By the hearth - akvani (cradle) and chuniri

Voices of the Ancestors – Introductory Episodes – ‘shorts’

Trailer – A brief introduction to the ‘Voices’ podcast – 2.52

Trailer on Youtube

Prelude – How ‘Voices of the Ancestors’ came into being – 12.33

Voices of the Ancestors Podcast

Headphones on an apple sculpture (references the Voices of the Ancestors logo). Photo by Nino Khundadze.
Photo by Nino Khundadze

All Episodes in Series 1 & 2

Series 1 Episodes in brief

Series 2 Episodes in brief

Series 1 Episodes and show notes

1 – Connection and Isolation with Jen Morris

Singing through Covid-19 lockdown. Guest – Jen Morris, USA, founder and director of Seattle’s Georgian choir onefourfive. Jen Morris speaks about her experience of lockdown. How she has found community through fellow Georgian singers around the world. Download the transcript of this episode here.
With thanks to Johnny Fill, Teo Lomsadze, Phil Thompson, Hazel Thompson, Nino Razmadze and Jen Morris.

Music: Ialoni, Sakioba, Zoé Perret, Zedashe and Mtiebi.

2 – Shepherds and Bear Prints with Jenny Barrett

Ever wondered what the difference between a city song and folk song is? Or how songs vary through the different regions of Georgia?

Jenny Barrett, sings with choirs Maspindzeli and Chela in the UK. She takes you on a whistle-stop tour of Georgian singing. Telling tales of traveling in Tusheti and Svaneti and hosting Gigi Garakanidze in the UK. For more information, check out the links to people, places and music in the transcript.

Music: Makharia by Ialoni, Khorumi by Sakhioba, Veengara by Mtiebi, Veengara, Ilias Nana and Dzlier Stiroda by Maspindzeli, Ia Patonepi by Mzetamze, Tsmindao Ghmerto by Ana Chamgeliani, Madona Chamgeliani and Levan Bitarovi, Gazapkhuli by Kimilia.

Healing Songs and Circle Dances

3 – Healing Songs and Circle Dances with Nino Naneishvili

“It’s one of the most valuable feelings, when your ancestor, your old generation hears his own songs. And when you perform it in your variation, improvisation and when they are happy. It’s I think the biggest gift a performer can feel.”
Nino Naneishvili, ethnomusicologist and musical director of women’s ensemble Ialoni tells us how she collected a healing song from a tiger and adapted it into her own style. Transcript. Music: Rachuli batonebi by Shalva Aslanishvili, collected in 1950. Rachuli batonebi by Ialoni, Ia Patonepi by Vepkhia Antia (recorded by Nino Razmadze)
Ia Patonepi by Ialoni

Extended Edition of Episode 3 with Nino Naneishvili available to our community of listeners – sign up to receive email updates and link to the extended edition.

4 – Living and Singing in Georgia with Zoé Perret

Singer, instrumentalist and teacher Zoé Perret talks about finding a ‘common soul’ between Georgian polyphony and medieval French music.

How did french singer Zoé become so entwined with Georgian songs?

“So for the first couple of years, I think, I was listening only exclusively to old Georgian folk songs. And you know, even though you are not born in the country, I think, if you listen to it constantly, then you, in the end, kind of get the feeling that there is something that sounds natural or not natural”

Kimilia, Zoé Perret and Polikarpe Khubulava field recording, Ialoni

Link to Transcript

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5 – Reflecting Back and Looking ForwardLive Recording

We were joined by two of our past guests, Jen Morris and Nino Naneishvili, as well as some of our community of listeners, in this live ‘zoom’ episode. We took New Year 2021 as an opportunity to reflect on the highlights and lowlights of 2020; what and who we are grateful for; and what we are looking forward to in 2021. Everyone came up with suggestions for attracting sponsors to create a sustainable podcast. So many ideas bubbling up from our pool of creative and clever listeners. We all had fun fantasising about dream guests for the podcast. (Susan found hers in Episode 9!)

Music: Tamar Buadze’s Young Tutarchela Choir, Turtachela, Sakhioba and Ialoni Tamar Buadze

Link to Transcript

6 – Christmas and New Year with Magda Kevlishvili

Magda, leader of Amer-Imeri children’s ensemble and co-leader of ensemble Mtiebi, tells us about the ancient tradition of Alilo, which was revived by her father-in-law, Edisher Garakanidze.

Link to Transcript

Music: Ialoni, Kirialesa by Mtiebi and Megruli Alilo by Kimilia, Nabakeuri Alilo sung by Edisher Garakanidze and Mtiebi.

7Joan Mills on the Continuum of Theatre and Song

Joan sees the Continuum as being “like a bridge, but also like a wheel”.

What was the first Georgian song taught in the UK, and how did it come about?

How can Georgian songs be used in theatre and ensemble training?

And just how many songs are in the book 99 Georgian songs?

Joan Mills, Voice Director at Centre for Performance Research, talks about tending the flame of living traditions – influenced by her recent interview of Sam Lee and reflections on Sheila Chandra’s music ‘Weaving My Ancestors Voices’. She speaks of ‘Points of Contact’ a concept that inspired many ‘Giving Voice’ Festivals. Our wide ranging conversation covers: experimental voice practitioners; approaches to educating both actors and singers; her ‘legacy’ bringing the book 99 Georgian Songs to life with the help of Joseph Jordania after the untimely death of its originator – Edisher Garakandize.

Link to Transcript

Ialoni : Sabodisho (Batonebo); Mtiebi : Shen Khar Venakhi; Sakhioba : Khorumi; Mzetamze : Zruni;

Books mentioned:
99 Georgian Songs
The Georgian Feast by Dara Goldstein

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8 – From Georgia to Great Britain and back with Tamara Vepkhvadze

How did the Summer Song Festival with Katie Melua come about?

How are Georgian ‘Shairebi’ like Rap?

How do the very young learn to sing ‘in voices’?

We talk about passing on the flame with Tamara Vepkhvadze, founder of Gonieri Georgian Art Studio in North London. She has taught at the First Georgian Supplementary School in the UK and trained as a puppeteer at the Little Angel Theatre. She now lives in Georgia and passes songs from Amer-Imeri back to her kids in the UK through online lessons. Following up on this episode, Holly visited one of the places Tamara talks about, where her son learnt to play panduri – Keti’s Guest House in Shilda. As a thankyou to our Ko-fi supporters Holly recorded the church chant ‘Ts’midao Ghmerto’ with Susan, Keti and Bachana.

Link to Transcript

Ialoni; Katie Melua : Tu Ase Turpa Ikavi; The Chamgeliani Sisters : Instrumental – Chuniri; Tabuni : Gonja & Batonebis Nana/Naninei; Sakhioba (@sakhioba): kriste agdga; Maspindzeli and Anano Dadalauri

An audio journey through the mountains of high Ajara, following ensemble Ialoni as they film for the American Library of Congress.

The Ialoni Homegrown Concert is available for free on The American Folklife Center youtube channel

Holly and Susan chat about the trip from Tbilisi to Shuakhevi and beyond. After walking through snow, Susan meets with elders from a creative family – P’at’i Tapaladze (featured in Ialoni’s concert) her daughter Eteri. With the aid of an interpreter, we hear the voices of P’at’i and Eteri as they speak about the ancestors. There are ‘in the moment’ delights while Ialoni and P’at’i sing ‘behind the scenes’. As a final ‘surprise’ the location shifts to Ozurgeti in Guria and a meeting with singing elder – Rebuli Mzhavanadze (Dr Nana Mzhavanadze’s uncle).

Link to Transcript

With excerpts from the book ‘Performance of Georgian Folk Song’ by Edisher Garakanidze, Tbilisi 2007, ISBN 99940-933-2-0.

Music: Ialoni ; Nai-nai – Ialoni and P’at’i Tapaladze recording by Leo Decristoforo;  P’at’i Tapaladze field recording by Susan Thompson; Batonebo – Ialoni and Rebuli Mzhavanadze field recording by Susan Thompson.

10 – Musical Games in a Folk Family with Nana Mzhavanadze

Georgian musician and ethnomusicologist Nana Mzhavanadze was born into a musical family. She says her future was predicted by her grandmother:- 

 when I was bought from the maternity house, my grandmother met me at the door, that was the first thing that she did, she put me on the piano and she said she is going to be a musician.”

This episode is a significant event for their family, as it brought Nana, her uncle Rebuli and his daughter Marekhi together to sing for the first time in over 10 years.

Whether you’ve heard Nana before, with Sathanao or Sisa Tura (Trio: Nana Mzhavanadze, Tamar Buadze, Imke McMurtrie) or this is your first time, you’re sure to enjoy this playful hour where Nana experiments musically with her family.

Enjoyed this episode? Why not buy the creators a coffee? On ko-fi.com/voicesoftheancestors. Become a monthly supporter on ko-fi with access to extras.

Navigate this episode with the searchable transcript.

Music in Episode 10:

Live Music: Nana, Rebuli and Marekhi Mzhavandanze – Recorded on location, at General TSO fusion cafe, Kobuleti, Georgia.

*Didi khnidan Gagitsani in 3 voices, with Marekhi singing bani *Patara Sakhvarelo (in 2 voices – Nana and Rebuli) Note from Nana – Patara Sakhvarelo  This is a Gurian (polyphonic) male trio repertoire. The lyrics are related to the theme of love. This variant is close to Vladimer Verdzenishvili’s variant… *Alilo by Jansung Kakhidze *Mival Guriashi

Prerecorded Music: Ialoni; Natvra by Sathanao; Kakhetian Mravaljhamier by Basiani; Sulo Chemo by Anchiskati; Sulo Chemo by Sathanao.

For books and websites check out our Georgia related Resources page.

11 – Khatia Turmanidze Finds Her Voice

  • Let us transport you to the village of Merisi, in the mountains of Ajara in West Georgia. 
  • In April we travelled to meet 17 year old Khatia Turmanidze and her singing family.
  • Her father – Jemal; grandfather – Amiran, and brothers Beso and Revaz are all singers in the Merisi village ensemble Moqvare. (Moqvare itself was started in 1950 by another of Khatia’s ancestors – Revaz Turmanidze). Moqvare is active in keeping alive the folk knowledge of the village, transmitting this treasure to future generations. Until recently Khatia preferred to dance rather than sing. Until one of their guests encouraged her to try….

Despite living, at 700 meters above sea level, with a 2 plus hour drive to the nearest city, Batumi, Khatia is not cut off. She has many friends both local and overseas. Because her whole family are renowned for their hospitality, Khatia has had the chance to chat and learn about the world from the guests. Her mother Manana’s cooking and warmth, together with the chance to learn songs around a convivial feasting table, has won their guest house Moqvare repeat visitors from Melbourne Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Ireland, UK and beyond.

Navigate the episode with the searchable transcript.

12 – Following the Stories …

  • Hear about Tamar Buadze’s community initiative in Rustavi with ensemble Turtachela.
  • Join your hosts in Shilda where they unearth the start of a fascinating story linking the women’s ensemble Nelkarisi with Magda Kevlishvili from Mtiebi and Sagalobeli a pleading/begging song.
  • And finally take a mini visit to the Folk School in Telavi, and share a spine-tingling rendition of Tsintskaro with ensemble Mze Shina
  • Final episode of series 1.

Help the podcast become sustainable and launch Series 2 in autumn 2021 by becoming a monthly Ko-Fi subscriber at ko-fi.com/voicesoftheancestors. Or to commission an episode go to https://ko-fi.com/voicesoftheancestors/commissions

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Navigate this episode with the searchable transcript, available here voicesoftheancestors.co.uk/transcripts.

Music (pre-recorded): Tsinskaro, Mze Shina. Live recordings:Tamar Buadze and the Rustavi community workshop; Naniko (retired member of Nelkarisi Ensemble); Kasletila (from concert with Sakhioba in Udabno)

Briget Boyle and Jen Morris

12a – Singing Landscapes – From Georgia to the Balkans

Guest editor edition.

Briget Boyle, vocal coach and singer with Kitka chats with Jen Morris bringing the west coast USA perspective to ‘Voices of the Ancestors’. They chat about:-

  • Working with powerful female teachers like Tamar Buadze, in Georgia and Svetlana Spajić in Serbia.
  • How to sing ‘folk music’ from a grounded, rooted place in your own landscape.
  • Briget’s insight into what ‘Voices of the Ancestors’ means for her, describing three types of ancestors – genetic, spiritual and ‘humanity’.

Briget shares experiences with Georgian songs in ‘Temple of Light’ Choir directed by Kristine Barrett (a sort of Kitka community choir) and in ‘True Life Trio’. Jen shares experiences of her Georgian choir ‘onefourfive’ and Seattle’s balkan women’s ensemble Dunava.


Book mentioned: The Comfort Crisis Film mentioned: Wie Luft zum Atmen/Like Air To Breathe

Series Two Episodes and show notes

Episode 1, Parts 1 and 2

Voices of Our Grandmothers with guest Tamar Buadze and interpreter Zoé Perret.

Tamar Buadze
Tamar Buadze

Kicking off series 2, innovative choir conductor Tamar Buadze tells the surprising tale of how she came to work with Laz songs, while living in Rustavi (far, far away from Laz regions in Georgia and Turkey). One of her former students tells us what it was like to grow up in a folk choir. She tells (one version of) the story behind the Abkhazian song Varado. But best of all Tamar shares with us the tone-bending voice of her Megrelian grandmother.

Tamar graduated from Tbilisi State Conservatory and is the head of Rustavi Music school. She leads Tutarchela women and youth choirs. They participate in a number of prestigious European festivals. Across her various choirs, she teaches around 250 people a week!

As well as leading outdoor open-access singing workshops (ground-breaking for her native Georgia), she teaches for the International Singing Project ‘ChorOnline’, and has taught American women’s ensemble Kitka.

Tamar’s approach to teaching folklore is holistic, incorporating games and dances into the music. Her student Ninutsa says 

“all the appreciation, taste of music, anything connected to music for me comes from Tamar. Not only about music, but – she really raised us.”

She has brought European techniques such as the Kodály method to her adult and youth choirs in Georgia. 

Her arrangements of Laz songs can be found in ‘Songbook Georgia’, which focuses on the female repertoire of traditional folk songs.

Navigate this two part episode with the help of the searchable transcript.


  • Ase Chonguri: Tamar Buadze live
  • Varado: Tamar, Zoe, Ninutsa, Holly live
  • from the CD accompanying the Songbook Georgia by Tamar Buadze and Imke McMurtrie
  • Gelino
  • Heyamoli
  • Ele mele kismeti
  • Helesa
  • Heyamo
  • Nani
  • South African song – Amayee

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Episode 2

On Folk Instruments with Nino Razmadze

On Folk Instruments

Can you tell your changis from your chuniris from the chonguris? You’ll often see one of them in the hands of Trio Mandili. Don’t worry, our guest Nino Razmadze talks us through all the folk instruments of Georgia in this informative episode. Combine listening, with looking at the transcript, and you will become familiar with both the sound and looks of Georgian folk instruments. Even if you’re familiar with the sound of a chonguri, you won’t have heard the field recording Nino made of the great player Polikarpe Khubulava.

Nino is an ethnomusicologist and deputy director of the International Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony of Tbilisi State Conservatoire. She’s about to complete her PhD on Folk instruments. Nino is the founder of Gogora wooden toy company. She is passionate about developing designs from folk themes.

Our chat touches on:-

  • The spiritual significance of instruments in rituals such as ‘catching the soul’ and Batonebi. 
  • Embroidery designs – Nino says “if somebody wants to make a new socks they can check, maybe 500 socks and understand which kind of colour they can use, which kind of ornaments and have they put together”  – download below
  • Working with the Bate Collection of musical Instruments in Oxford

Are girls more likely to play the chonguri or the bagpipes? What is the professional name for a group of cow bells? How do tuning systems change with instruments between regions? All your burning questions and more are answered in this interview. 

Link to Transcript

Episode 3

Nino Kalandadze Makharadze Remembered

Nino Kalandadze Makharadze

“Nino was like a fish in water amongst all the musical genres of Georgian folk, but especially so amongst the lullabies.”

Voices of the Ancestors podcast tribute to Nino Kalandadze-Makaradze, a respected ethnomusicologist, editor and singer with ensemble Mzetamze.

In the episode you will:

  • Meet Nino through interviews with fellow Mzetamze singer – Nana Valishvili, former student – Lola Surmanidze and the musicologist/cultural anthropologist Ekaterine Diasamidze Graham. 
  • Listen to Nino Naneishvili with ensemble Ialoni improvising an ‘Iavnana’ musical response to the loss of Nino.
  • Hear a Rachian dance song from Mzetamze’s 2002 concert at SOAS, UK recorded by Geoff Burton.


  • Veengara – Mzetamze  
  • Khevsuretian lullaby (Nane) – Mzetamze
  • Batonebis Nanina – Mzetamze recorded by Frank Sherbaum
  • Rachuli Satsekvao – dance song from live concert recording by Geoff Burton at SOAS London 2002
  • Iavnana – Ialoni improvising live recording (the song is from Shalva Aslanishvili’s old recordings in Racha).
  • Chemo Dav – Mzetamze
  • Bindisperia Sopeli – Holly, Nana Valishvili & Susan live recording

Resources for episode 3

  • Transcript
  • Recordings of Nino and Mzetamze made by Frank Scherbaum and Nana Mzhavanadze in 2016. ‘A special property of this collection is the variety of recording devices used. Besides a camcorder for video recording and conventional stereo microphones to capture the overall impression, each of the singers was recorded separately with a headset microphone and a larynx/throat microphone. Throat microphones pick up the vibrations of the singer’s throat and convert them to an audio signal. In this way, unwanted environmental noise is not recorded by the microphones, leading to a reasonable voice quality even in loud environments. This effect is especially useful when recording polyphonic vocal music performances, since every throat microphone captures the voice of only one singer while suppressing the other singers’ voices.’
  • https://www.audiolabs-erlangen.de/resources/MIR/2017-GeorgianMusic-Scherbaum At the bottom of this page, there is a search field. If you enter Mzetamze, you will see all the links to the videos and audio recordings of all the recording sessions with Mzetamze, from which you can select what you want to see/hear. It is worth emphasizing that the larynx recordings are only for computational analysis. The recordings worth listening to are all the others, in particular the headset microphone recordings.
  • Face Music Switzerland Albi at Face Music Switzerland recorded Ensemble Mzetamze Traditional Songs of Georgian Women Vol 1 1996 & Volume 2 2000
  • Ensemble Mzetamze – Naï naï (in Kendal)
  • Georgian women singers in Kendal (Mzetamze)
  • Brigflatts Georgian Singers (Mzetamze)
  • Sung tribute to Nino from friends at the Symposium in 2022 – Khevsuretian lullaby followed by Chemo Tsintsinatela
  • First Georgian women’s traditional music festival “Nanina” held on May 1 and 2 2023 at the Folklore Center, Tbilisi. The festival “Nanina” is dedicated to the memory of one of the members of “Mzetamze”, a famous ethnomusicologist, Nino Kalandadze, who made an invaluable contribution to the research of the Georgian cradle nana genre.
  • From Rust to Roadtrip video featuring Zikr ceremony:
Traditional Singing in Georgia featuring the Zikr ceremony

Rituals of the Singing Village with the Chamgeliani Sisters

Centre photo of Madona, Ana and Eka by Giorgi Nikolava
  • How do you welcome the souls of your ancestors?
  • Why are wolves sacred?
  • Can you sing and dance through grief?

An audio journey to the highest mountains of Georgia – Svaneti. We meet Ana, Madona and Eka Chamgeliani, three sisters keeping the ancient traditions of their village, Lakhushdi, alive. 

We hear :-

  • How their mother and grandmother passed on local traditions, protecting them from dying out.
  • How a round dance, found in the capital, was taught to Maspindzeli (London based Georgian choir) and revived in its home village. 
  • How Madona took on the entire orthodox patriarchy and won the right to continue the ancient song and dance ritual of Tanghiloba.
  • The legend of St. George becoming a werewolf.
  • The infamous story of a Cockerel taken to a Tbilisi hospital to catch the souls.
  • A storyteller and a singer-songwriter’s first impressions of a country whose songs they love but had never visited. 
  • A ballad performed live by all three sisters accompanied by Svan stringed instrument the chuniri.

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Live recording of a Svanetian Ballad sung by Ana, Eka and Madona Chamgeliani with Ana playing chuniri.

Barbal Dolash from THE SINGING VILLAGE (Lakhushdi) with Ana and Madona Chamgeliani and Levan Biatrovi

Tanghili chant – Diadeb sung by the elders of Lakhushdi, recorded by Gosia Kaszhubska

Resources for episode 4

  • Transcript
  • Chamgeliani’s Concerts in Europe November 2023
  • Basiani Ensemble and the Chamgeliani Sisters – ARSONIC, MARS-MONS ARTS DE LA SCÈNE Date/Time: 15/11/2023 – 19:00:00 ADDRESS: Rue de Nimy 138 – 7000 Mons
  • Chamgeliani Sisters and the Didgori Ensemble Date/Time: 11/11/2023 – 19:00:00 ADDRESS: Molière Theater, Porte de Namur Gallery 3, Square du Bastion – 1050 Brussels
  • Life in 3 Voices – A documentary film following Ensemble Adilei and the Chamgeliani sisters, both on tour in the US, and in their native Georgia. A Film by Marina Kaganova & Leo Decristoforo.
  • Adventures in Singing – The experience of non-Georgians learning to sing Georgian polyphonic songs, with insights from master singers. By David Ring.
  • Lakhushdi: The Singing Village – Work and play in the village of Lakhushdi. Villagers practice traditional polyphonic song and circle dance. In July 2011 villagers welcomed guests to learn the songs and take part in the Festival – The Feast of Limkheri. The festival is celebrated at the 14th Century Chapel on the wooded hill above the village. The village is home to a cultural and development co-operative, The Union Lidbashi. By MikeSpringVideos.
  • Feasting and Singing in Svaneti – Our guests enjoyed a home cooked meal in the home of the Chamgeliani sisters in upper Svaneti. A highlight was hearing them sing traditional polyphony! John Graham Tours
  • On Bandcamp – Album: From the Singing Village Lakhushdi
  • On Georgian Chant – An introduction to Svanetian Chant by ethnomusicologist Matthew Knight.
  • The House of Song, Lakhushdi (fundraiser now closed)

*NEW Episode 5*

Myths and Stories of Svaneti

Front Row Zoe Pérret and Madona Chamgeliani

a connection which is not stopping from the past and goes and goes and maybe it’s the circle and maybe it’s an unstoppable line – but oh it’s a really great feeling.” Vanda Bakuradze

Where can you catch a bear, a giant, a thunderstorm and a Bill Withers song?

Continuing from the last episode, ‘Rituals of the Singing Village’, where we heard from the Chamgeliani singing sisters, in this episode we delve even deeper into the culture, mythology and stories of Svaneti. 

  • Hear from two young singers from ensemble Lalkhor, who say they could not live without ‘perkhuli’, the ritual round dance. 
  • Take a fireside seat to hear the legend of the pagan goddess Dali and hunter Betkil.
  • Swim in the land between reality and myth at the Folk Centre. 

Susan Thompson hosts, with guest co-host Annalie Wilson.

Guests: Madona Chamgeliani, Lika Liparteliani, Vanda Bakuradze, Bakuri Mukbaniani. 

Translators: Zoe Pérret and Givi Poti

Audio production by Snow Lion Media


The Chamgeliani ‘Sisters’ – Ana, Levan Bitarov and Madona from the Singing Village Album – Song – Nanila

Ensemble Lalkhor – live recording by Susan Thompson of solo concert, Tbilisi. Song – Dala Kojas Khelvajhale

Ensemble Amer-Imeri – live recording by Susan Thompson during UK tour, Sheffield. Song – Bail BetkilThe Latali singers – live recording by Annalie Wilson, Latali. Song – Riho

Resources for episode 5

Books about Georgian Folk Stories, Myths and Legends in English

  • Transcript
  • Georgian Mythical Heroes and Their World ISBN 978-9941-504-09-9 Published by Artanuji publishing www.artanuji.ge
  • Georgian Folk Traditions and Legends ISBN 978-9941-478-03-1 Published by Artanuji publishing www.artanuji.ge Edited by Mary Khukhunaisvili-Tsiklauri member of the British Folklore Society
  • Georgian Folk Tales – Translated from the Russian by N. Dolidze (no ISBN)