Armenian Folk with Zulal
Meet the Artists
Zulal, which means “clear water,” is an Armenian a cappella trio that features Teni Apelian, Yeraz Markarian, and Anaïs Tekerian. The trio rearranges and re-imagines traditional Armenian folk melodies for stage and recordings. Performing since 2002, Zulal has performed at venues such as the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to performing and arranging, Zulal also creates soundtracks for film and theater, and offers educational workshops for young audiences.
Artist and Genre Overview
In the early 1900s when Armenia was part of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were devastated by genocide initiated by the government, resulting in the death of as many as 1.5 million people. An additional half million Armenians were forced to flee their homeland, spawning the creation of new Armenian communities all over the world. Many of those who came to New York City congregated on Manhattan’s East Side in what came to be known as Little Armenia, and what today is called Little India or Murray Hill. While the Armenian community is now scattered throughout the tri-state area, three Armenian churches remain in Little Armenia. The oldest is St. Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral on East 27th Street.
The folk songs sung by the vocal trio Zulal tell stories of traditional village life in Armenia: Girls cast fortunes by moonlight, morning smoke rises from the hearth, young brides weave golden threads through their hair as others spin wool into gossip. These songs were traditionally sung together in unison, accompanied by a single instrument. Over time, polyphony—multiple voices singing in harmony—began to emerge; in the early 1900s, composer, ethnomusicologist, and priest Komitas Vartabed refined that practice. Zulal follows in Vartabed’s footsteps, reinventing traditional songs by adding new harmonies. For Musical Explorers, the group joins forces with esteemed oud player Ara Dinkjian and percussionist Martin Haroutunian, further expanding the aural palette.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Visit zulal.org to hear more of Zulal’s music.
- Visit aradinkjian.com to hear the music of Musical Explorers’s oud player.
- Shoghaken Ensemble
- Heyrik Mouradian Children’s Folk Song and Dance Ensemble
- “Armenia,” On the Road, CNN
To Learn More about Armenian Music and Culture
- The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale, Lucine Kasbarian