Echoes of Time
Listening Post 145. If Early Music transports us to medieval times, then Georgian polyphony, stretching back more than 1,600 years, is communal song in primeval form. UNESCO declared this tradition an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and, like more modern sounds (jazz, bluegrass, tango), Georgian polyphonic singing has in recent years spread outward from its home in the Caucasus Mountains. The Ensemble Mze Shina (Georgian for “inner sun”) emerged in Rennes, France, with Denise and Craig Schaffer (respectively from Peru and California), Nicolas Leguet and Ronan Mancec (both French); the artists sing a cappella or accompanied by tchonguri and panduri, traditional lutes. Odoïa is both an enthralling 24-track album and a 10-song theatrical performance, dedicated to the memory of polyphonic master Polikarpé Khubulava, under whom the Schaffers studied. Long before recorded music, Georgian song was an organic feature of everyday activity—planting, weaving and hunting, family gatherings and village festivities, with odes to wisdom, faith and love. The Odoïa stage show presents a four-person universe in an abandoned house on a winter night; the album’s teaser clip (video 1) features the love song Shenma Sourvilma Damlia (Your Smile is Far Away) and an excerpt from Samargalo (the name of Khubulava’s home region, full song on video 2). In the humorous Okro Mtchedelo (Goldsmith) the singers give some exacting specifications to a local artisan (video 3). Love soars with Mesish Vardi (Rose of May), a tribute to a bride’s beauty (video 4). Lekebma Rom (Captured), about a forced trek “across a hundred mountains” is nevertheless a story of wonder, describing “valleys covered with fog like an ocean” and “three women sharpening their scythes and singing like angels in paradise.” Odoïa is an enchanting journey that allows us to visit a faraway yet somehow familiar place and to hear and feel the echoes of time. (Buda Musique)
Samargalo: A song praising the beauty of Mingrelia, the west Georgian region that was home to the polyphonic master Polikarpé Khubulava
Shenma Sourvilma Damlia: “My desire for you overpowers and consumes me/I think so much of you I grow desolate.
Too often we are far from one another/We have eyes only in our hearts to see each other again.
In the sky, the geese form their escadrilles.”
Okro Mtchedelo: “Goldsmith! Goldsmith!
I’ve found a tiny bird’s iron slipper/Take it and make a spade for me
With what’s left, make a hoe for me/With what’s left, make an axe for me
With what’s left, make a knife for me/With what’s left, make a tiny bird’s slipper”
Mesish Vardi: “Rose of May, I don’t know when you began to bloom
Your beauty will be the death of you
The fish loves to swim in the rapids and jumps ten feet high
The rose is so beautiful that everyone gazes
I am so happy and content when I see the bride pass by with her party,
she doesn’t need wealth or jewels to be radiant”