Zartir Vortyag (Զարթիր Որդեակ)

Vahe H. Apelian, Ohio, 18 February 2014

"Zartir Vortyag" is an Armenian patriotic song that is better known by the first two words than the title of the song "The Soldier’s Mother’s Song" (Զինուորին Մօր Երգը). The heart of the song is a mother's extolling of her son to ready himself to sacrifice his life in defense of the fatherland. 'Zartir vortyag' means arise son.

 

Vahe H. Apelian, Ohio, 18 February 2014

"Zartir Vortyag" is an Armenian patriotic song that is better known by the first two words than the title of the song "The Soldier’s Mother’s Song" (Զինուորին Մօր Երգը). The heart of the song is a mother's extolling of her son to ready himself to sacrifice his life in defense of the fatherland. 'Zartir vortyag' means arise son.

 

It is an emotionally-charged, especially in the last stanza when the mother tells her son that she had fed and nurtured him and that she would die for the man he has become, just as she expects him to do so for his nation. The reputation of this fiercely nationalistic song must have reached all the way from Lebanon to Turkey because due to the latter's pressure, the Lebanese authorities a few years ago banned its singing on television. There are several recordings of the song on YouTube.

The song is of particular significance to Kessabtsis and thus is engrained in their folklore. I can safely claim that there has not been a wedding in Kessab, for the past 100 years, when the song was not sung as the culmination of the wedding festivities which at one time lasted a week. The tradition, to some extent, is carried by Kessabsis living outside Kessab as well irrespective of denominational affiliation.

The ceremony takes place as follows: right before the wedding, as the groom readies to go to church, the men circle him and the best man ("gnkahayr") and sing "Zartir Vortyag". At the end of each stanza the men shout, in unison, in the Kessab dialect “may God congratulate!” (Asdouds sheneferi) while bachelor friends of the groom take turn in mock dressing him and the best man hovers over them a different piece of the groom’s attire, such as his jacket, vest, necktie, three times clockwise and three times anti-clockwise, and then dresses him. The song is in four stanzas. At times the second or the third stanza is omitted but not the first or the last. At the end of each stanza the men shout the blessing with each passage of the clothing over the groom and the gnkahayr.

No one is sure when and why the song became a permanent, if not the most important, wedding song for Kessabtsis. It is generally agreed that it probably became part of the wedding ceremony repertoire as nationalistic fervor spread among the Armenians in the late 19th and early 20th century. The most plausible explanation for the song's popularity is that it was sung in honor of Armenian freedom-fighter Drasdamad (Dro) Ganayan, who became the first Defense Minister of the First Republic of Armenia. Dro and his wife, Gayane, hailed from the two most-prominent and adversarial families of their native town, Igdir. Right after their wedding Dro left his wife behind and headed to the battlefront.

Dr. Antranig Chalabian narrates the incident in detail in his book “Dro”. According to Dr. Chalabian, at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony as the newlyweds were exiting the church, someone approached Dro and handed him a note. It was a telegram from Nikol Duman ordering him to leave for Zangezur. When the newlyweds reached the groom’s parental home, I quote "The groom approached his father and said, 'father, I have received orders from Duman, I have to depart forthwith… I entrust my wife to you, to safeguard her as your own offspring'”. Dr. Chalabian makes no mention of Dro’s mother. It would be natural that his mother would have given her blessing, too. Dro was a volunteer, under the command of the legendary freedom-fighter Nikol Duman who was born and raised in Karabagh.

Dro’s and Gayane’s wedding took place in 1905 or 1906. The date is within the time frame of the accepted version as to when it took hold in Kessab folklore and will remain one of the most cherished parts of a Kessabtsi wedding. The symbolism of the song is easily apparent: it's a message to young Armenian men to ready themselves in defense of the nation, even at the most auspicious occasion of their lives–their wedding day.

ԶԻՆՈՒՈՐԻ ՄՕՐ ԵՐԳԸ

Պ. Վ. Նաթանեան

Զարթի՛ր, որդեակ, ուշ բեր, վեր կաց,
Պատերազմի փողն հնչեց,
Զարթի՛ր, գոչեց ձայնն հայրենեաց,
Կենաց, մահու ժամ հընչեց:

Պատրաստել եմ քո զէնքերը,
Ահա գըլխիդ վերեւ կան,
Ինչպէս երբեմն քո գրքերը,
Երբ կ’երթայիր վարժարան:

Ելի՛ր կապեմ սուրը մէջքիդ,
Ասպար կապեմ քո ուսէդ,
Եւ սուրբ դրօշակն հայրենիքիդ
Թող ծածանի աջ թեւէդ:

Քանի՜ տարի կերակրեցի,
Մինչ հասակըդ այդ առիր,
Բարձր հասակիդ մայրդ մեռնի,
Դուն ալ քո ազգիդ մեռիր:

Rendition by Dzovinar Boghossian

4 comments
  1. The patriotic song “Zartir Vortyag”

    The patriotic song "Zartir Vortyag"   was and is very well known and popular…but Vahe gave it a new color and a new dimension; besides its rhythmic tempo, the author painted it with history, giving the song a new meaning…not only of preparation for a wedding, but preparation for sacrifice.

    The song tune and words maybe melancholic for a wedding…but it can be envisaged as leaving the comfort of the "father's house" and  preparing to go and defend and hold the "new territory", the bride and a new family!

    I  cannot imagine any Kessabtsi wedding without this ceremonial song….I still remember it sung 36 years ago at my pre-wedding celebration.

  2. To Garo

    Garo, your interpretation has merit, as well.

    I got married in New Jersey in 1977. I was new to the country and by myself, having left behind a way of life I knew. Henry and Virginia Apelian were my godparents. They came to pick me. Right before we left my apartment, Henry suddenly stopped, took off my jacket, hovered it three times over my head and congratulated me in Kessabi dialect, saying "Asdouds sheneferi" and off we drove to church. Whenever I think of my wedding, it’s that watershed moment that stands out the most, ushering me from being single to a married man with new responsibilities.

    1. Two Observations

      Vahe, from your experience of "Asdouds sheneferi", I conclude that 'Zartir Vortyag' is somehow embedded in all Kessabtsis and that the song is a 'stamp' without which a Kessabtsi will  not be commissioned to be married.

      So after  37 years…..once again…"Asdouds sheneferi".

  3. Great Song!

    Very interesting article and the pictures grace it well, they bring back memories. Thanks for sharing.

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like
Read More

«Մենք Ենք, Մեր Նախագահը»

Սամվել  Հովասափյան, Բեռլին, Սեպտեմբեր 2012 Վերջերս  հայկական տարբեր կայքէջերում կարելի է դիտել Հայաստանի Հանրապետության նախագահի և կառավարության ամբողջ…
Read More