System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian was so moved by the resilience of Armenian fighters in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan that neighbors Armenia, during a four-day war in April that he wrote a passionate new political folk song, “Artsakh,” in deference to them. The song voices support for the people of Artsakh – the Armenian name for the region – and protests what Tankian describes as Azeri aggression.

“These people have lived on those lands for thousands of years,” the singer wrote in a statement. “They have struggle but also great beauty written on their foreheads. The whimsical appropriation of land by an empire (Stalin) placed them under Azerbaijan. They have since gained their independence and have lived a prosperous existence for the last 20 or so years. I do not believe in wars and ultimately borders but I deeply believe in self-determination and life without oppression. Therefore it is time for the world to recognize them as the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).”


We’ve always lived on these lands,
Reaped and harvested these fields,
Generations sprung from your rivers,
Children born from your mountains,

The public mask of tradition,
The struggle for liberation or death,
The enemy’s gaze at your terrain,
Our smiles at your bosom,
At your bottomless will.

We’re going to sing with our fists
With the tricolor flag of justice,
Humanitarian love of peace
With the holy blessing of a child’s face,
We are going to prevail with culture
We are going to prevail with culture
We are going to prevail by being Armenian.


Originally published in Rolling Stone, on May 4, 2016.