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World Music CD Reviews Europe

ENSEMBLE KEREONI

By Michael Stone
Published June 27, 2006

Traditional Songs From Georgia
ARC Music

East of the Black Sea, annexed successively to the Roman, Mongol, Persian, Ottoman, Russian and Soviet empires, Georgia has long been a political, economic, social and cultural crossroads. Today, the soaring polyphonic singing and yodeling of Georgian folk music resonates strikingly with the dramatic vocal traditions of Russian and Balkan folk song, typically sung acappella, and occasionally but sparingly complemented with piano, guitar and a variety of regional lutes (panduri, chonguri), flutes (salamuri), and percussion (doli). Ensemble Kereoni’s members all enjoyed professional training in the Soviet conservatory system, along with performance experience via state media outlets, a cultural investment whose expressive dividends are amply manifest in this engaging recording. Paradoxically, Ensemble Kereoni’s work continues now only with the support of the Dutch foundation that funded this title’s production and licensing. A deeply expressive, subtly tragic undertone runs through the performances, whose lyrical themes embrace love and romance, odes and ballads, festivities and drinking songs, agricultural work, praise of the natural beauty of Georgian landscape, lullabies, healing and spiritual concerns. Notes are in English, French, German and Spanish.