Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Apparently it’s actuallymusic hath charms to soothe a savage breast” but I like the beast image better. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of music, especially Georgian traditional music. Not that I’ve been deliberately exploring the genre, but it’s just turned out that way. And it’s been very interesting.

First, I created a video for a grant application we wrote at CHCA. The funder “highly encouraged” it. 🙂 I’ve been getting more and more interested in video, just using my cellphone and then editing in MovieMaker. And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. For this video, I wanted to illustrate the infrastructure conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) settlements in Gori District. This issue has been well-documented, but I aimed at not only demonstrating the lack of things we all take for granted, such as potable water, but also the feelings of the people who have to live in such conditions. I thought at first I wouldn’t use music, but it quickly became apparent that I really needed it for the video to be effective. I listened to a lot of Georgia folk music, generously provided by PC on a flash drive. I settled on a very restrained Megruli folk song called “Asho Chela.”  Below is a link to the video and the full song:

Next, I was again happily invited to attend a traditional Georgian dance performance by Erisioni, a national Georgian ballet company. This time I went with a big crowd of PCV’s, and I invited my counterpart, Marta, to come along. She had told me she particularly loved this troupe because of its long history. Erisioni attained global acclaim thanks to their work on the project Georgian Legend – a performance consisting of the dances and songs of Georgia, loosely bound around tales from the country’s history.

I really enjoyed this performance, as I did the last one, which was more influenced by modern styles (you can see my Facebook post on that topic here: For one, it was truly traditional. Marta knew all of the dances and told me as each started: this is Osettian, this is Ajameti, or Juta, or Adjaruli … It wasn’t quite as sophisticated as the other troupe, but deeply, deeply heartfelt.  For another, there was singing – a lot of it. All by men. And there was drumming, also a lot of it, by men and by some very exuberant young boys! At the finale, the men made a human pyramid with one guy on top waving a huge Georgian flag. The crowd went wild and I have to admit I kinda did, too.

I took some videos and I’m posting them here, but I apologize in advance for the heads at the bottom of the screen and the fuzzy quality – I did my best in a very crowded theater! But I do think these 3 videos give a good idea of the spirit and feeling of the evening.

Afterwards, Marta and I walked together across the Mtkvari river bridge, past the police station and the bazaar, through the shopping street down Chavchavadze, parting ways in front of City Hall with a hug and a feeling that I was at home.

One last video to share, just because I love it so much. This is four Georgian guys in an airport in the Ukraine. Maybe their plane is late and they’re bored, I don’t know, but they are singing with all their souls. Just some guys, no one famous as far as I know, though the bald guy is holding a panduri, a traditional Georgian instrument. One breaks out dancing. At the end two of them are sort of entwined, which one commenter on the YouTube page where I found this video is puzzled by, but anyone who has lived in Georgia knows is a common sight. This is Georgian spirit.




One thought on “Music Soothes the Savage Beast

  1. Susan MacBryde

    Great post, Sara. Recently I’ve also been immersing myself in Armenian culture as my Peace Corps service gets longer and I’m further pulled into the subtleties of their dramatic and musical expression. It’s quite something, eh? What wonderful opportunities we have.


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