Georgian ensemble performs 11-century-old chant in US church
15 November, 2016
The Zedashe ensemble was founded approximately 20 years ago, in Kakheti region’s historical town of Sighnaghi. The group performs not only folk songs but also religious gospels, and they dance as well. As a result, they have numerous fans among locals as well as foreigners.

Last year they presented their skills to the US audience on a four-week American tour. This particular chant, performed in St Mary's Orthodox Cathedral in Minnesota, is of Georgian traditional origin and dates back to
almost 11 centuries ago.

As for the name, “Zedashe”, quite naturally, it is connected to wine, as Kakheti is considered the cradle of wine. Around the ancient walled town of Sighnagi, in the east of Georgia, some of the best wines are produced, that are sometimes buried in earthenware jars called zedashes and brought out once a year to drink toasts to the ancestors. It’s part of the ritual, the living cycle of the past in the present.

“We started this huge thing by bringing liturgic music back into the church,” explains Zedashe founder and vocalist Ketevan Mindorashvili, “and we were very proud, and then we got into folk music. It’s so similar. Everyone wants to prove that one came first, but no one really knows. It’s the same root and harmony.”

John Wurdeman, a visual artist, Georgia-based winemaker, and long-time friend and supporter of the band says that traditional singers see themselves as bearers of tradition: “Their talent and energy is spent understanding, learning, and passing on what came before them. Some may tweak or even compose their own creations.

They channel the energy and somehow bring it into our times. It’s neither ancient nor modern, it’s a living culture. You usher it in, you expose it to people. It’s a sentiment and aesthetics that transcend centuries.”

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