The Urmuli Quintet

The Quintet Urmuli has produced four entirely different CDs over a ten-year period of performing hundreds of concerts, mainly in Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. The group was last presented in a wonderful live concert hall at the Tbilisi conservatory. Now they play three nights per week to enthusiastic listeners at the Maidan Restaurant in Old Tbilisi. Their repertoire consists of a wide-spread spectrum of Georgian traditional music, melodies and polyphonic songs, some of which date back to medieval times. The artists have masterfully arranged to their instrumentation and vocal pleasure by sincerely maintaining the Georgian spiritual culture and character.

The intensity and integrity of introducing Georgian ‘Music of the centuries’ consequently found the Quintet performing at very outstanding concert-sites: Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Baroque hall Kloster Benediktbeuern in Bavaria, L’Auditorium Saint-German-des-Pres in Paris, and many others. Their concerts have been recorded by several major Radio Stations in Germany, and their TV documentary features have been heard all over the world. Apart from being members of the Quintet Urmuli, the group’s members have performed music with different ensembles in numerous other foreign countries all over the world.

A German writer said this about the quintet in 2005: ‘Vocal and duduk melodies represent the early European music. And there is a question: various oriental compositions, Jewish and Roman music… is Georgian music really the origin of it all? It is an object of scientific investigations. One thing we know for sure: Quintet Urmuli makes a very strong impression upon people. Georgia must be a country of extraordinary beauty’ – Matias Wiideman.

Georgian Times sat down with artist and producer Michael Brittingham and members of the Urmuli Quintet, Shalva Abramashvili, Davit Jimshitashvili, Nugzar Kavtaradze, Vladimir Mamaladze and David Ratiani, to find out why they are cooperating together to pay for the tuitions of two Georgian students as they go into university this fall.

Q: What is the history of Quintet Urmuli? When was the group founded? How did you find each other?

Quintet spokesman, Nugzar Kavtaradze: We started working in 1993. At the beginning the staff was different from what it is now. We issued our first two albums in Germany. At that time, we had a German manager who arranged concerts in different countries of Europe for the band. To date we have had more than 600 concerts in many different European countries.

In 2001 we issued two more albums: one studio record, the other a live recording. At the moment we are working on recording two more albums, and are in search of finance for these projects.

Q: What kind of music do you play? Do you play only traditional folk music, or do you merge classical and modern music styles in your repertoire too?

Kavtaradze: That is what makes Quintet Urmuli so original. We can offer single instrumental and vocal parts, as well as a blend of the both. The band plays mainly folk music, but we also have city guitar folklore in our repertoire. One unique composition of ours is a duduk and chuniri duet. Classical music is also an integral part of our repertoire; we play Mozart, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Azarashvili, Dolidze, and many other classics.

Salamuri and Panduri instrumentalist David Jimshitashvili: Recently we played Kiazo’s Aria on just duduk and chuniri parts… it sounds very different from the symphonic orchestra, but is very interesting and original.

Davit Ratiani: We also collaborate with many other bands and musicians from different genres like jazz and popular music. Among other things, we often do soundtracks.

Q: Is your audience mainly Georgian or do foreigners also show interest in your music?

Kavtaradze: Once on Christmas we gave a concert at the Goethe Institute. The director of the Institute, who made a speech before our performance said: ‘Unfortunately, Quintet Urmuli is more popular in Europe than in its native Georgia’. This is true. We have had many more performances abroad than in our own country. Of course, there are many foreigners among our listeners. Now that we play at the Maidani Restaurant three times a week, we are happy to see how many people from different countries are interested in our music. I am pleasantly surprised and proud that among our admirers there is an increasing amount of young people… Georgians. In spite of the recent tendency to imitate the West, Georgian youth are still not detached from their roots.

Davit Jimshitashvili: In all European countries there are many clubs where professionals and music critics go specifically to listen to musicians and assess the art. Maidani is one of the few restaurants in the city where people come with purpose to listen to the music.

Q: How do you view your cultural role in our charity auction and why did you agree to participate in it?

Kavtaradze: Any performance is important for us, it adds to our experience, and besides, it is a pleasure for any musician. In this case we are happy to contribute into the event and help these children get the necessary means to realise their talents.

Davit Ratiani: Charity is not new for us. We have done many concerts for charity. A couple of times we participated in charity concerts organized in Germany. The money was sent to Georgia, once to infant houses, the other time to help build hydroelectric stations. We are always open and ready to devote our efforts to help people in every way we can.

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