Live music is always close at hand in Georgia. Many homes have a piano and someone ready to play on request, and dinners are often extended by polyphonic singing round the table. Georgian three-voiced polyphonic folk music was mentioned by the Greek historian Xenophon as long ago as 400 BC. It used to accompany every aspect of daily life, and the songs have survived in various genres: supruli (songs for the table, the most famous being ‘Mravalzhamier’, which means ‘Many Years’), mushuri (working songs), satrpialo (love songs) and sagmiro (epic songs). Georgian folk festivals, such as Tbilisi’s Art Gene Festival and Svaneti’s Kviroba festival in July, are great opportunities to hear the best rural singers, as is the October grape harvest season in Kakheti.
Sagalobeli (beautiful church chants) have been part of Georgian music for at least 1500 years and are enjoying a revival and
renewal today. Excellent choirs accompany many church services around Tbilisi, usually at 4pm on Saturday and 9am on Sunday, including at the Anchiskhati Basilica, Sioni Cathedral and Mamadaviti Church.
Jazz too is highly popular in Georgia (Tbilisi and Batumi host annual festivals), while minimal techno is the optimal beat for many Tbilisi clubbers. The most beloved rock artist is still Irakli Charkviani, even though he died in 2006. Georgia’s first major classical composer was the opera writer Zakaria Paliashvili, famous for Abesalom and Eteri (1919) and Daisi (1923). The most famed contemporary composer is Gia Kancheli, born in 1935 and now living in Antwerp. His works are informed by his devout Orthodox faith, and he has been described as ‘turning the sounds of silence into music’.