Lala Yerem on continuing the Armenian struggle through song

Lala Yerem performing

Lala Yerem is an inspiring vocal magician. Her singing style sends chills down your spine and invokes your being to wake up and be active in the Armenian struggle. I saw Lala perform at a May 28 event and was in awe. I was also lucky enough to hear her sing at an event a few weeks ago and felt a revival of my spirit again.

Lala is a revolutionary (heghapokhagan) songstress. She was born in Iran to a patriotic Armenian family. She studied at Armenian schools, went to Armenian clubs and was an active member of Homenetmen as a girl scout and an AYF member. She grew up embracing her culture through music, dance and poetry, but patriotic songs had a special place in her heart. From a young age, she made songbooks of patriotic songs which she performed at Armenian events. After getting her bachelor’s in Armenian language and literature, she moved to Armenia and got her master’s in Armenian history at Yerevan State University. In the meantime, Lala enrolled in the State Song Theater of Armenia to further her singing. 

When she moved to Oregon, Lala thought her singing of Armenian patriotic songs would end, until one day she was invited to a party hosted by Don Latarsi, the head of guitar studies at the University of Oregon School of Music. Many musicians were invited to that party, including Mason Williams. Lala sang the “Soldier’s Song” (Mardigi Yerkeh) acapella. Everyone was chatty and loud, but the minute she started singing, there was absolute silence. The next morning, she got a call from Mason Williams. He introduced her to Diane Retalic, an Armenian who was the director of the Eugene Concert Choir. Lala joined the choir, where she sang for four years. She also performed a few Armenian folk and patriotic songs with the accompaniment of Don Latarski. “The interpretation of these songs with the language of jazz was unique,” commented Lala.

In 2018, Lala moved to Los Angeles, California. She continued to sing with her friends at private gatherings. Performing was in the past for Lala, until the 2020 Artsakh War changed everything. Shortly after the war, Lala was invited by one of her ungerouhis to sing heghapokhagan songs. “Even though I was so devastated by the war, I wanted my songs to inspire. It was no longer about my desire to sing. It was now a necessity, my way of continuing the struggle,” Lala said. After that event, Lala and her band did multiple events in the Los Angeles and Orange County communities and an event in New York City.

“I saw the impact. I felt the impact of my songs. I love to invite people to sing with me, because I know the power of these songs. We need to sing together, because the impact is even stronger,” Lala reflected.

The caliber of Lala’s voice is full of hope. These songs are part of our mindset to continue our baykar, our struggle. “There is a war on our history, our identity, our culture, and I can’t not fight. I can fight with my songs. We all have a way that we can fight for ourselves. These songs are part of our history, part of our identity. The enemy is well aware of the power of these songs. That’s why these songs are continuously being attacked as hostile and too extreme. What could be more hostile than the genocide that our enemy has committed towards the Armenian nation many times? The enemy wants us to think we are weak. We are not weak. We are a very powerful and strong nation, within Armenia and the diaspora. Every one of us can fight in our own way, whether it’s through songs, books or education. Whatever inspires you to help our nation, do it. Rise and fight in whatever way you can. Do whatever you can with what you have to help,” Lala concluded.

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan is a mother, educator and writer. She is the author of Vanna's Adventures (discusses Armenian traditions and customs); Mom and Dad, Why Do I Need to Know My Armenian Heritage? (a children's book about being proud of our heritage); Our Tigran and Tigran's Song (written in honor of Tigran Harutyunyan, a fedayee from the 44 Day War). Talar was a member of the Philadelphia AYF (Papken Suni and Sebouh chapters), as well as Homenetmen, Hamazkayin and ARS. She is currently a member of the La Crescenta "Talin" ARS chapter. She can be reached at talar725@gmail.com or Hokees1111 on Instagram.

1 Comment

  1. This was beautifully written. I love you and I love her, and your work is introducing us to some truly wonderful people in our community. It was a great pleasure to meet Lala and watch her perform on numerous occasions. She makes me cry with her voice 😫🤍🇦🇲

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*