DER Documentary

Table Songs of Kakheti

by Hugo Zemp and Nona Lomidze
color, 83 min with 4 min of extras, 2016
in Georgian
with English subtitles



At the foot of the Caucasus, the Kakheti province of eastern Georgia is famous for its wine and its polyphonic songs. Banquets with their alternation of ritualized toasts and collective singing are considered by Georgians as a major component of national identity. Verbal art and musical art are bound together in a unique way.

Table songs of Kakheti have two ornamented solo voices - occasionally one melodic voice - while the choir sings the drone, a sustained tone in the bass. Thanks to CDs and international tours by folk groups, lovers of Georgian polyphony from abroad appreciate this specific repertoire. However, this film reveals the performance of these songs in the traditional context of banquets (supra), under the presidencies of toastmasters (tamada).

Georgian banquets conventionally are the prerogative of men. Mastersinger Andro Simashvili, known as Andro Papa, leads his friends at a classical men's banquet. On the other hand, renowned female singer Leila Legashvili is the toastmaster at a women's banquet, where Andro Simashvili is an honored guest. Long songs and elaborate toasts are shown in their integrality, revealing important insights into Georgian cultural values.

Extra Feature:
Hymn of New Spring Branches (Himni Gazapkhulis Rtotha) by Leila Legashvili (4 min)

“This is a very interesting and pleasant film packed with highly elaborate examples of traditional/folk creativity. It features Andro Simashvili - the expert and performer of ancient folk songs. The film is full of humor, Kakhetian life situations and relationships, and shows many Georgian table songs. It preserves many interesting material which makes it very important for the next generations. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this film, Andro Papa and his singing became eternal.” — Anzor Erkomaishvili, President of the International Centre of Georgian Folk Song, Tbilisi, Georgia
“This documentary is delightful, possibly the best film about Georgian village singers that I have seen. Not only the music, but the very feel of Kakhetian village, with its live humor, even the smell of traditional food, is all there in the film!” — Joseph Jordania, University of Melbourne, Australia
Table Songs of Kakheti is Zemp's fourth Georgian-music documentary that I have seen. It is as instructive, and entertaining, as his earlier work. As a teacher, I have shown the earlier films to undergraduate anthropology students who's reactions have been very positive. An obvious choice for anthropologists teaching about folk music or concepts of traditional culture, gender, social change, and doubtless many other topics. I highly recommend it.” — Kevin Tuite, Université de Montréal, Canada

Related Resources
Read the article "A Man Can Sing and Play Better than a Woman" by Nino Tsitsisvili, originally published in the journal Ethnomusicology, 50(3), 2006

Related Films
Music of Georgia (Caucasus) Series
Polyphony of Ceriana: The Compagnia Sacco

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