as well as a semi-regular stint with Paul Winter and the Earth Band. Arto also fronts his own group called the Armenian Navy Band.
Rock fans know Serj Tankian as the front man for the ground breaking Los Angeles band System Of A Down. System Of A Down's 2001 Breakout Album, Toxicity (on which Serj is also credited for his role as a co-producer), was named SPIN Magazine's album of the year -- among many other critical accolades -- and sold 5 million copies worldwide. Serj has also been prominent as an activist for social justice, working for positive political change through Axis of Justice, the organization he founded with Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello.
Produced by Serj and Arto, SERART is the first release on Serj's own Serjical Strike Records, a label seeking to offer a home for bold, new original music. An eclectic array of textured tracks, SERART mixes Middle Eastern melodies with Pan-African rhythms while shifting from classical motifs to bursts of percussion. "What I enjoyed most about the experience was the fact that everything was so present. It was immediate," Serj says. "There was no thinking about it."
SERART finds these two, seemingly disparate, creative artists joining for a new vision. The two met following Arto's performance at the 2000 Armenian Music Awards. A friendship grew when Arto appeared on Toxicity (he performed on an outro track) and later blossomed into a musical partnership and the desire to expand their respective musical vocabularies, blending cultures and defying genres.
Sessions for the album took a spontaneous approach in a free form atmosphere akin to expressionistic painting on a sonic canvas. The cross-pollination of rhythms and alternating tones and scales in the album present a diversity that reflects our own globe. "For me, it was seeing that love has no nationality because to be a human being is more important. It includes everybody," Arto says. "Nationality and religion is just seasoning of the human taste."
In the vibrant opening track, "Cinema," drum and bass beats get comfortable with scat vocals and jazzy interludes. "Love is the Peace" mixes the sounds of war (guns and bombs) with Arto's haunting voice. The melancholy ballad, "Leave Melody Counting Fear" which mixes acoustic guitar with a Chinese string instrument called a guchin, is a haunting centerpiece of tragic beauty. You'll find a dance club swirl on "Save the Blonde" and Serj's signature socially conscious spoken word over a tropical rain forest feeling track on "Claustrophobia." Another highlight track on the album is "Narina" which features the vocals of singer Jenna Ross.
Nothing is predictable as a sense of discovery pervades every element of the album. "Music is the sound of my life. I don't pretend to lead anyone. I leave it up to one's imagination," Arto says. "What I try to express is love, respect and the truth."
Further Biographical Material:
One of Arto Tunçboyaciyan's greatest influences of music and life was his brother Onno, musician himself, who encouraged Arto to develop his character not just as a brother but as a friend and as a musician.
At the age of 11, Arto began his career by playing and recording traditional music with his brother, and working to establis himself as a professional musician throughout Turkey and Europe.
Music is a fundamental element of Arto's life, a method to communicate his greatest values: love, respect and truth.
In 1981 Arto moved to United States to explore new creative influences and to add a new dimension to his own vision of life. Since then, he has given solo concerts of his own music throughout the world.
In 1985 two solo albums were released on the Dutch Keytone Label: Virginland and Main Root.
Arto started a meaningful cooperation with the Armenian oud player Ara Dinkjian, with whom he recorded Tears of Dignity and Onno for the Greek label Libra Music - two wonderful albums in which music "has the sound of my life," to use Arto's own words. Onno is the homage to his brother Onno Ohannes Tunçboyaciyan, who suddenly died in a tragic plane crash in 1996.