BY Willard Manus
astounding what twelve voices can do with a simple tune. For proof, just
listen to one of the nine CDs which The State Ensemble of Georgian Folk
Singing has released on the Ocora Radio France label, the most recent
of which is 102 Georgian Folk Songs and Traditional Hymns.
Even better is to be able to enjoy the group at a live performance, something
Los Angelenos were able to do recently when the company appeared in concert
at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Twelve strapping men in Cossack-like uniforms took the stage and put on
a miraculous display of polyphonic singing in the 3000-year-old Georgian
tradition. Led by George Donadze and Zurab Tskrialashvili, ENSEMBLE BASIANI
has a repertoire consisting of traditional folk songs and religious hymns
from all parts of Georgia and diverse Monastery Chanting Schools. The
Ensemble took on national stature in 2013 when the Georgian government
began to subsidize and promote it. To date, the Ensemble has appeared
at innumerable international festivals and concerts, drawing praise on
almost every occasion (stellar, said the New York Times).
Among the folk songs that were sung at the Broad were Mravalzamier,
a drinking song; Tu Ase Turpa Ikavi, a love song with a distinctive
musical structure; and Gandagan, a comic ditty with dancing
from the Aadjara region of Georgia. All told, a dozen folk songs were
interpreted by the singers, some of whom also showed prowess on the balalaika,
mandolin and goat-skin bagpipe.
In contrast to the lusty, foot-stomping folk tunes were the religious
hymns: quiet, intensely felt statements of devotion and praise, some of
which were delivered by a trio, others of which featured the full ensemble,
whose voices wove in and out as they rose and fell in complicated, dazzling
tonal patterns. It was a capella choral singing at its finest.
Ensemble Basiani is on tour in the USA, presented by David Eden Productions
and Pemberley Productions.
Up next at the Broad are: Nat Geo Live: Mankind to Mars, a
discussion with prominent Mars experts led by Andrew Fazekas; the stunning
visuals are from Nat Geo Channels new mini-series, MARS (Nov 10-11);
The Slocan Ramblers, a jazz concert by Canadas famed
roots-music group (Nov. 12); and Beethoven, Bagels & Banter,
a classical-music breakfast get-together led by Robert Davidovici and
featuring world-class guest musicians, lively conversations, and freshly
made bagels (Nov 20 at 11 a.m).
(Broad Stage, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Call 310-434-3200 or visit