Zedashe - Intangible Pearls

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Intangible Pearls
Multiflora / Electric Cowbell (www.zedashe.org)

For those of you who have the other Georgia on your mind and may be wondering what the former Soviet republic's underrepresented traditional music sounds like, Intangible Pearls provides answers. The singers, players and dancers who comprise Zedashe (named for the buried clay jars in which Georgians store and age wine) first came together in the post-Soviet 1990s and, with the help of unearthed early 20th century manuscripts and musically-minded elders in their home base city of Sighnaghi, have sought to bring back the folkloric tunes and liturgical chants that were the soundtrack of Georgian life in bygone days.

Some of the 25 tracks comprising the disc are rather short, but the rich polyphonic vocals and unfailingly traditional instrumentation keenly convey the influences of orthodox Christianity and familial unity that kept Georgia's people strong through a history that includes various military invasions and the more recent adversities of the Communist era. Hypnotically serpentine chants alternate with pieces pertaining to feasting and wine making, sometimes incorporating the tart strumming of lutes, the droning of accordion or the crackle of a doli drum.

It's all quite beautiful, although it would be even better if the somber feel of much of the material was offset to a greater degree by a more celebratory tone hinted at in some of the album's livelier passages. But perhaps this this is how deeply rooted Georgian music rolls, so let it roll. When your otherwise hectic life spots you the 65 minutes it takes to give Intangible Pearls some quality listening time, do so. Your mind and spirit will be edified in ways that are, as the album's title suggests, elusive but there to be treasured. - Tom Orr

Further reading:
Levon Eskenian and the Gurdjieff Folk Instrument Ensemble
Bulgari Ensemble

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