Darbazi / დარბაზი

Darbazi from Toronto, Canada. Back row: John Martin, David Anderson, Bie Engelen, Sam Hirst, Johanne Pulker, Ray Kinoshita, Mike Sanderson, Alan Gasser; Front row: Rick Roos, Matti Kopamees, Andrea Kuzmich; Past members: Marty Crowder, Rob Foell, Sylvo Frank, David Gillman, James Harbeck, Monika Jaggi, Ian Smiley, Becca Whitla and Mike Whitla.

The members of Darbazi have very diverse backgrounds but are united by their enthusiasm for the intricate polyphonies of Georgian folk music and the riches of Georgian culture. Toronto singer Alan Gasser held a first rehearsal in his darbazi (living room, meeting place) in the winter of 1995. Since that fortuitous moment Darbazi has had wonderful opportunities to learn from the Kolkheti, Anchiskhati, Mzetamze and Hereti choirs and from musicologist Nino Tsitsishvili. The recordings on this CD are the result of those collaborations. Because of our strong personal feelings for the Georgian singers we know, we cannot imagine a better way to present our music to you than under the title, “Darbazi and Friends.” The power of Georgia’s ancient roots in music and legend is buttressed today in our moments of celebration, with wine, food and song, Georgian style.

Three of the ten members of the Anchiskhati Choir based in Tbilisi, Georgia, visited Toronto for a month-long residency with Darbazi in November 1998. The trio shared its repertoire and priceless experience with Darbazi, in the process of much intense rehearsing, performance, supras, and the recordings for this CD. The Anchiskhati Church is an ancient centre of enlightenment. It dates from the sixth century and played a key role in preserving sacred music during almost three generations of Communist rule, when religious practice was suppressed and sacred music was rarely heard in concert. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Anchiskhati Choir was the first to revive medieval Georgian music and nearly-forgotten chants in church services, and has since breathed new life into the country’s ancient musical heritage.

Hereti is the only authentic Georgian performing ensemble in North America at the moment. The choir was founded in the Georgian city of Rustavi and had been performing together since 1994. Five of the six members who came to Canada in 1999 now reside in Toronto as refugees.
Hereti also features instrumental pieces, played on the guitar, panduri and salamuri. The name Hereti was inspired by a kind of wine and the village where it is made. After a historical episode in which surrounding territories were forcibly converted to Islam, the village remained Christian, becoming an enclave of “heretics”. Though they may be refugees in Canada, by the measure of their artistry, these young men of Hereti are true nobility.

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