FolkWorld Issue 37 11/2008; Article from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music of Georgia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In August 2008, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia engaged in an armed conflict with Russia and separatist groups in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The unresolved secessionist conflicts and the tense relations with Russia make us forget that Georgians are renowned for their love of music and dance, and that Georgia is well known for its rich folklore and its unique traditional music.

Georgia Map
Georgia (საქართველო, Sakartvelo)

Georgia Flag Capital: Tbilisi
Population: 4,5 mio
Location: Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region in Southwestern Asia. Georgia is bordered to the north by the Russian Federation, to the east by Azerbaijan, to the west by the Black Sea, to the south by Armenia and Turkey.

Folk music

Georgian folk music possesses what is the oldest tradition of polyphonic music in the world, predating the introduction of Christianity.


Scales used in traditional Georgian music have, like most European scales, octaves divided into seven tones (eight including the octave), but the spacing of the tones is different. As with most traditional systems of tuning, traditional Georgian folk music uses a just perfect fifth. Between the unison and the fifth, however, come three evenly-spaced notes, producing a compressed (compared to most European music) major second, a neutral third, and a stretched perfect fourth. Likewise, between the fifth and the octave come two evenly-spaced notes, producing a compressed major sixth and a stretched minor seventh. This system of tuning renders thirds as the most consonant interval after fifths, which resulted in the third being treated as a stable interval in Georgia long before it acquired that status in Western music.

Some consider the Georgian scale a "quintave system" (as opposed to the octave-repeating "octave system"). Due to the neutral tuning within the quintave system, the eighth degree or octave is slightly widened, which often results in a rise in pitch from the beginning of a song to the end.

Because of the influence of the Western music and its different system of tuning, present-day performances of Georgian folk music often employ Western tuning, bringing the seconds, fourths, sixths, and sevenths, and sometimes the thirds as well, closer to where they would lie in a Western scale.

Musical literature and traditions

The Shin

The Shin, in their search for a sound that is definitively Georgian, have created a trans-regional fusion of various Georgian styles. Their project EgAri is based on Georgian instrumental music, traditional polyphonic vocals, and folk dance, and unites for the first time these quite separate segments of Georgian culture.

The Shin @ FolkWorld: FW #34

Icon Movie Chips On The Water, Epic Waltz of Mr QQ

Georgian folk songs are often centered on feasts called supra, where songs and toasts to God, fatherland, long life, love and other topics. Traditional feast songs include "Zamtari", which is about winter and is sung to commemorate ancestors, and "Mravalzhamier", a joyous hymn. Work songs are also widespread. The orovela, for example is a type of work song found in eastern Georgia. There is also a distinct and rich tradition of Georgian sacred music, both settings of hymns for the Orthodox Church, and folk hymns and ritual songs that contain a great deal of "pagan" imagery. There are, in addition, many lyric love songs, dance songs, lullabies, and travelling songs, among others.

Choirs are generally entirely male, though some female groups also exist; mixed-gender choirs are rare, but also exist. (An example of the latter is the Zedashe ensemble, based in Sighnaghi, Kakheti.)

Varieties within the country

Georgia is a small country, but it is very mountainous. For this reason, folk music styles from different regions of Georgia differ very widely, which makes it difficult to speak of characteristics of "Georgian folk music" as a monolithic whole.

Table songs from Kakheti in eastern Georgia usually feature a simple, drone-like bass part with two soloists singing the top two parts. Kakhetian melodies sound like recitative part of the time (with great emphasis on the words, which are highly poetic), and then break into series of ornate, cascading ornaments. The two melody parts do play off each other, but there is not the type of complicated back-and-forth between the parts that one hears in Gurian trio songs. Perhaps the most well-known example of music in Kakhetian style is the patriotic "Chakrulo", which was chosen to accompany the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

In Rach'a and Ajara, male singers accompany themselves on bagpipe. Dissonance is prominent in the west, in Mingrelia and Guria, which also features high pitches and outrageous, yodelling-like vocals called krimanchuli. Svaneti's traditions are perhaps the oldest and most traditional due to the region's isolation. Svan harmonies are irregular and angular, and the middle voice leads two supporting vocals, all with a narrow range. The 20th century has seen professional choirs achieve renown in Georgia, especially Anzor Erkomaishvili's Rustavi Choir.

Contemporary Georgian music

Georgian Instruments

Georgia is home to a form of urban music with sentimental, lovelorn lyrics, as well as a more rough and crude urban music featuring clarinets, doli and duduks.

Folk musical instruments

Wind instruments: larchemi-soinari, salamuri, pilili, gudastviri and stviri

Brass wind instruments: sankeri

String instruments: panduri, chonguri, chunir, chianuri and changi

Percussion instruments: doli, daira and diplipito


See also

Georgian hip hop

Main article: Georgian hip hop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [].
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Date: October 2008.

Photo Credits: (1) Map, (2) Georgian Flag, (4) Soviet postage stamp depicting traditional musical instruments of Georgia, (6) Wikipedia Logo (by Wikipedia); (3) The Shin (from website); (5) GNU Logo (by GNU Project).

Back to FolkWorld Content
To the German FolkWorld

© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 11/2008

All material published in FolkWorld is © The Author via FolkWorld. Storage for private use is allowed and welcome. Reviews and extracts of up to 200 words may be freely quoted and reproduced, if source and author are acknowledged. For any other reproduction please ask the Editors for permission. Although any external links from FolkWorld are chosen with greatest care, FolkWorld and its editors do not take any responsibility for the content of the linked external websites.

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Home
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld