Georgian Songs and Performing Arts

Georgian songs and performing arts| Georgian folk music


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Georgian people have long been famous for their musical traditions. Folk-secular musical culture, which produced polyphonic music and turned composition into an independent branch, developed side by side with Church-music. Traditionally Georgian songs are sung in three-part harmony; however, in some regions the fourth voice may be included.

Singing is an important element of Georgian culture. There are songs linked with social and celebrating activities. There are work songs, traveling songs, lullabies, wedding songs, dance songs, and table songs. The Georgian folk singing tradition stands out in the world as a complex, unique, very profound and very ancient. Georgian folk music comprises different dialects, each of them representing 1, 2, 3, 4-part songs that can be divided into two main groups: West Georgian and East Georgian. East Georgian songs often have two solo upper parts and a lower part with flexible drone notes. West Georgian songs are characterized by a pronounced polyphony, which often has a complex melodic structure that disregards harmonic consonance. Stylistic traits such as ‘yodels’ (krimanchuli), unexpected key changes and dissonance may sound unfamiliar to Western ears.

The texts and the musical structure of traditional Georgian songs illuminate the specific thoughts and way-of-life of a people with more than two thousand years of history and culture. For example, traditional instrumentation consisting of a collectively sung bass line supporting one or two higher solo lines reflects a characteristic of a social model, existing between the individual and the group, where everyone is able to participate and no one remains as an unengaged listener.

City folklore is an integral part of Georgian folk music. There are two trends in it: the so called old Tbilisi songs, which are the mixture of Georgian folklore, the oriental tunes and another trend that developed under the influence of European music, performed by one, two or three singers to a guitar accompaniment. After Christianity was proclaimed in Georgia in the 4th century a new genre of church chorales developed and achieved great heights. Later the musical schools were founded (Gelati, Iqalto - in Georgia; Jerusalem, Atoni mount and Sina mount - in Syria; Petritsoni monastery in Bulgaria). Michael Modrekili (9th-10th cc.) collected the hymns of his time in a book where lyrics are accompanied by musical notes). 11th-12th cc. scholar Ioane Petritsi reports that Georgian songs and chorales were based on three parts, each of the party having its own definition in Georgian language which proves their Georgian origin.

The 19th-20th centuries are marked by a vigorous development of Georgian music. The new trends were introduced by M. Balanchivadze, D. Arakishvili, Z. Paliashvili, N. Sulkhanishvili, and V. Dolidze. Georgian music is enriched with the achievements of European music but has never been cut from its national roots. It has retained its unique characteristic features until present.

Georgian dancing is world-famous, distinguished with its aristocratic restraint and steadiness: a man is a knight; a woman is as delicate and gracious as a fairy. Each dance portrays the life of the region in which it has originated, and thus is diverse and unique. The mountain dances, such as Khevsuruli, Kazbeguri, or Mtiuluri, are sharply different from some valley dances - e.g. Acharuli and Davluri. The costumes are different for every dance and resemble the clothing of the past in different regions of Georgia. The costumes worn today in Georgian dances have been designed and perfected by Simon Virsaladze. Furthermore, the choreographic structure of many dances has been modified to fit the stage performance.

Very often Georgian folk singing and dancing performances are available in Tbilisi Concert Hall and other cities of Georgia. CDs and cassettes of Georgian songs can be purchased at music shops in Tbilisi.

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