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Georgian Folk and Dance

 Any culture, as a historically formed phenomenon, is the result of a thorough selection of traditions and expressive means and creates an accomplished artistic system. At the same time, any culture always has a national coloring. That is why the treasure of the world culture is so multifarious and multicolored. The road of the development of a culture is so complicated and full of obstacles, that not all the nations managed to succeed in passing the road. Some of the nations lose their selfhood and merge into another culture, some fail to keep abreast of the times and are lost without leaving any trace. The Georgians belong to the race of those ancient peoples who, in spite of the hardest historical cataclysms, not only created original culture but carried it through the centuries and preserved its vitality and vigor.

Since the time of the Argonauts thousands of invaders have been attracted by the country of Golden Fleece, blossoming like the mythical garden of Hecate, the land of the cultured vine and Chalybean steel, the native land of Medea and Amiran (the prototype of Prometheus). Naturally there arises a question: how is it that this small nation held out against the devastating storms assaulting it all the time during its history, when the greatest civilizations and the most powerful empires were leveled to the ground? The answer to this question must be sought in the peculiarity of the psyche of the Georgians, their boundless love for their native land, their love for freedom and their self-sacrifice, their optimism, their great desire to save and preserve intact the cultural achievements, customs and traditions of their ancestors.

The ancient Georgian art was represented entirely by folklore, its trace going back into the depths of millennia. The monuments of material culture, found during archaeological excavations, (3-2 millennia BC) -’ mythological plots painted or engraved on vessels of various shapes, musical instruments and sculptural portraits of musicians, masked dancers and so on, show a high level of the artistic thinking of the people. Along with the archaeological findings the ancient written monuments also show the existence of epical, lyrical and dramatic forms and the diversity of genres in the archaic layers of the Georgian folklore.

It is doubtless that the musical instruments found in Georgia (dating back to the 3rd millenium, a stringed instrument «Changi», according to a well-known scholar K. Zakh is similar to the eleven-stringed lyra depicted on a Summerian bas-relief, a bone «Salamuri». (a pipe) with three finger-holes which even today can play shepherd melodies, a bronze figure from Stepantsminda with a five-stringed lyra in his hand, and so on) were connected with different aspects of folklore, namely with festive ceremonies, theatrical shows, cult and ritual dances, the performance of ballad or epic creations. Written monuments also show the diversity of the folklore genres. «Joyous songs» performed by the people of the Georgian stock are mentioned in one of the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions (8lh century BC). According to the old Greek historian Xenophon (4* century BC) marching songs and ritual round dances were spread among the Georgian tribes. We would also like to mention here that according to the same historian the representatives of the Georgian tribes of Diauehi preferred suicide to Greek captivity. A similar message is preserved in the Georgian folk-tales «Mikela», «The True Word». It is rather difficult now to say anything about the poetical, musical or choreographic aspects of the above mentioned creations, but labor and marching songs, «Perkhulis»- round dances of a heroic character, epic poems and ballads, the samples of instru¬mental music with their archaic coloring, which are still preserved in different ethnographic parts of Georgia, can be regarded as the echo of centuries. The most noteworthy of them are some fragments of the «Amiraniani» epos and choral and ritual «Perkhulis», round dances connected with it.

The «Amiraniani» epos is the most ancient monument of the Geor¬gian mythology. Amiran is a hero resisting the evil forces of nature, bring¬ing fire to people, for which he is punished and chained to a rock in the Caucasus. The memory of people preserved some fragments of this an¬cient epos almost without any changes, ritual «Perkhulis» dedicated to Amiran and his mother Dali-the Goddess of hunting, «Amiran’s Perkhuli» and others. Some scenes of the hunting epos-»Bail Betkil», «Lemchil», etc. have been preserved to this day. Some scholars think that the «Perkhuli» marching of masked hunters, engraved on the siver bowl (2nd millenium BC), found during the archaeological excavations in Trialeti, must be an echo of the «Amiraniani» epos.

 It is known that the genre of the epos proper had older legends and parables as its source. And if we pay attention to the texts of lamentations connected with the cult of the dead (the description of the life of a deceased person, his heroic or kind deeds, etc.), we shall easily see that one of the sources of the epic genre was connected with lamentations.

the performance of the epos required merging of different forms. It can be presented as a theatrical show, where some episodes are per¬formed by the choir of singer-dancers and the intervals between Perkhulis were filled in with a chanting narration. Some traces of such a synthesized theatrical show were preserved in the cycle of spring festivities known under the name of «Berikaoba» and «Qeenoba», in which singing, dancing, poetry, instrumental music, gestures, mimics and so on were presented in an interesting synthesis.

In a Georgian village, even today, you can hear and see magic incantations, chants and rituals glorifying the weather deity, hymns and Perkhulis dedicated to the Sun, curative chants to please magic powers and other ceremonial activities. It is noteworthy that the place and role of these pagan chants and rituals in the Georgian life till the latest period was almost the same as scores of centuries ago. That is why scholars suppose that the poem-songs and ritual Perkhulis of pagan times must have undergone very little changes and are preserved almost in their original form. This enables us to restore the unique pictures of the past, the life of our ancestors, their spiritual requirements and ideals of their life.

It is not difficult at all to imagine a tiny piece of land surrounded by high mountains, on which some scores of people are gathered waiting for the appearance of the first rays of the sun. These proud and solemn-looking men begin a round dance-Perkhuli and in their powerful voices sing a wonderful hymn. The described picture is a fragment from a pagan ritual «Lile», which was connected with the cult of the sun, with the victory of light over darkness.

Now let’s imagine a child on a sick bed, at his head «bazma» (three cone shaped candles made of pounded walnuts) is lit; the grandmother goes round the bed on her knees murmuring magic incantations. From time to time during this ritual either a musical instrument is played or beautiful chants «Lullaby» or «Sabodisho» (Apologies) are sung. In the room, decorated with pieces of colored cloth and flowers, full of the fragrance of rose water this beautiful chanting is aimed at pleasing, flattering and coaxing out the wicked spirits «Batonebi», that are nestling in the body of the sick child.

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