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Culture of Georgia
Any culture, as a historically formed phenomenon, is the result of a thorough selection of traditions and expressive means and creates an accomplished artistic system. At the same time, any culture always has a national coloring. That is why the treasure of the world culture is so multifarious and multicolored. The road of the development of a culture is so complicated and full of obstacles, that not all the nations managed to succeed in passing the road. Some of the nations lose their selfhood and merge into another culture, some fail to keep abreast of the times and are lost without leaving any trace. The Georgians belong to the race of those ancient peoples who, in spite of the hardest historical cataclysms, not only created original culture but carried it through the centuries and preserved its vitality and vigor.

Since the time of the Argonauts thousands of invaders have been attracted by the country of Golden Fleece, blossoming like the mythical garden of Hecate, the land of the cultured vine and Chalybean steel, the native land of Medea and Amiran (the prototype of Prometheus). Naturally there arises a question: how is it that this small nation held out against the devastating storms assaulting it all the time during its history, when the greatest civilizations and the most powerful empires were leveled to the ground? The answer to this question must be sought in the peculiarity of the psyche of the Georgians, their boundless love for their native land, their love for freedom and their self-sacrifice, their optimism, their great desire to save and preserve intact the cultural achievements, customs and traditions of their ancestors.

The ancient Georgian art was represented entirely by folklore, its trace going back into the depths of millennia. The monuments of material culture, found during archaeological excavations, (3-2 millennia BC) -' mythological plots painted or engraved on vessels of various shapes, musical instruments and sculptural portraits of musicians, masked dancers and so on, show a high level of the artistic thinking of the people. Along with the archaeological findings the ancient written monuments also show the existence of epical, lyrical and dramatic forms and the diversity of genres in the archaic layers of the Georgian folklore.

It is doubtless that the musical instruments found in Georgia (dating back to the 3rd millenium, a stringed instrument "Changi", according to a well-known scholar K. Zakh is similar to the eleven-stringed lyra depicted on a Summerian bas-relief, a bone "Salamuri". (a pipe) with three finger-holes which even today can play shepherd melodies, a bronze figure from Stepantsminda with a five-stringed lyra in his hand, and so on) were connected with different aspects of folklore, namely with festive ceremonies, theatrical shows, cult and ritual dances, the performance of ballad or epic creations. Written monuments also show the diversity of the folklore genres. "Joyous songs" performed by the people of the Georgian stock are mentioned in one of the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions (8lh century BC). According to the old Greek historian Xenophon (4* century BC) marching songs and ritual round dances were spread among the Georgian tribes. We would also like to mention here that according to the same historian the representatives of the Georgian tribes of Diauehi preferred suicide to Greek captivity. A similar message is preserved in the Georgian folk-tales "Mikela", "The True Word". It is rather difficult now to say anything about the poetical, musical or choreographic aspects of the above mentioned creations, but labor and marching songs, "Perkhulis"- round dances of a heroic character, epic poems and ballads, the samples of instru¬mental music with their archaic coloring, which are still preserved in different ethnographic parts of Georgia, can be regarded as the echo of centuries. The most noteworthy of them are some fragments of the "Amiraniani" epos and choral and ritual "Perkhulis", round dances connected with it.

The "Amiraniani" epos is the most ancient monument of the Geor¬gian mythology. Amiran is a hero resisting the evil forces of nature, bring¬ing fire to people, for which he is punished and chained to a rock in the Caucasus. The memory of people preserved some fragments of this an¬cient epos almost without any changes, ritual "Perkhulis" dedicated to Amiran and his mother Dali-the Goddess of hunting, "Amiran's Perkhuli" and others. Some scenes of the hunting epos-"Bail Betkil", "Lemchil", etc. have been preserved to this day. Some scholars think that the "Perkhuli" marching of masked hunters, engraved on the siver bowl (2nd millenium BC), found during the archaeological excavations in Trialeti, must be an echo of the "Amiraniani" epos.

It is known that the genre of the epos proper had older legends and parables as its source. And if we pay attention to the texts of lamentations connected with the cult of the dead (the description of the life of a deceased person, his heroic or kind deeds, etc.), we shall easily see that one of the sources of the epic genre was connected with lamentations.

the performance of the epos required merging of different forms. It can be presented as a theatrical show, where some episodes are per¬formed by the choir of singer-dancers and the intervals between Perkhulis were filled in with a chanting narration. Some traces of such a synthesized theatrical show were preserved in the cycle of spring festivities known under the name of "Berikaoba" and "Qeenoba", in which singing, dancing, poetry, instrumental music, gestures, mimics and so on were presented in an interesting synthesis.

In a Georgian village, even today, you can hear and see magic incantations, chants and rituals glorifying the weather deity, hymns and Perkhulis dedicated to the Sun, curative chants to please magic powers and other ceremonial activities. It is noteworthy that the place and role of these pagan chants and rituals in the Georgian life till the latest period was almost the same as scores of centuries ago. That is why scholars suppose that the poem-songs and ritual Perkhulis of pagan times must have undergone very little changes and are preserved almost in their original form. This enables us to restore the unique pictures of the past, the life of our ancestors, their spiritual requirements and ideals of their life.

It is not difficult at all to imagine a tiny piece of land surrounded by high mountains, on which some scores of people are gathered waiting for the appearance of the first rays of the sun. These proud and solemn-looking men begin a round dance-Perkhuli and in their powerful voices sing a wonderful hymn. The described picture is a fragment from a pagan ritual "Lile", which was connected with the cult of the sun, with the victory of light over darkness.

Now let's imagine a child on a sick bed, at his head "bazma" (three cone shaped candles made of pounded walnuts) is lit; the grandmother goes round the bed on her knees murmuring magic incantations. From time to time during this ritual either a musical instrument is played or beautiful chants "Lullaby" or "Sabodisho" (Apologies) are sung. In the room, decorated with pieces of colored cloth and flowers, full of the fragrance of rose water this beautiful chanting is aimed at pleasing, flattering and coaxing out the wicked spirits "Batonebi", that are nestling in the body of the sick child.

Similar rituals were connected with many aspects of the life of Georgian people. Especially rich and diverse were the cycles of spring and summer festivities. During the Shrovetide ancient carnivals-theatralized shows of masked "Berikas" and orgiastic mysteries connected with the waking up (resurrection) of the mortal and restorable divinity were performed "Chona" chant and ritual, which after the introduction of Christianity underwent some changes and was connected with the celebration of Easter, must belong to that period. Many rituals were performed in honor of the members of the pantheon of pagan divinities, among them in honor of the great Mother of Gods-Nana. The musical accompaniment and Perkhuli performances were one of the main components of those celebrations. It is noteworthy that in these chants and Perkhuli songs the oldest language peculiarities and prosody are preserved as well. In the oldest genre formations-lamentations, labor songs (such as "Mtibluri"-the song of haymakers, "Gutnuri"-the song of plough-man, "Tokhnuri" -the song of hoe-ing-men, "Naduri"-the song of people working together, helping one of the farmers, etc.), in the texts of cult chants and Perkhuli songs, philologists find archaic layers of derivation, vocabulary, poetics, which enable them to follow the historical processes of the development of the Georgian language.

From times immemorial the dwelling place of the tribes of the Georgian stock was distributed in the spaces presenting striking contrasts. Thus, the different forms of life and economy had a great influence on the psychics, customs and traditions, religious or cosmological viewpoints of each Georgian tribe or ethnic unit. The difference of geographic, historical, social and economic factors facilitated the breaking up of the Georgian base-language and creating of many dialects, some of them even were formed as independent language units (Zanean or Megrelo-Chanean and Svan languages). The above-mentioned factors made an influence on the folk-lore as well. For example, as a result of differentiation of the Georgian musical base language about fifteen musical dialects were formed. From the point of view of the musical language the difference between these dialects is so great in some cases, that an ignorant listener may even perceive them as the pieces of musical art of different nations (e.g. Svan and Kartlian, Pshav and Gurian, Tush and Megrelian musical dialects). The same contrasts can be seen in the art of choreography of the Georgian ethnic units as well.

It must be mentioned, that the development of folklore art was not of the same intensity in every ethnographic part. For esthetical thinking of the Pshavs-Tush-Khevsurs, living in the inaccessible retreats of the Caucasian range, the artistic expression of the word became highly characteristic. The poetry of the Pshavs-Tush-Khevsurs is considered to be a masterpiece of the Georgian artistic thinking. At the same time we can not help mentioning | that the musical folklore of the mountain people of Georgia is not on a I very high level, especially in Khevsureti. Here a very simple archaic type I of falling-gliding down melody is dominant.

In the ethnographic part of Guria a diametrically opposite phenomenon occurs. It seems that in the creative process the main thing for 1 the Gurians was the musical aspect, while the text of the song was given a | secondary importance. Moreover, very often the song was performed with-j out any text at all. But the musical aspect reached miraculous heights of | development. In Gurian songs the musical idea is presented with melody layers, which are deft, nimble, expressive, and what is more important, I sounding in three or four voices simultaneously. In their many-voiced songs I the interrelation of vocal parts is developed by the principle of contrast, I which results in highly complicated and original polyphonic forms. The I Gurian polyphonic song is an exceptional phenomenon, which occupies a distinguished place in the history of the musical art of the peoples of the world. The folk-lore art, as well as everything else, underwent a certain development in the course of history, but in the folk-lore thinking nothing was destroyed and nothing was created all of a suuden.

In the history of the folk-lore creative activity the most important is the period, when in succeeded in gaining freedom from the chains of utilitarism and primitive syncretism, as a result of which the fantasy of people acquires a powerful impulse for the incarnation of fresh aesthetic ideals. But for these processes such poems as "The Tiger and the Youth", "This World is Dark-colored", "I Ran into„a Quipchakxand many others would have never been created in the Georgian folk poetry; we would never have had universally acknowledged masterpieces of folk music and choreography such as "Chakrulo", "A Long Kakhetian Mravalzhamier", "Khasambegura", "Chela", dances "Kartuli", "Davluri", "Gandagan", "Khevsuruli" and many others.

Because of many historical events, and especially after the introduction of Christianity many pagan cult chants lost their function, underwent transformation and shifted in the new genre environment. The same happened to a number of Perkhulis. As a result of the transformation some of them became war-dances or heroic dances, others became dances of lyrical-courting character or of free improvisation. It is true that in ritual Perkhulis the separation of coryphaeus took place in an early period, but in later periods the strengthening of individual and lyrical principles made the personified artistic images more distinct, and created new forms of singing and dancing. And now, we shall dwell on the dance "Kartuli", because all the characteristic features of mentality and nature of Georgians are clearly shown in it: the nature of a Georgian woman-tender, refined, full of awe and high moral virtues; the dignity of the man is emphasized his respect for the woman, his manliness and chivalry. All this together with an original rhythm and beautiful, expressive musical accompaniment makes the dance "Kartuli" an unforgettable, romantic experience.
Along with the interesting compositional-contextual and plastic aspects of Georgian dances their rhythmic foundations are also notewor¬thy. From this point of view the rhythm of the ancient war-dance-pantomime "Khorumi" is the most remarkable, which, unlike the other dancing rhythms, compises a certain artistic information. That is why it can be performed without music as well, only with the rhythmic accompaniment.

In the war-dances and the dances of heroic character the abrupt movements and gestures of the dancers at the metrically and rhythmically emphasized stresses are indeed the expression of manliness, courage and heroic spirit. It must be mentioned that the unprecedented growth of dyamics never causes exaltation and boundless ecstasy. Everything here is balanced and controllable.

One of the peaks of the Georgian folklore art is its art of singing. Georgian people in spite of their long-suffering history always cherished and tenderly preserved their age-long musical language, as they considered that losing or degrading it was equal to losing and degrading their mother tongue. We may say with certainty that there was a cult of singing in Georgia. The Georgian folk music, distinguished for its many original and unique qualities, attracts particular attention of specialists. The well-known French writer and musician Romain Rolland wrote: "I am a musiian, I have heard songs of many peoples, but I have never come across such magnificence." In our opinion the reason of the attention of specialists is the originality of the national musical language, the extraordinary stylistic features and what is the most important the highly developed forms of many-voiced songs. Multivocality is the most remarkable quality of the Georgian musical thinking.

The Georgian many-voiced folk-music is polyphonic by its nature. In the musical dialects of Eastern Georgia, especially in Kartli and Kakheti, the multi-voiced texture is mainly presented by contrasting long Burdonic bass and a subtle, expressive, melodic movement of high voices. Such a texture reached its highest stage of development in drinking-songs. It was in this very genre that the singing masterpieces such as "Chakhrulo", "Winter", "Mravalzhamier" and others were created.

In the musical dialects of Western Georgia and, especially in Svaneti, the rhythmic synchronic movement of voices acquires the form of alternating chords of different orders. A parallel motion is not alien to it either. Such a texture gives the song an exalted, choral character.

The third type of many voiced singing occurs in the musical dialects of the lowlands of Western Georgia, in the Imeretian, Megrelian, Adjarian, and, especially, Gurian folklore. In the songs of three-voiced and I four-voiced texture the melody layers reach absolute independence. By | the direction of the motion and rhythmic scheme they contrast each other. I The improvisational developing melody layers create unusual, in most I cases dissonant co-soundings, which give an unusual coloring to the sing-1 ing. The Georgian polyphonic singing distinguished for its originality, complexity and coloring is an extraordinary phenomenon in the history of the | polyphonic music of the world. It is really unique and its parallels can't be found in other peoples' music.

The Georgian many voiced folk-music is a kind of oasis amidst the monadic musical cultures surrounding it. This situation gave an impetus to a number of groundless ideas and questions: is the Georgian many-voiced singing a result of the influence of other musical cultures having many-voiced singing and, namely, the result of the influence of the European many-voiced singing? The Georgian musical science denies any influence or borrowing, as it is proved that Georgian music even in the pagan times was many-voiced. Besides, all the terms connected with the many-voiced singing are of the Georgian origin. There are other arguments as well.

Georgia is the country where Christianity was adopted as a state religion in 337, it belongs to the Eastern Christianity, that is to the Orthodox world. In this world (Byzantium, Russia, Bulgaria, etc.) the cultivation of many-voiced chanting began only at the end of the 17lh century. Georgia is the only country of the orthodox world, in whose churches many-voiced chants were performed in the 8",-9lh centuries, if not earlier. In this respect the Georgian spiritual music precedes even the Catholic many-voiced chants. What was the reason that the Georgian ecclesiastic chant became many-voiced so early? There is only one answer to it-the Georgian ecclesiastic chant inherited the traditions of many-voiced choir performance from the pagan Georgian musical culture. There is no other answer to this question.

The German scholar Zigfried Nadel also paid attention to this phe-nomenon in his research "Georgishe Gesange". He gives a wide review of the problems of the Georgian many-voiced singing, makes parallels with different types of many-voiced singing of Western Europe, finds some signs of typological similarity and so on. In his conclusions he expresses the idea that the Georgian many-voiced singing comes from the pagan age. He thinks it likely that many-voiced singing spread in Western Europe from Georgia. It must be mentioned, that such an authoritative researcher as Marius Schneider also shares the opinion of the Asian and Caucasian origin of the many-voiced singing and its spreading in Europe.

From everything, mentioned above, it becomes clear that the Georgian many-voiced singing is an original phenomenon and only of the local and remote origin.

The Georgian nation, which had kindred cultural relations with the centers of ancient civilizations, used the achievements of those civilizations creatively, but, at the same time, created and gave out abundantly its own cultural achievements. The entity of a nation, its place in the family of the world nations is defined first of all by the nation's contribution. In this respect the Georgian folk art occupies an honorable place in the history of the world culture and art.

  About Georgia