Here’s the second in my “gems from the archive” series. This is about music from the Republic of Georgia, or as it is known there, Sakartvelo. I include the original text that accompanied the video at the time.
I should mention that I was part of something called a “fam tour” in which travel agents and facilitators take a trip to a destination in order to be able to recommend it to their clients. Before embarking on the trip I had made it clear to Panorama Travel, which had offered the experience to me, that I was primarily interested in capturing music from the area, and so if there was to be no music, there was to be no me. As it turned out, I was very glad that I had made that stipulation. And so were the other members of the tour!
The second leg of my trip to the Caucasus (first stop Azerbaijan) was the Republic of Georgia. We traveled from the Tbilisi airport directly into the wine country of Kakheti; our destination the high altitudes of Sighnaghi, a beautiful town with an ancient fortress wall that runs up and down the mountainside. We had dinner there at Pheasant’s Tears, the restaurant/outlet of the winery of the same name.
A word about the wine and cuisine of Georgia: Wine is a long-standing tradition there, and by long I mean well over 6,000 years. In fact, many of the grape varieties that are used in familiar European vintages originated in Georgia. To my palette they have an extremely clean flavor. To complement the wine, Georgian food is delicious, utilizing herbs nuts and fruits (think tarragon, walnuts and pomegranates) and although meat is a huge staple, there is enough variation in the cuisine to make a Vegan happy.
But what sets any meal in Georgia apart from its neighboring lands and perhaps most of the world, is its long tradition of table songs. These a capella pieces are sung during the meal, and after lengthy toasts that can wax poetic and philosophical, and always emotional. This singing tradition is a national treasure, and uniquely, it is also polyphonic, and predates the coming of the Christian church. That night we broke bread with four singers, who comprise the excellent group Teatraluris Kvarteti, headed by Lasha Kervalidze. From the very first note they sang, eating ceased, the room hushed, and all became entranced. Later, my travel companions thanked me for insisting that there was music at the dinner; that is was the most memorable part of the trip so far!
This is truly an accessible and beautiful musical tradition. It was also the best possible way to establish that we were indeed in Georgia. We were so concentrated on the music that we did not even realize that outside our windows, the skies had opened up and rain was coming down in torrents. It was well that I fell asleep on the way back to Tbilisi, because as it turned out, the drive down the side of the mountain, in lashing wind and rain was harrowing.
For more information about Pheasant’s Tears, visit pheasantstears.com
For more information about Teatraluris Kvarteti, contact email@example.com