Sunken Treasure: Hamlet Gonashvili, ‘the voice of Georgia’
22 September, 2016
Sunken Treasure: Hamlet Gonashvili, ‘the voice of Georgia’
The history of recorded music only stretches back a century or so but the polyphonic singing of Georgia was reverberating around the high hills of the Caucasus Mountains closer to a thousand years ago, The Irish Times says.

“Occupying a strategically situated isthmus between the Black and the Caspian seas, Georgia has been the crossroads of empires since early antiquity. Yet the oral and cultural traditions of the ancient Georgian tribes from which such a unique form of singing sprung
endured through centuries of conquest and occupation.

The Rustavi Choir was formed in 1968 to bring the undiluted styles of the various regions together and expose the sound to a wider audience while also becoming a living repository for the songs themselves. Hamlet Gonashvili was the outstanding soloist in the ensemble before his untimely death after a fall from an apple tree in 1985. His rich timbre is the crowning glory atop the ever-moving harmonies that give the sound its uniquely haunting tone.

It’s deeply resonant of times past in the most natural of ways. The continuous movement and serene flow of the harmonies render it almost airborne. The rich voices weave delicate patterns in the air. There’s a tangible otherness to it that puts it in its own space, far removed from any contemporary choral sound I’ve heard.

Yet there’s a stillness in it too. It’s evocative of a time when the singers of these sacred hymns must have carried such power on terra firma. Imagine hearing this in its own place in ancient times? Before sound as we know it came along and spoiled us, magic like this was all in the moment, a shared experience. Air emerging from humans beings, circulating and reverberating in perfect harmony with the lofty peaks of the landscape. Echoing but unrepeatable.

How mesmerising must that have been?”

Listen to Hamlet Gonashvili here


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