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Georgian Polyphony

Rustavi Choir and Duduki Trio
Omar Kelaptrishvili

by Susanne Ziegler
(CD Review)

 

Georgia, on the western edge of the Caucasian mountains, is a country with a rich folk music tradition. The polyphonic songs are particularly famous;  they remain in use to this day in church chants as well as in folk music. Polyphonic singing in church music is documented as far back as the 10th century A.D., and polyphonic folk singing may be even older.

Due to the geographical location and the tumultuous history of the country, many local traditions arose in folk singing. On the plains of Eastern Georgia, in the provinces of Kartli and Kakheti, one or two solo voices can be heard above the drone of the choir. The virtuoso melismas of the singers bring the Orient to mind. On the other hand, in the northern regions, e.g. in Svaneti, there is a homophonic singing style characterized by gradual tempo increases. The songs of Guria in Western Georgia have a complex polyphonic structure, with the emphasis on solo singing and individual shaping of each part. The height of virtuosity is represented by the "Krimanchuli", a male voice in an unusually high register, which accompanies the song in a yodel-like fashion (see Track # 11).

 To this day, the polyphonic songs are an essential component of Georgia's folk culture. They have a place in work as well as in custom and at the magnificent banquets. Many themes are represented in addition to the functional context, but lyrics and melody are only loosely connected in Georgian folk songs. The singers appear to concentrate on the blending of voices more than on the lyrics.

 Church chants occupy a special position among the songs presented here. They are characterized by a fundamentally different type of singing which is more subdued. Local differences, however, are found in the church chants as well: the Western Georgian chants sound harsher and have more dissonances than the harmonically pleasing chants from Eastern Georgia. Though most of the church chants performed here have their place in orthodox liturgy, they have long since found a firm place in the concert hall repertoire.

 Folk songs and church chants are both performed by the Rustavi choir conducted by its director of many years, - Anzor Erkomaishvili. The choir, founded in 1968, combines singers from various regions who are well versed in the songs of their respective provinces. Anzor Erkomaishvili himself comes from a well-known singers' family from Guria whose singing tradition goes back to the last century.

 The aim of this choir, which has gained fame far beyond the borders of Georgia, is to present authentic Georgian folk songs in their different regional traditions in a musically appealing form. This sets the aesthetic interpretation of the Rustavi choir apart from local ensembles, whose singing seems to be imbued with a rustic touch. In order to preserve the songs' originality, Anzor Erkomaishvili selects as singers natives of the relevant regions. Thus, in addition to Anzor Erkomaishvili himself, the soloists in the Gurian songs are Ramin Mikaberidze and Badri Toidze; in the songs from Eastern Georgia, they are Tariel Onashvili and Vladimer Tandilashvili as well as Bondo Gugava. The Rustavi choir has recorded many albums, but each song is a new variation when it is recorded.

 The lesser well known instrumental music of Georgia stands in the shadow of the abundant vocal folk music tradition. One of the few solo instruments is the salamuri flute (see track 23). The accompanying instruments, such as the threestringed panduri lute, the four-stringed chonguri, and the changi harp, occasionally are used to underpin the singing (tracks 2 and 16). Dance melodies and shepherd melodies are typical of the rural regions.

 The urban music of Georgia, in which Oriental and Western influences have merged with the indigenous tradition, hold a special fascination. The typical urban ensemble is a trio of duduki oboes with two melody instruments and bass duduki. These oboe instruments are found in all Caucasian regions. They have a double reed, which in comparison to the body of the instrument is very large, and like the larger conical oboes, they are blown with circular breathing, i.e. without pausing. Their affecting velvety sound is particularly suited to the performance of slow, stately melodies (track 20). Today however, there are few ensembles in Georgia which have mastered this art. They include the trio of Omar Kelaptrishvili, whose principal plays the solo duduki: he is accompanied by Tamaz Mamaladze and Davit Kavtaradze.


 

CD TRACKS:

Compact Disk # 52.985

Time

RUSTAVI CHOIR

1. "Gare kakhuri sachidao" - Wrestling song, Eastern Georgia - Kakheti 2:13
2. "Mival Guriashi" - "On the way to Guria", accompaniment on chonguri 2:51
3. "Kalos khelkhvavi" - Harvest song from Western Georgia - Guria 2:16
4. Kakhuri Alilo - Christmas folk carol, Kakheti 3:44
5. Movedit Takvanis Vtset - Come Let Us Worship, Orthodox Church chant 2:28
6. Tsminda Tamar Mephis Tropari - Tropar (In praise) of Saint Queen Tamar 3:06
7. Kunta Bedinera - Wedding song, Western Georgia - Megrelia 1:14
8. Tsmindao Ghmerto - "Holy God", Church chant 3:00
9. Guruli Zari - Lament, Guria 1:48
10. "Shen Gigalobt" - "Praised be the Lord", Church chant 1:54
11. Khasan Begura - Battle song, Guria 2:27
12. Odoia - Work song, Megrelia 3:25
13. Kalospiruli - Work song, Kartli-Kakheti 3:05
14. Chven Mshvidoba - Peace between Us, Table song, Guria 2:27
15. Kakhuri Nana - Lullaby, Kakheti 2:48
16. Lazhghvash - Roundelay, accompaniment on hangi, Svaneti 2:00
17. Oskhunuri - Work song, Megrelia 2:28
18. Kakhuri Mravalzhamieri - Table song, Kakheti 4:27

DUDUKI TRIO

 
19. Iavnana - Lullaby, Kartli-Kakheti 2:49
20. Dilis Saari - Urban folklore 4:01
21. Dachrilis Simgera - Song of Wounded, Abkhazia  1:54
22. Collection of Folk Songs: Nana, Sisa Tura, Lullabies, Arka si rekisho, Lyrical song 3:14
23. Imeruli Mgzavruli - On the road, Imereti & Mtskemsuri - Shepherd's Song 1:55
24. Collection of Ancient Georgian Urban Songs 5:35

Total Playing Time  - 67:36 

 

Compact Disk - "Rustavi Choir & Duduki Trio, Omar Kelaptrishvili" is a part of series published
by WORLD NETWORK (#2); Licensed by WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk), GERMANY 
CD Edited by Christian Scholze & Jean Trouillet in cooperation with Jan Reichow
 Network Medien GmbH, Merianplatz 10, D-60316 Frankfurt.
 Susanne Ziegler; Translation from German by Eugen Seidel.
 Electronical material presented by Besiki Sisauri
The French and German versions of this text are also presented in the CD booklet.

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