The selections of this album include both sacred (chant) and secular songs from several regions. Georgia is a small country, yet the songs of each region have their own unique style, and are sung in some cases in different dialects. Georgian chant began somewhere between the 7th and 10th centuries, and was transmitted as an oral tradition until the 19th century when Russian control of Georgia began. It was notated by 19th century musicologists to preserve it, and it is now being sung again in post-Soviet renewal. It’s believed that secular part-singing in Georgia is a tradition of similar antiquity to the chant.
Jim Desmond, Pirveli (Tenor)
Joel Sindelar, Meore (Baritone)
David Gillman, Bani (Bass)
By the time we formed The Other Georgia in 2007, the three of us had all independently become fascinated with the haunting sounds of Georgian singing, and (also independently) had all visited Georgia to immerse ourselves in its music and culture. We were fortunate that the three of us all lived in Boston and have had a great time singing together ever since. We highly recommend it!
1. Kuchkhi Bedineri (Lucky foot), region of Samegrelo. This is a wedding song. The idea is to wish the couple a lucky foot when they cross the threshold. After the opening solo, the words consist of nonsense syllables—very much like scat singing.
2. Mival Guriashi (I am going to Guria), region of Guria. We learned this song from records of the Rustavi Ensemble and the children’s choir Martve. The singer cannot wait to get home: “I am going to Guria, and my heart races ahead of me.” The scat refrain is gently polyphonic.
3. Chven Mshvidoba (Peace to us), region of Guria. This is the gnarly sound of Gurian polyphony. The song celebrates hospitality, something Georgians are especially known for. The words consists of scat, followed by praise for the host of the house and his guests, followed by more scat. All three parts are usually improvised, but we stick pretty close to a recorded performance by the Rustavi Ensemble.
4. Tsintsqaro (By the spring), region of Kartli-Kakheti. This is a song from eastern Georgia with an ornate melody evocative of the influence of Persia. A boy spies a girl by the spring. He approaches her and speaks to her but fails to win her affection.
5. Da Vitartsa Meupisa (That we may receive the King), western Georgia. This is the second part of the Cherubic Hymn of the Georgian Orthodox service, “Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, lay aside all worldly cares, that we may receive the King of all invisibly escorted by angelic hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” This setting of the hymn came to us through friends from Robert Gogolashvili.
6. Alilo (Christmas carol), region of Guria. “Christ was born on the 25th of December. The Messiah is born. A new year is born.” We think the word “alilo” is an exclamation of praise or joy, like “hallelujah!” We learned this song from a recording of the American-Canadian Trio Kavkasia.
7. Batonebis Nanina (The Lords’ Lullaby), region of Imereti. The Georgian women’s group Mzetamze collected this song in the field. “Amuse yourself sweetly, O Lord. By the mother of these lords stands a golden cradle. Within it lies the lord’s child. From time to time one rocks it, and says ‘Nana’ to it.” The Lords are ancient spirits. Many songs that once appealed to these spirits have become lullabies.
8. Akhal Patskha (Megrelian hut), region of Samegrelo. “I love a little Megrelian hut – well-kept, not too high, not too low. You will find a beautiful Megrelian girl there. Let’s get the bride and drink wine from the cellar.” This song came to us through friends from Carl Linich.
9. Mival Guriashi (I am going to Guria), region of Samegrelo. Our singer is once again homesick for Guria, but now he sings about it in the Megrelian style. This setting of the song was made famous by the Kolkheti Ensemble.
10. Me Var Da Chemi Nabadi (Me and my felt coat), region of Imeriti. A story about a boy in the woods at night who is visited by three beautiful women: the first is apple-cheeked, the second is graceful, but the third kisses him and wins his affection. Jim learned this song from Malkhaz Erkvanidze.
11. Movedit Taqvanis Vstset (O come, let us worship), eastern Georgia. The invitation to the Orthodox service: “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and God.”
12. Okro Mchedelo (Goldsmith), region of Meskheti. “Goldsmith, here is a bird’s horseshoe. Make me a shovel from it. From what’s left make me a hoe...and an axe... and a knife...” It’s a silly song.
13. Mravalzhamier (Many years), region of Guria. This song is used to wish someone success and long life. It can be sung in church and on many social occasions. One of many settings of this lyric, this version came to us through friends from Anzor Erkomaishvili.
14. Tula, from South Africa. This is a lullaby taught to us by Kate Howard. It’s not Georgian but we like it anyway.
Thanks to the Wyman Street house and the heARTbeat Collective for hosting our rehearsals and occasional concerts and supras. We are grateful to the Georgian singers we’ve heard in person and on records, to the people who have preserved and spread the music on records and in sheet music, and to the Georgians who have shown great hospitality to us and our friends.
Recorded at the St. Matthew's United Methodist Church, Acton, MA, on July 19, 2009, by Location Recordings, Tom Clark and Steve Myhr, engineers. ©2009, The Other Georgia. www.theothergeorgia.com