Georgian Folk Music Department

 Georgian Folk Music Department of Tbilisi State Conservatoire

The research of Georgian folk music – the most significant treasure of Georgian culture was initiated at Tbilisi State Conservatoire since its inception –on Zakaria Paliashvili’s initiative Department Georgian Folk and Church Music was founded in 1917, it united both branches of traditional music. sadly, soon the Department was abolished and over years Georgian folk music was taught and researched at other departments. In 1949 Georgian Folk Music Section was founded at Music History Department of Theory-Composition Faculty, Georgian Folk Music Department was founded in 1970.

In the 1930s the Conservatoire pedagogues and folk researchers started intensive filed expedition activities to various parts of Georgia. This tradition is still under way; collected has been rich material revealing unique diversity, richest artistic and historical value of Georgian folk music and church chant. Alongside Georgian,  non-Georgian – Abazian, Abkhaz, Dagestan peoples’, Noghaian, Russian, Armenian, Kist, Kurdish, Karachayan, Circassian material (preserved at  the Department laboratory) has also been collected. Particularly fruitful were the collecting  activities of Shalva Mshvelidze’s, Shalva aslanishvili’s, Grigol Chkhikvadze’s, Vladimer Akhobadze’s, Otar Chijavadze’s, Mindia Zhordania’s, Kakhi Rosebashvili’s, Edisher Garaqanidze’s expeditions. The material collected by them is the biggest contribution in the preservation and safeguarding of national musical treasure.

Expedition activity is a solid foundation for scientific-research work, which, alongside the afore-mentioned figures was successfully carried out by Evsevi (Kukuri) Chokhonelidze, baram Baramidze, Tamar Meskhi, Joseph Jordania, Nino Pirtskhalava, Natalia Zumbadze, Mariam Ositashvili, Nino Makharadze, Tamaz Gabisonia, Tinatin Zhvania, Davit Shughliashvili, Malkhaz Erkvanidze. Unfortunately significant part of Department employees left this world at the pinnacle of their creative work, M. Zhordania, K. Rosebashvili, E. Chokhonelidze and young E. Garaqanidze and T. Zhvania had much to say……

Georgian Folk Music Department is the chief centre in Georgia for teaching, researching, collecting and safeguarding Georgian folk music; it was headed by Grigol Chkhikvadze (1970-1977), Kukuri Chokhonelidze (1977-2004), Manana Andriadze (2004-2007), Natalia Zumbadze (2007-present). Particularly noteworthy is the Department members’ big interest in both branches of traditional music – alongside folk music sacred music also being researched.

The Department became the basis for creating several units of the Conservatoire: in 1977 Georgian sacred and secular music research laboratory was founded at the Department, in 2003 the Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony was founded on the basis of the already-existing three units (the Department, Department laboratory and Secular Music Research Laboratory), the Centre soon became an independent structure. In 2005 Church Music Laboratory was created at the Department, the laboratory (together with the Church Music Department) has been independent since 2007.

Folk Music Department is actively involved in the educational process of the Conservatoire. Folklore students’ field expeditions are annually organized to various parts of Georgia, Master’s and Doctoral programs in ethnomusicology are running (supervisor – N. Zumbadze), Master’s program includes both musical and adjacent disciplines (

Under the supervision of the Department employees foreign students also master Georgian folk music at the Conservatoire Bachelor programs since 2008-2009.

Conservatoire students’ folk ensemble (dir. N. Zumbadze) was created in 2005 on the Initiative of Manana Andriadze – then-Head of the Department. The ensemble was a laureate of the National Folklore Inspection-Festival in 2006.

For the formation of the new specialists and preservation and reinforcement of traditional performance Georgian Folk Music Department has held annual conference for young ethnomusicologists since 2010 (The Conference materials are published), since 2013 the Conference has been accompanied by folk concerts.

Currently among the pedagogues of the Department are: N. Zumbadze (Professor), R. Tsurtsumia (Emeritus Professor), O. Kapanadze (Assistant-professor), and invited teachers: M. Erkvanidze (Doctor of Social Sciences), D. Shughliashvili (Doctor of Musicology), N. Ghambashidze (Doctor of History).

The Department systematically researches problems of traditional music and takes active part in the Conservatoire, republican and international forums; holds scientific conferences and folk concerts dedicated to the memory of renowned Georgian ethnomuiscologists (the conference materials are published as collections of the Conservatoire scientific works and are enclosed with CDs).

As far as folk music lost its function in everyday practice in recent years, the activity of the Department is mostly focused on performance; in this regard noteworthy are the projects with practical function: work-shops in Georgian folk performance for the ensemble from East and West Georgia (led by T. Gabisonia, M. Erkvanidze, N. Zumbadze, D. Shughliashvili, 2007-2008); an educational-methodical text-book Georgian Folk Music and its Performance (author: N. Zumbadze, 2007). Work-shops in Georgian folk song for foreigners held in Georgia and elsewhere testify to the successful performance activity of the Department employees.

In general, the members of the Department-laboratory have greatly contributed to the performance of folk and old professional music; on their initiative, with their active participation, and direction, in a number of cases, founded were the folk ensembles and church choirs which played historical role in the development of Georgian traditional music (Gordela,Mtiebi, Mzetamze, Anchiskhati church choir, Jvaris mamachurch choir, Amer-Imeri). Today these initiatives, which later had a large number of followers, have been formed as a powerful direction of performance.

Georgian Folk Music Department has an important mission, particularly today, when the interest to the scientific study and performance of Georgian music treasure is gradually increasing on the international arena.