Intangible Pearls (Multiflora/Electric Cowbell, 2013)
As unlikely as it may seem, a declaration and a civil war made the music on the Multiflora/Electric Cowbell’s release Intangible Pearls possible. Georgia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on April 9, 1991 made the resurgence of Georgian music and culture possible, but it was the following civil war that unearthed it. Uncovering buried chests containing manuscripts detailing the musical traditions and liturgical songs that had breathed only Georgian earth since the early days of the 20th century has led to the careful, painstaking rediscovery of the Georgian people’s long lost musical landscape. A group of dedicated restoring and re-energizing those traditions is the Zedashe, the artists behind Intangible Pearls.
Ketevan Mindorashvili, one of the founders of Zedashe, explains, “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.”
Zedashe’s Intangible Pearls are surely just that as much of this music was buried or hidden away due to the cultural clamp down of the Soviets. The music of Intangible Pearls is precious indeed. With a sacred and secular songs mix Zedashe breathes life into this tradition by restoring lost pieces, reconstructing incomplete pieces and crafting their own.
Mindorashvili elaborates, “Reimaging or composing new music is difficult. If you don’t know the older songs, you can’t mess with new ones. You have to know the poetry, the style to sing it, and you have to have a lot of experience.”
With 25 tracks Intangible Pearls holds some true gems. Music fans should take a listen to “Kalo Kalta Mzeo,” “Si Vardisi” and the stunning “Elesa,”a song sung as the men would carve wine troughs. It only takes a single listen to get the wealth of vocal prowess Zedashe represents.
With the use of traditional instruments the doli drum, string instruments the chonguri and panduri and the garmoni, similar to the accordion, Zedashe steeps the listener in a sound that is uniquely Georgian. But I think it is Zedashe’s vocals that really capture the preciousness of this music with offering like “Agzevani,” “Ierishi” and the lovely “Hada I Juqva.”
Intangible Pearls is a welcomed listen into Georgia’s past and present.