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Zedashe – “Alilo Sashobao”
As a treasured history is unearthed, so too are the musical traditions of the past. While Georgia faced years of invasions, wars and cultural disintegration, the buried clay jars which they made their wine in remained. The winemaking tradition in Georgia has been going on for some 8,000 years. Georgians continue to ferment wine in beeswax-coated clay jars buried in the ground. Music is an important element of Georgian winemaking and this is something an ensemble from the eastern village of Sighnaghi discovered as they uncovered their musical past. Zedashe are a ten piece ensemble that is reclaiming Georgian chant, which was all but forgotten after Russian Orthodox music infiltrated the Georgian churches and monasteries. Alto singer and founder of Zedashe Ketevan Mindorashvili believes Georgian chant and folk music share a lot in common.
“Georgian chant was an almost lost tradition. We started this huge thing by bringing liturgical music back into the church, 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.” – Ketevan Mindorashvili
Zedashe was formed by a circle of friends who come from musical families. They learned to sing Georgian liturgical chant together and evolved that sound into a genre-bending polyphony of multi-generational and multi-instrumental music. As the Georgians were faced with civil wars in the early 20th century, they buried musical manuscripts in hidden chests to preserve their culture. After transcribing these manuscripts and learning as much as they could from elders and scholars, Zedashe began to piece together Georgia’s musical past. Even though some songs were incomplete, Zedashe filled in their own melodies or harmonies wherever the musical instruction was missing.
Years of painstaking research and recital has led to Intangible Pearls, their new album on Multiflora/Electric Cowbell Records. After rehearsing this material for two years, the ensemble recorded this set live in December 2012. Over the course of 25 stunning tracks, Zedashe recreate and build upon ancient musical traditions. While there is a variety of instrumentation on the CD, from the chiboni (bagpipes) to the garmoni (wooden accordion), it is the accapella vocal harmonies that will blow you away. As a fan of accapella music in the sacred harp tradition and Bulgarian group Trio Bulgarka, these incredible voices came to life from the get-go. Droning low notes are accentuated with rich, uplifting two or three-part microtonal harmonies that seem to transcend space and time. This music is inspirational and vital. Since winemaking is so integrated with this music, Zedashe started a small-scale winery, Pheasant’s Tears, to not just preserve this tradition but keep it alive.
Listen to “Alilo Sashobao” above and don’t miss the fascinating Zedashe documentary. Part one is below and part two is on youtube. The music and the story is compelling, so ask for this release at your local record store.