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Amer Imeri

Amer-Imeri ensemble from the Republic of Georgia, UK tour

Twelve singers drawn from Amer-Imeri and Mtiebi ensembles are touring the UK during May 2024, teaching and performing beautiful polyphonic songs, dances and folklore from the rich and ancient, UNESCO listed tradition of the Republic of Georgia.

Like Georgia itself, the music sits at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, yet has its own, truly unique character. It blends challenging, dissonant and microtonal chords with sweet and lyrical close harmonies. Ancient pagan, shamanic ritual songs with soaring liturgical chants. Powerful work songs, rousing wedding songs, and modern, composed songs all continue this music into the present day. Encompassing thirteen regional styles, the music from the east and west of Georgia are quite distinct, with that of the Gurian region on the Black Sea coast being particularly complex, and often including a fourth, yodeling voice, known as krimanchuli.

Mtiebi choir was founded in 1980 by the renowned ethnomusicologist, Edisher Garakanidze, and soon established itself as one of the foremost ensembles dedicated to pioneering the research and revival of the traditional singing and folklore practices of Georgia. Edisher was also a key figure in introducing Georgian polyphonic singing to the UK.

In 1991 Edisher and his wife, Nino Baghaturia, created a youth ensemble, Amer Imeri, through which many current members of Mtiebi have trained. From 2001-2012 Amer-Imer was directed by Edisher’s son, Gigi (Giorgi) Garakanidze, since when it has been headed by its current leader, Magda Kevlishvili.

The main creative principle behind both choirs is understanding and performing the songs alongside the folklore, dances and rituals that are integral to them. Younger singers in Amer Imeri learn traditional Georgian children’s games and dances, and traditional instruments. They become familiar with the history and mythology of Georgia, and they learn church hymns and participate in divine service. The singers and teachers travel to different regions of Georgia and learn directly from tradition bearers, and the new generation of singers learn to perform songs freely and independently, without the guidance of elders, just as their peers sang in the countryside. And, having learned the traditions and made them their own, they create their own folklore, with improvisational variants of songs, improvised verse, games, tongue twisters, and mocking verses.

Amer-Imeri brings all this to their performance and teaching, but also into their everyday lives.

Recognised by numerous awards over three decades, both in Georgia and internationally, Amer-Imeri was the winner of the 2022 Georgian National Folklore Festival, was featured on BBC radio and television is 2002, and has participated in folklore festivals in Lithuania, Poland and Germany.

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