Collage Talks: Iberi

Iberi are a six-person vocal and instrumental ensemble channels Georgia’s multitude of sounds, exploring the emotional potential of age-old polyphony and traditional instruments. We at Collage were lucky enough to talk to Buba ahead of their weekend stint at WOMADelaide 2020 where they will do it all — sing, dance, and cook.

Photo: Manu Murgulia

Collage: Iberi’s music is so beautiful, listening to it transports me to Georgia. In what ways was music a part of your life growing up?

Buba: Singing for Georgians is the style of life, because of it, I think, we are singing always with all our soul and spirit.  So every Georgian should to put into the singing the heart. This is our main rule how to sing.

I was growing up in very musical family, everyone has very good ears from my father’s and mother’s line and I was listening since my birthday very good music. I remember my mother told me when I was baby I did not sleep without the music of ABBA and Beatles. So, my first touch with the music were these two beautiful bands.

C: I saw that Bidzina Murgulia said that in Georgia people grow up singing. I know that in lots of non-English speaking countries this traditional music almost takes a back seat to Western pop music. Is that the case in Georgia?

B: We have in the country a lot of boy’s choirs, almost all children, boys and girls also of course are starting to learn Georgian traditional polyphonic singing since very young age (4-5 years old children). Of course they all are not professional singers but they are starting to love this our treasure what we have from our ancestors. Western music in Georgia also very popular, but not more than Georgian Traditional singing. Here the people more loves jazz and rock, pop music is popular mostly in the teenagers.

C: Iberi is a fairly large choral ensemble choir, how did you start singing together?

B: In Iberi Choir we are now 10 members, but mostly we are traveling 6 or 8 persons. I was singing since childhood in a lot of choirs, including Georgian state ensemble etc. and my dream was always to build my own choir to realize my own musical ways and directions and at 3rd September (what we are always celebrating as Iberi’s birthday) of 2012 we started our first rehearsal. I’ve gathered my old friends with who I was singing for long time also and who (as like me) were not singing for a long time. I was playing rugby for very long time and because of it had to pause doing music for 10 years.

C: Do you write the songs or are they mostly traditional? 

B: I’m not writing the songs all the songs what we are performing are traditional, sometimes we also are singing more “young” songs written by our composers in the 20th century. I’m doing always my “way” in these traditional songs, because IMHO everything should develop, including traditional singing. Also in Georgian songs, there is a lot of space to improvise and it will be some kind of “disaster” to not use this option. I’m always searching and trying to put into every Georgian song our vision. The program we are changing always, but it should be colorful in any case and that we are making when mixing the songs from almost each region.

C: The singing techniques change across regions of Georgia, for example some regions have different uses of bass drones and others have a style of yodelling. Do you stick with the techniques from the areas that you all come from or do you sing songs that come from all regions of Georgia?

B: We all are born in Tbilisi and living there for all our life. Of course, our family names comes from different regions, but it does not matter we are singing the songs from each region of Georgia. Krimanchuli (yodelling) are using only in Gurian and Adjarian Songs, these two regions are neighbours on the seaside, western part of the country. Actually, the music “ways” and harmonies are very diverse from the regions, even neighbouring regions have very different harmonies and singing style (not only harmonies and melodies, even throat position while singing are very different).

C: Iberi are holding a very exciting looking dinner over the WOMAD weekend. Can you tell me any more about the dinner you have scheduled for the Friday night, like what food are you making?

B: This kind of dinner we in Georgia are calling – SUPRA (feast) it’s a long tables when we sitting all the time when celebrating something. Supra in Georgia is one of the important thing, it’s a place where we are sharing our heart and soul, where we can talk with each other about everything, it’s a style of the life also like our singing. There, on the Supra we are choosing one man as a leader — TAMADA, who should to be good speaker and improvising person. Georgians are not drinking wine without a toast. So Tamada says the toast and after him anyone can add something but only about that story or thing what told Tamada. The toasts are about everything what we can meet in our life. At the Georgian Supra the main thing is the order, no one talks when Tamada is saying the toast. 

Photo: Manu Murgulia

C: Many of the WOMAD visitors may be new to polyphonic singing. Can you give them an idea of what to expect?

B: The common idea is to share our culture to the Australian people. You will meet the ancient (some of them also from the pagan period) diverse and colorful songs from the Caucasus region.

Except the concert we will have the dancing workshop there where the people can learn Georgian dance also. To be a part of the event is always very important for the people, so there will be a lot of possibilities to touch the Georgian Culture and meet Iberi Choir as one of the ambassadors of this little country which have very big heart! 😊

P.S. there is one ancient eastern saying – “It’s better to taste the cake than talk about it”.

***

You’ve heard it here first, Iberi are one cake that is best tasted. It’s a chocker block weekend for them, you can join them for dinner on Friday, check them singing on Saturday and Sunday, and go to their workshop on Monday. What are you waiting for! Don’t forget to get WOMAD tickets here.

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