The sort of flower a child would draw--brightly colored star peering out of the green--the shepherd's clock is plucked by a young woman who walks the mountain alone, her hair floating in the wind. She tells time by the slant of shadows, the angle of the sun. She knows that the shepherd's clock opens only to the sun's direct light, closing even to the clouds. The songs of this album have been moments of color for us in a time of uncertainty. They inspire our reverence for the shepherd's rhythm, our grandmother's words, our innate intuition. They charm us with an ode to a pair of eyebrows, the culinary celebration of a brother’s return, an homage to the rhythms our ancestors danced into dusk. They open us to the possibility of a new world of true listening--to the displaced melodies of the past, the movement of our present, and the harmonies of a future in which we reach together for the scarlet blossoms we see opening to the light.
Laz Bar, from Palu A dance song from Palu, sourced from Bedros Alahaidoyan’s Palu’s Musical and Ethnographic Collection, published in 2009. Play the Laz Bar and let Narin dance. The boys of Palu are brave and the girls are lovely. They beat the davool drum, play the zoorna, and the dancing begins. Girl, you are very lovely wearing your necklace. I would die for your tall stature. Let my ring be a symbol for you. I want just one strand of your hair to place under my pillow so that I can hold it at night when I miss you. Call the barbashin (dance leader) for the dagger dance. With upturned slippers on your feet dance the Laz Bar, and release clouds of dust from the earth.
Zoulo Zoulo was passed down to Zulal through the oral tradition, which is how Armenian folk music was primarily preserved and passed from village to village. The voice in the beginning of the track belongs to Berjouhi Yessaian and was recorded with her permission on June 10, 2010. Zoulo is a lyrical patchwork from the region of Van, featuring a character whose fortune is told through a laundry list of images: gossiping in-laws, a necklace dripping with forty coral stones, the delicious cream stolen from atop a vat of yogurt, and a tasty sandwich that ends up in Zoulo’s mouth. These images are punctuated with a peppering of “vai’s” (alas, alack) to express lighthearted displeasure at Zoulo’s mischief.
Nare Nare has gone to the mountain to collect flowers known as “shepherd’s clock”. She has freed her hair and walks through the grass, disturbing the dew. In the eyes of her love, she is like a partridge, a mountain deer; she has charmed thousands with her rare beauty. Nare is the dream of love that comes for longing eyes, a divine vision. “Ay, Nare, Nare, my liver burns. My love is one of a kind.”
Goghpa Yayli The wagons departed and the strings of my heart were cut. Drive those wagons slowly and I will secure the tarp. Girl, let’s go to our garden and share what grows in our hearts. You give one kiss and I’ll return it; let our critics be put to shame. I will become the color of blood and be the beauty mark upon your chest. I will kiss your cheek both day and night, as I am your chosen love.
Zinch oo Zinch Dam, Gomidas An arrangement of the Gomidas variation of this well-known folk song from Sasoon, which is published on Zulal’s self-titled first album. A young woman has lost her barrette in the ocean and tries to convince a swimmer to fetch it for her. She offers him her veil, her belt and even her shirt, all of which are refused. The barrette is finally returned for a moonlit kiss. Zinch oo Zinch Dam is based on the myth of the Assyrian Empress Semiramis who fell madly in love with Ara Geghetsik (“Ara the Beautiful or Handsome”), King of Armenia, in 119 BC, and ended up wounding him mortally because he refused to marry her. Unable to forget him, she traveled to Lake Van in historic Armenia where King Ara often went swimming. She left her jewels and robes on the banks; they were confiscated by Armenian swimmers who threw all her belongings into the water. Left compromised, Semiramis begged the swimmers to return her clothes and jewelry.
Noubar Noubar is tall; his eyes are almond-shaped and smoky; the arch of his brow looks like a crescent moon. Noubar goes to the upper meadows where the sunlight glints off the mountain rocks. He swaggers to and fro as his love awaits him, lost. She sighs in pain the whole night long as she wanders through the village in search of him. Whoever sees Noubar will remember him for the rest of the year.
Hink Edz A children’s song from Hayrik Muradian, representing the region of Shadakh in Van. I have five goats with kids who offer buckets full of milk, bowls of yogurt, cups of cream, but only as much oil as would fit under a flea. All is loaded onto a wagon, then the lash of a camel’s whip spurs an accelerated ride down curvy streets. Uncle Minas, if we don’t make it to your home, come to ours and be our guest.
Dal Dala A folk song from Palu, sourced from Bedros Alahaidoyan’s Palu’s Musical and Ethnographic Collection published in 2009. I would die to see your tall stature. Your thin waist calls out to be held, your rosy cheeks to be kissed. When I hear the name “Istanbul”, my heart rings. I fear you will go and not return, and my haters will laugh. I posted a letter, waited fifteen days, but received no response. Yekhso, my girl, the post has arrived, bringing news from you and yours.
Janiman Janiman opens with harmonies inspired by the Largo section of Dvorak’s New World Symphony and was Zulal’s submission for the New York Philharmonic’s project honoring the 175th anniversary of the work. The sparse beginning conjured for us a seldom-sung Armenian folk melody called Janiman, passed down by Hayrig Muradian, who preserved melodies primarily from the region of Van. Themes from the symphony work as the basis for the harmonic lines beneath the melody which soon transform into more percussive harmonies, in the spirit of leaving things behind and moving forward with renewed energy.
Antsrevn Yegav A popular folk melody preserved by Gomidas. The rain comes like mist and the willow tree shivers. A brother charges toward home on his steed. His homecoming will be celebrated with the finest carpets, and colorful pillows laid out with fried chicken and sheep’s yogurt. Sweet brother, you are loved from the heart. Blessed be the day you come home to us as a king (groom).