A Brief Introduction to Georgian Singing
Georgian folk music is a living yet ancient tradition. Most songs, both sacred and secular, are sung unaccompanied in three-part harmony, symbolically associated with the Trinity. Unlike western music, the Georgian scale is based on the fifth rather than the octave. There are considerable regional differences in singing styles, and some songs, particularly from the Caucasus Mountains in the north of the country, are known to date from pre-Christian times.
Singing is an essential component of Georgia's legendary hospitality and comprises a major part of the Georgian feast or supra. A supra can last for several hours and will include long and eloquent toasts, each followed by an appropriate song. There is considerable interest in Georgian singing among the young people of the country and all the major choirs support youth choirs of a high standard, whose members keep the tradition going.
Audio, Video and Scores
- Alazani : the place to start when searching for a music sample: lots of current and historic recordings, grouped by choir and region.
- Folklore State Centre of Georgia : lots of historic recordings, news and research.
- 99 Georgian Songs, a highly recommended book of songs compiled by Edisher Garakanidze, Joan Mills and Joseph Jordania. The songs include translations and explanatory notes, and there is an introductory chapter about Georgian singing.
- Derek Wilcox's Scores : choir member Derek has transcribed many Georgian songs and made them freely available here.
- Meshveliani : resources including Soviet-era films of a Svanetian choir, with dances and scenic shots for a bonus - hugely evocative.
- Village Harmony : this US based site provides some music samples and, in their background to various song books, much detail about Georgian singing.
- David Mchedlishvili's site : traditional folk songs by Rustavi, Mtiebi and others.
Choirs in Georgia
Some of the choirs from Georgia that we've met, worked with and learnt from over the years.
- Rustavi Ensemble : Georgia's most famous choir, singing since 1968.
- Mtiebi : mixed ensemble, founded by Edisher Garakanidze, who perform Ethnomusic theatre, combining song, dance and theatre, even wrestling to evoke the traditional settings of these songs.
- Sathanao : leading women's ensemble, who sing church and secular songs.
- Anchiskhati Choir : renowned male folk and chant choir, who excel at the ancient sacred songs.
- Basiani : male ensemble, folk music specialists, with fine krimanchuli, who also perform as part of the Patriarchal Choir.
- Sakhioba : male ensemble, committed to the popularization and revival of old traditional Georgian music, with special attention to the intonation, timbre, and arrangements of traditional singers. Directed by leading church music specialist, Malkhaz Erkvanidze.
- Shavnabada : male voice folk ensemble, whose members have trained under Anzor Erkomaishvili; also part of the Patriarchal Choir.
- Mzetamze Ensemble : a choir of musicologists dedicated to performing the Georgian women's repertoire.
- Zedashe Ensemble : mixed choir based in Sighnaghi, Eastern Georgia, who focus on folk songs of the Kiziqian region, but also sing from the Orthodox Christian liturgy.