Top Georgian songs of all time
01 September, 2017
Top Georgian songs of all time
Georgian has a rich musical culture that counts over centuries. Georgian polyphony is an invaluable tradition listed by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Georgian people liked singing since ancient times; they sang during celebrations, feasts (soupras), weddings and even at funerals.

Besides feast songs, Georgians have work songs as well. Such songs were common in all regions of the country. Orovela, for example, is a specific solo work song found in eastern Georgia only. There are a great number of healing songs, funerary ritual songs, wedding songs, love songs, dance songs, lullabies, traveling songs.

Georgia has rich and still vibrant traditional music, which is primarily known as arguably the earliest polyphonic tradition of the Christian world.

A typical Georgian song is sung acappella by men, singing in at least three vocal ranges together.

Here we present to you some of the most popular and beautiful Georgian songs:

Chakrulo

First one is Chakrulo, the most vivid example of Georgian polyphony. When Georgian vocal polyphony was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Heritage masterpiece in 2001, Chakrulo was cited as a prime example of this. Chakrulo was one of 27 musical compositions included on the Voyager Golden Records that were sent into space on Voyager 2 on 20 August 1977.
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The most popular version of “Chakrulo” is performed by Hamlet Gonashvili, "the voice of Georgia", a Soviet-born Georgian singer (tenor), influential teacher and performer of traditional Georgian music.

Gonashvili, who was born in eastern Georgia, was considered the best interpreter of songs from the Kartli and Kakheti regions.


Shen Khar Venakhi – “You Are Vineyard”

Shen Khar Venakhi – “You Are Vineyard” is a medieval Georgian hymn. The text is attributed to King Demetrius I of Georgia (1093-1156). The composer of the music is unknown. Supposedly Demetrius I wrote it during his confinement as a monk in the David Gareja Monastery. The hymn is dedicated to Georgia and the patronage of the Virgin Mary; it is also a prayer of praise to Mary in the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The lyrics itself does not mention any saints or gods. Here is the translation of the lyrics:

You are a vineyard newly blossomed.
Young, beautiful, growing in Eden,
(A fragrant poplar sapling in Paradise.)
(May God adorn you. No one is more worthy of praise.)
You yourself are the sun, shining brilliantly.

The hymn is described as very polyphonic piece, reflecting late Medieval traditions of the Georgian Renaissance.


Lile

Lile is a an old hymn dedicated to the sun from Svaneti, a historic province in Georgia, in the northwestern part of the country, inhabited by the Svans, an ethnic subgroup of Georgians.
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Many songs of Svan people where created before the birth of Christ and spread of Christianity, so they contain pagan elements. Svan songs and dances are inseparable part of Svaneti’s culture. Svaneti boasts arguably the most archaic three-part polyphonic singing. Most of the songs are connected to round dances, are performed by group of people very loudly and are full of dissonant chords.


Suliko

Suliko, one of the most famous Georgian songs, known worldwide, is almost a trademark of Georgia. The author of the lyrics is Akaki Tsereteli, prominent Georgian writer of 19th century.

The song became widely known throughout the Soviet Union as a song performed with music composed by Sulkhan Tsintsadze. In that form it was often performed on radio during Joseph Stalin's rule, reputedly because it was his favorite. It was translated to and performed in multiple languages including Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian, English, German, Basque, Chinese and Hebrew.

Iavnana

Iavnana (Lullaby) is a genre of Georgian folk song, traditionally intended as a lullaby, but historically sung also as healing songs for the sick children. Some of the Iavnana lyrics are, however, of didactical or heroic character.
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Over sixty versions of Iavnanas have been recorded. Most of these lullabies are sung to the child, and are largely preserved in modern-day Georgia. Many of the Iavnana variants, however, were "healing songs" performed specifically in the presence of the sick child, but addressed to the "lords" (batonebi) or "angels" (angelozebi), the spirits who were believed to have taken possession of the patient suffering from smallpox, measles, scarlet fever or other infectious diseases.

The Iavnana motifs have been exploited in their poetry by several Georgian poets such as Ilia Chavchavadze, Akaki Tsereteli, and Galaktion Tabidze.


Tsintskaro

Tsintskaro is a Georgian folk song that originated in Georgia’s Kakheti region. The song is named after a village in the Kartli region, which translates to "at the spring water". The song is usually performed by a male vocalist and choir. It is noteworthy that its haunting melody was used in the 1979 Werner Herzog’s film Nosferatu the Vampyre and the 1985 Kate Bush song "Hello Earth".

Just like “Chakrulo”, the most popular version of the song “Tsintskaro” is sung by Hamlet Gonashvili , “The Voice of Georgia”.


Tbiliso

Tbiliso is one of the most popular and loved songs in Georgia, dedicated to the capital of the country. The music is written by famous Georgian composer Revaz Laghidze and the lyrics are written by Petre Gruzinski, a Georgian poet and Honored Artist of the Georgian.


Mukhambazi

Mukhambazi
is one of the most popular songs written by Jansug Kakhidze.

Jansug Kakhidze (born 1935-2002) was a Georgian conductor, nicknamed "the Georgian Karajan" (famous Austrian conductor). Kakhidze was music director of the Georgian State Symphony Orchestra for two decades from 1973. He is the father of composer and conductor Vakhtang Kakhidze.
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Highlights of Kakhidze's career included numerous appearances conducting throughout Europe and Australia. His performance of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust with the Orchestra de Paris in 1990 drew high praise from critics, and helped him to secure further international success in places such as the US, where he appeared as a guest conductor with both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.

This romantic song can be named as a hymn to love, as it is full of emotions and feelings to the beloved one. The song is also known under its second name, “I’m looking for you day and night”.

Author of the lyrics is Petre Gruzinski, a Georgian poet and honored artist of the Georgian. The song was used in well-known Georgian film “Racha, My Love”. This perfect comedy tells about the romantic love story in one of the most beautiful highlands of Georgian Racha.


Roca Akavda Nushi

Roca Akavda Nushi (When Almond Blossomed) is a legendary melody written by great Georgian composer Gia Kancheli (born in 1935 in Tbilisi,) who resides in Belgium. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kancheli has lived in Western Europe: first in Berlin, and since 1995 in Antwerp, where he became composer-in-residence for the Royal Flemish Philharmonic.
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He has written music for dozens of films. This melody was specifically written for the famous Georgian movie “When the almond blossomed” which tells the story of young people, their mistakes, feelings and love story. Georgian film and theatre actor Zura Kipshidze plays the leading role.

While listening this beautiful melody, it feels like you smell the scent of spring.


Sakartvelo, Lamazo

Sakartvelo, Lamazo (Georgia, beautiful)  is a very patriotic and emotional song. For Georgians, sometimes it is really hard to stop tears from falling while listening to this song. The lyrics are written by great Georgian poet Ana Kalandadze.

Ana Kalandadze was born in Guria, western Georgia in 1924. She graduated the Faculty of Philology at Tbilisi State University in 1946 and published her first poems the same year. She went on to write more than 700 works and to become one of the most influential figures in Georgian literature - with many of her patriotic and romantic poems being made into popular songs. After her death in 2008 she was buried in the Mtatsminda Pantheon, where some of the most prominent writers, artists, scholars, and national heroes of Georgia are buried.

“Sakartvelo, beautiful!
Is another Sakartvelo anywhere else?”

This is the main message of the lyrics.

The most popular version of the song is performed by Georgian group of singers Tsisferi Trio (Blue Trio), known for their emotional, romantic and patriotic songs.


Krimanchuli

Krimanchuli means the upper voice, rich in melodic leaps and adornments, of the polyphonic folk songs of Western Georgia (Guria and Imereti regions).

Guruli Krimanchuli is very popular song in Georgia. While listening to this song, you feel positive energy coming from funny and talented Gurians (residents of Guria). “Krimanchuli” perfectly express their vibrant and energetic nature. The song is quite beautiful and pleasant to listen though.

Related stories:

The Untold Story of How “Chakrulo” Ended Up in Space

Sunken Treasure: Hamlet Gonashvili, ‘the voice of Georgia’

Hamlet Gonashvili’s “Tsintskaro” in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu

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