Serj Tankian, Singer-Songwriter and Political Activist

Serj Tankian, Singer-Songwriter and Political Activist

Serj Tankian is an international superstar by any account. The former frontman for the Armenian-American rock band "System of a Down" has inspired a generation of Armenian youth and used his fame to unabashedly introduce the world to Armenians and their issues.


Tankian can be the poster child for the Armenian Diaspora in the 20th century. He was born in Beirut in 1967 but raised in Los Angeles, attending an Armenian school in his youth. Despite growing up in the United States, far from any Armenian land, he has a strong connection with his roots, nurtured through family ties and organizational involvement.

Claim to Fame

Propelled to fame with the success of "System of a Down," Tankian led the effort in leveraging the band’s worldwide renown for the cause of Armenian Genocide recognition. His self-appointed role as social crusader led him to join forces with Tom Morello of "Rage Against the Machine" to form "Axis of Justice," a nonprofit organization that fights against social injustice.

What he said

“Pretending that we live doesn’t make us alive.”

“Civilization is a failure. We need to think what we can do together in love and peace.”

“We first fought the heathens in the name of religion, then Communism, and now in the name of drugs and terrorism. Our excuses for global domination always change.”

“That's been a strength in some ways, but it's also an understanding of the dynamics of music and the different beats and melodies that wouldn't be common to a non-Armenian.”

“Nations are like people. Once you understand the interactions between nations, it's easy to understand why things are done, in terms of foreign policy, in a certain way. But nations are not like people in the sense that we are cumulatively represented by others - and their interpretations of what our interests are may not be the same as what they really are. And that's what's dangerous, even in a democracy.”

“It's important for all people, and not just people in bands, to speak out on social justice issues. That means journalists or plumbers have just as much of a responsibility to do that as artists.”

“Sometimes a good love song can change the world and create positive energy more than any political song can.

“Life is that perfect fine line between ironies.”

What others said

“Tankian is a flamboyant, Rasputin-like figure with a fierce glare and a unique voice that's helped make System of a Down a Los Angeles rock institution. And away from music, he's a fervent social crusader with a special interest in the Armenian genocide.” -The Los Angeles Times

California’s lieutenant-governor, Gavin Newsom, when he was mayor of San Francisco, declared October 28, 2007, “Serj Tankian Day,” not for his music but for his pursuit of social justice.

Noteworthy work

System of a Down: Chop Suey!

Khatchadour Tankian - Bari Arakeel - Featuring Serj Tankian

Coming up

System of a Down #wakeupthesouls Tour in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in 2015.

April 10 – London, England

April 13 – Cologne, Germany

April 14 – Lyon, France

April 16 – Brussels, Belgium

April 17 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

April 20 – Moscow, Russia

April 24 – Yerevan, Armenia