Ensemble “Rustavi” Administration Press Release, September 14th, 2019


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Connecting with the 50th anniversary of the Ensemble “Rustavi”, there has been published a very important anthology – “400 Georgian Folk Songs”.


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Specialist in folklore


“Performance of the Georgian folk song”


Quite a long time has passed since Georgian musical folklore has gained international recognition. Scientists of many countries talk about the phenomenon of our folk music, about its variety, about an amazingly high level of its development and artistic values. Lots of scholarly articles and scientific research studies, monographs (A. Dirr 1910, 1914; R. Lach 1917, 1918, 1931; S. Nadel; E. Stockmann; V. Beliaev; E. Emsheimer; Y. Grimaud; S. Zeigler, etc.) written in the German, English, French, Spanish, Polish and other languages were dedicated to the Georgian folk vocal works. We can say for sure that no other field of the Georgian culture has contributed to the world culture treasury as significantly as the Georgian folk song. Its role is even greater in the job of keeping of its national identity. That’s one of the many reasons why many-sided, thorough study of the Georgian musical folklore is one of the most important tasks of our scientists.



References about Georgian folk music


The oldest written note about Georgian singing works dates back to 714 B.C. Assyrian King Sargon tells us about the inhabitants of the principality of Mana, the place which was settled by Qartvelian tribes of the state of Urartu. They performed “joyful songs” during work.

Greek historian Xenophon (V-IV Cs B.C.) in his work “Anabasis” talks about the battle of the Mossynoeci, – ancient predecessors of the Georgians: “…After they lined up, one of them began, but all the others were singing and marching with an even pace”. And at the end of the battle, they performed “dances and songs of extraordinary style”. Some experts (D. Janelidze) think that this “extraordinary style” means polyphony, though according to others’ viewpoint (Sh. Aslanishvili), Xenophon’s words cannot prove that. Though, from this written source one thing can be said for sure, – in that period, the predecessors of the Georgians had marching songs and dances.

We find quite important information about the Georgian music in the oldest archaeological sources.

In 1930, in Mtskheta city, namely, in Samtavro there were discovered old graves. Among many other items, there was found a small three-finger-hole flute without a duct made of a shinbone of a swan. The flute presumably dates as far back as XV-XIII Cs B.C.

In 70s of XX century, in Kazbegi district there were discovered images of the oldest string instruments – bobghna, lyre and changi, which supposedly are performed in XI-X Cs B.C.

Ancient origin of the Georgian folk music is proved by the samples of the art of smithery: the Silver Bowl from Trialeti (middle centuries of II millennium B.C.), the Bronze Belt from Samtavro (VIII-VII Cs B.C.) and bronze ithyphallic statues (VII-VI Cs B.C.) called the “Treasury of Kazbegi”.

On the Trialeti Silver Bowl, there is depicted a round dance – Dznoba, which is considered to be one of the most archaic forms of the Georgian music. According to the specialists in art, it has to be dedicated to the oldest Khetian deity of fertility Telephun. With this round dance order, there have been preserved some round dance songs (“Adrekilai”, “Saqmisai”, “Melia Telephia”, etc.) to the present day in Svaneti.

We meet exceptionally remarkable references in “The Georgian Chronicles” (“The Georgian Royal Annals”), where there is described the oldest ritual of lamentation (crying in voice) that is connected with the decease of the Georgian King Pharasmanes II who reigned in II century A.D. They say: “…In all towns, districts, and villages sit poets of lamentation, and all of them gather, and mention courage, generosity and good-looking and handsome appearance of Pharasmanes the Valiant…”.

The biographer of Peter the Iberian notifies us that in V century, during feasts at the nobility, there were performed entertaining songs.

“The Life of the King of Kings David” tells us, that in XI century, in the King’s army there were widely spread the songs which were unacceptable and not recognized by the church of that time. In one of the episodes of Basil of the Yard Preacher’s work, there is indicated the existence of plough songs in XII-XIII centuries Georgia.

XI-XII centuries are called the “Gold Age” in Georgia because at that time there occurred incredible revival of political and cultural life of the country. References about the musical culture of that period are found in the chronicles of the history of Georgia – “Qartlis Tskhovreba” (“The Georgian Chronicles”), as well as in the works of – Shota Rustaveli, Ioane Shavteli, Chakhrukhadze, Mose Khoneli, Sargis Tmogveli, and others. Through the fact, it becomes clear, that the music in that epoch was one of the most important fields of art. You could hear it everywhere: at the court, singers performed poems and odes accompanied with different (wind as well as stringed and stroke) instruments. The historian of King Tamar gives us a note about the existence of poets, mutribebi (the singers who played several musical instruments (usually the lyre) as well) and feast songs. Hunting, war, wedding, lamentation and public holidays were accompanied by the music. Huge quantity of the names of the instruments or the terms depicting man’s voice kept in the literary monuments of that period by itself points to the existence of the high level polyphonic singing and instrumental music. For example, in Shota Rustaveli’s “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” there is proved the existence of a whole series of musical instruments, among them there are: ezhvani, chaghana, changi, barbiti, buki, nai, dapi, tsintsila, ebani, etc.

From the old Georgian theological-philosophical monuments there are especially noteworthy the works of the Georgian public figures that reached to the present day and where the discussion about the questions connecting with the music has a special place. Among such authors, first of all, there has to be named a Georgian philosopher Ioane Petritsi who lived in XI-XII centuries. While discussing theological, namely, the question of the Holy Trinity, he makes references to music sources. It is especially important the fact, that Ioane Petritsi mentions Georgian names for three parts – “Mzakhri”, “Zhiri”, and “Bami” by which verifies the existence of tripartite songs in the Georgian music of his period.

In XIV century monument “Regulations of the Royal Court”, there is mentioned heathen round dance songs existed at that period. Representatives of the public performed them even in front of the king. Monk Egnatashvili tells us about the address of the Georgian King Luarsab, who was imprisoned by XVII century Persian monarch Shah Abbas, to his citizens, dependents: “As I want you to lament because of my death and cry on me as it is done according to the rules in Georgia”, which points to a special role of music in the lamentation ritual of that period.

Since the end of the epoch of the political and cultural renaissance of Georgia (II half of XIII century), our country went through the historical period full of hardships. There were lost the monuments of cultural life. Because of that, today we have very few notes depicting the life of the Georgian musical culture of early and late feudal periods.

In the last quarter of XVII century and I half of XVIII  century,  it  was  especially  important  literary performance of the Georgian kings-poets – Archil II, Vakhtang VI, Teimuraz II for the Georgian musical culture. Their works, for some part, also perform the function of the historic source of the musical culture of that period for there are described lots of Georgian traditions and customs connected with singing, instruments or music in them. In this regard, it is especially interesting King Teimuraz’s “The Mirror of the Told Stories or Narration of the Day and the Night”.

It is especially significant Georgian scholar, lexicographer, writer and political figure – Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani’s contribution to the history of Georgian musical art. His “Georgian Dictionary”, that gives us many valuable notes about our music and musical terminology is a very popular book used by researchers of the Georgian music every day.

In XVII century, Italian missionary Arcangelo Lamberti describes the order of lamentation in Samegrelo, also collective process of hoeing of ghomi accompanied by Nadi songs, table and traveling songs. In I half of XIX century, a French traveler Jean Francois Gamba also tells us about “Nadurebi”.

The questions about Georgian national and church music are mentioned in “Kalmasoba” (“The Quest”) and “Short Reference Book of Music” of Ioane Batonishvili (I quarter of XIX century). In the works, there are presented references about Georgian chanting, its origin, choristers, parts included in a choir and their names, sound ranges, instrumental music and others.

The first publication (I. Evlakhovi, “About the Folk Songs and Singers of Georgia”, the “Kavkaz” (newspaper)) appeared in periodic press of XIX century in 1850. In 60s, in the “Tsiskari” (magazine), there were published two interesting articles: Aleqsandre Jambakur-

Orbeliani’s “Chanting, Singing and Crooning of Iverianelebi” (1861) and Davit Machabeli’s “The Georgian’s Morals” (1864). The authors pay special attention to the questions of the origins and background of Georgian musical traditions, repertoire, styles, national chanting. In 1887, in the newspaper “Iveria”, there was published Ilia Chavchavadze’s review about a concert of Lado Aghniashvili’s choir with the title “Georgian Folk Song”, where there is discussed the question of the typology of the Georgian music. The genesis of the Georgian chanting is also discussed by Priest Polievqtos Karbelashvili in his book “Georgian National and Church Dialects” (1898).

We can say, that the interest in scientific research of the Georgian music appeared in I half of XIX century.



General Natural Peculiarities of the Georgian Folk Music


The most distinctive feature of Georgian musical folklore is polyphony. We meet it in all Georgian musical dialects. There is felt tendency of polyphony in the most part of the solo and one-part songs. That is not unusual as Georgian traditional musical thinking belongs to polyphonic type.

Georgian polyphony is functional, i.e., each part in the song has its own, the function that represents individual characteristic feature. In Georgian singing folklore, there are one-, two-, three-, and four-part songs.

Most Georgian folk songs consist of three parts. We can say that “ethnic sound ideal” of the Georgian musical folklore has been expressed in three-part songs.

There are two main kinds of one-part songs – solo and performed with a choir. We meet lots of samples of the solo one-part songs (they are also called “single line” songs) in all Georgian musical dialects, but one-part songs performed with a choir are quite rare.

Example “Lazarus”

About two-part songs we can say, that in comparison with three-part songs, they are less widespread.

We meet four-part songs only in West Georgia, mostly among Gurian songs. In neighboring dialects of the Gurian ones, we meet four-part songs more occasionally. Among especially interesting, perfectly elaborated samples of four-part songs must be mentioned Gurian Kanuri (“Naduri”) songs that accompany working process in the cornfield.