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Georgian Voices


If you have never listened to Georgian traditional songs, you are in for a wonderful treat, a delight the true music lover feels when he comes across an unfamiliar, but great musical culture. But even if you already know Georgian musical folklore, you are going to derive no lees enjoyment, because you are going to listen to these songs performed by the wonderful "Georgian Voices".

Most of the members of the "Georgian Voices" showed interest in the complex old Georgian folk songs at an early age. But they did not get together and put on serious performances till spring, 1986 when the singers making up the nucleus of the Georgian voices met. Since most of the singers were working at the time at Georgian State Television they were known for some time as the "Journalists", The Company has been performing as the "Georgian Voices" since 1991, the year the company drew attention of the critics, and launched on frequent tours abroad.

The "Georgian Voices" have successfully toured all over the world. They live in Tbilisi the capital city of Georgia, and are captives of the musical genius of their people- They sing Georgian traditional songs brought to perfection by centuries of singing, which for their antiquity and polyphony are recognized as some of the best in the world. The "Georgian Voices" too, have been acclaimed as some of the best voices in the world, for this company has its own, distinctive manner of singing which does not prevent it from rendering with maximum centuries. The singers can fathom and bring to the listener the unique flavor and all the subtle distinction of these songs.

The "Georgian Voices" never sing a song in an identical manner. The singers do not just know the songs by heart; they have them in their flesh and blood. Numerous Georgian songs, not in their repertoire, which they have never even sung before, are dormant in them. If someone starts to sing one of those songs, the whole company can join in as if they had sung it all their lives. This happens because, unlike most of the other similar companies, traditional Georgian singing is second nature to them, witch is hard to achieve and takes decades. This explains a seemingly curious fact: if asked to sing a part from a song, the singers of the company will not be able to do it because they need a partner at singing. Only when they hear the part sung by their partner do they know what to do, and how to do it. This is what makes their performance so distinct: each concert is a creative process.

The "Georgian Voices" performing means a constant improvisation. The listeners are well aware of this fact, and as soon as the members of the company appear on the stage in Georgia they are always received with a warm welcome. The listeners know that something special is going to happen. Something beautiful and miraculous and the "Georgian Voices" never let their loyal fans, i.e. the whole of Georgia down.

The wide variety of repertoire of the "Georgian Voices" spans an incredibly long stretch of time. Apart from the great vocal mainly due to Georgian musical folklore, which is so old and so varied that the number of the songs and their versions has not been established yet even approximately. Thus, the singers have a wide choice, and they try to make up their repertoire so that they can live up to their name. At the concert of the "Georgian Voices" you are certain to hear pre-Christian ritualistic songs, old round dance songs, medieval Christian hymns, unique work songs, lofty drinking songs, amazing polyphony, characteristic of Guria, a region in Georgia, and a number of songs by the Georgian composers of the 19th and the 20th centuries.

The sound and the harmony of these songs are so varied that it takes a lot of professionalism and mastery to sing them property, and only very few can succeed. The singers of the "Georgian Voices" do it without restraint and with so much ease that at first one cannot even feel all the complexity. But behind this ease one can perceive hard work, great talent, unique vocal qualities, as well as great love, respect and reverence for these songs. This explains the secret of the unequivocal success and popularity of the "Georgian Voices".

Historically eight names have been used for the parts in Georgian traditional singing:

  1. Krini
  2. Krimanchuli
  3. Gamqivani
  4. Modzakhili
  5. Mtkmeli
  6. Shemkhmobari
  7. Bani
  8. Dvrini

All these parts with the same denomination are still in use and an sung today, but certainly, they are not all needed for every song at th( same time. The overwhelming majority of songs are sung in three parts: 1) Mtkmeli 2) Modzakhili and 3) Bani; in Gurian songs krimanchuli or gamqivani is added with an occasional Shemkhmobari, especially in work songs, while church hymns are sung with the addition of dvrini, etc.

Some of the Georgian names for song parts translate into the European system as: krini - falsetto, modzakhili - 1st tenor, mtkmeli - 2nd lenor, bani - baritone, dvrini - basso. The remaining three parts: krimanchuli, gamqivani and shemkhmobari are specifically Georgian, and it is hard to find analogues anywhere else.
All these parts are equally important for singing Georgian song? Let us see now how these parts are distributed among the ten singers of the "Georgian Voices":

  1. David Abesadze: krini, krimanchuli, modzakhili, shemkhmobeli.
  2. Givi Chlchlnadze: krini, modzakhili, modzakhili, Shemkhmobari.
  3. Zaur Bolkvadze: krini, krimanchuli, modzakhili. mtkmeli.
  4. Guram Tamazashvili: mtkmeli, modzakhili, bani.
  5. Malkhaz Talakvadze: mtkmeli, modzakhili.
  6. Temur Chkuaseli: krimanchuli, bani, mtkmeli, gamkivani.
  7. Zurab Loladze: bani, mtkmeli, Shemkhmobari.
  8. David Gogiashvili: bani, dvrini.,
  9. Gia Chlrakadze: bani, dvrini.

Robert Gogolashviti, leader of the company , is the only professional among the singers, having graduated from Tbilisi State Conservatoire.

The "Georgian Voices" have won numerous prizes during their career. We will only mention one: in 1996 the company and individual singers were awarded the State Prize of Georgia in recognition of their enormous popularity and service to Georgian culture.

The "Georgian Voices" do not indulge their listeners with albums, because they feel a dislike for studio recording. Concert is their element. They only recorded seriously in a studio twice during the twelve years of their existence: in Tbilisi in 1989 when the company recorded its first album with 23 songs, and in Paris in 1992 when they recorded their first CD with eighteen songs. The singers are not quite happy with either of these, as according to them studio recording robs a song of an essential quality - the sentiment, or the state of mind, which is only there in concert, when the singers come into direct contact with their listeners- This relationship with the listeners produces in the singers the mood so precious to the "Georgian Voices", an ardent desire to improvise, and makes the singing so expressive.

For this reason the "Georgian Voices" have decided to release an album of songs recorded atone of their concerts. The concert was given at Adelaide Conservatoire in 1992.

There are about nineteen historical regions in Georgia, but from the point of view of traditional singing twelve of those hardly matter more than Kartli and Kaheti in Eastern Georgia, and Imereti, Guria, Samegrelo, Adjara and Svaneti in the Western part. The repertoire of the "Georgian Voices" embraces the songs of these particular regions.