Ensemble Mzetamze
Vol. I1
(Face Music Switzerland, 2000)

Georgia (the former Soviet Republic located in the Caucusus) is known for a style of singing, often polyphony, that is among the most exotic of folk musics available to us today.

Mzetamze is a group of six women who are folklorists/researchers and musicans who travel to the different regions of Georgia gathering melodies and singing styles and recording them. It is a strange and haunting sound, unfamiliar to western Europeans or North Americans.

In Georgian tradition, the women and men both sing, but their singing has different functions. Here we have a chance to hear the women's side: cradle songs, work songs, traveling songs, dirges, weather songs, healing songs for sick children, love songs.

These songs reflect some of the unique traditions of the many Georgian mountain and valley regions. "Shairebi" is called a joking song: it is about a ritual courtship particular to the mountain region of Pshavi. "Nai-nai" is a ritual song performed when putting a baby into a cradle for the first time.

Another song calls for a change in the weather: "We do not want dry weather any more: we need mud."

The fine singers who produce such strange and exquisite harmonies are Nino Kalandadze-Makhardadze, Nino Shvelidze, Ketevan Biashvili, Nato Zumbadze, Nana Valishvili, and Ketevan Nikoladze. The useful booklet explains the songs in context, gives lyrics in English, and sorts out the differences between regions.

This is an in-depth exploration of a country's music -- not only for folklorists but for all music lovers who wish to have their ears opened.

- Rambles written by David Cox
published 30 April 2005