How do I find sad-sounding Georgian folk songs?
December 3, 2012 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for sad-sounding (to my Western ear) polyphonic Georgian folk songs. Where should I be looking, and for what, exactly?

I visited Tbilisi, Georgia this spring. While at a traditional restaurant with some American friends who've lived there, I heard some of the loveliest singing I've ever heard. About a dozen 20-somethings sat around a large table. It wasn't clear if it was a birthday party or a special occasion. Mostly it seemed like a pleasant evening out among a bunch of friends. One man had a guitar, and everybody sang together. My hosts knew enough to tell me that these were fairly standard Georgian folk songs, but couldn't tell me any titles. The music had me nearly in tears, it was just so touching. My notes at the time read "barbershop harmonies with 50s doo-wop love ballads". The singing wasn't quiet. It filled the restaurant, and the house band that was there stopped when this group started. Every now & then, they played together. I mostly remember these songs as sounding profoundly sad. It's unlikely I'll find, now, exactly the song I heard then. (Now I wish I'd taken a video!) I'll happily take anything that seems remotely close.

Yes, I've poked around on Youtube a bit, but I don't know any Georgian (the language) or Georgians (the people) to guide me. I've also seen this post .
posted by knile to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Things like this?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:40 PM on December 3, 2012

Not Georgian, but similar sounds? from the other side of the Black Sea in the form of the Bulgarian State (women's) Radio Vocal choir. They won a Grammy back in the 80s. There's a lot of stuff on youtube under Bulgarian voices.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2012

There's this classic post on the Blue about Georgian music. Maybe this might help?
posted by jason's_planet at 5:20 PM on December 3, 2012

This album is a little different than the kind of music you would have heard in a restaurant (more instruments, fewer voices) but you might want to try it. (It's on Spotify.) I have just managed to get "Ksovrelebi Mgerian" stuck in my head again.

After you've found a couple albums of traditional Georgian music like that, you can start plugging the song titles into Youtube and pulling up videos of table songs (like this, which is probably closer to what you saw. Look for the ones of a bunch of shirtless middle-aged dudes sitting outside.) Or plugging the song names into Spotify and looking for a version that sounds like what you like.
posted by ostro at 9:40 PM on December 3, 2012

Most of these sound not sad, maybe nostalgic is a better word, enough. Gadamivitke (Forget Me) from the Ksovrelebi album is the closest to what I'm aiming for in the evocative feel. The "table song" ostro linked to is right in terms of harmonic structure, and I'll browse these Youtube hits for more table songs.
posted by knile at 4:37 AM on December 4, 2012

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