Erisioni, The Light on the Mountain Top Standing Strong

Georgian State Academic Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance Erisioni was founded in 1885 and since then has maintained its uniqueness and true Georgian folk spirit, remaining strong through the world wars, Tsarism and other great troubles- never losing its originality and conveys folk masterpieces to generations. It is equally eulogized in Europe and the United States and in 1977, the Americans sent Erisioni’s Chakrulo to the Universe as a priceless art work.

On November 27th, Erisioni marked its 130 year anniversary and wowed its audience as never before. Georgia Today congratulated Erisioni its 130 years and spoke exclusively with its General Manager Otar Bluashvili about the ensemble’s foundation, success, challenges and recent grand show in Tbilisi.

Mr Bluashvili, how was Erisioni founded and how did it get its name?

In 1885, Georgian philanthropist Lado Aghniashvili brought together musicians from different regions along with Czech musician Josef Navradel, an opera singer who accompanied an Italian group here in 1880, as a conductor. Navradel formed a small group with his opera singers and studied Georgian folk music. When the question arose as to who should be appointed as conductor, he was chosen as one able to put Georgian songs into musical notes. The Georgian Honored State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble was born- the first professional group in Georgia to lay the groundwork for professional activities, after which these talented people, once scattered around Georgia- along with the whole country -started to sing! During Tsarism, Russia was not pleased with the fact and of course refused financial support. The group functioned with the help of philanthropists and benevolence and the artists were paid very little or not at all.

In 1924, Givi Pachkoria was appointed Head and much success came with his arrival on the scene. In 1999, French producer Martin Gérarti came and brought the Americans and the French and decided to go on tour. He said we needed a great advert for our group, and a shorter name! Therefore, we started searching for the right name and contacted linguist Levan Gvinchilia who recommended we name it Erisioni which, according to the Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani dictionary, meant the light high on the mountain. After that we truly achieved a lot of success. Thanks to American businessman Jim Lowe, who financed our first concert in the States in 2000. In 2002 we had two concerts in Paris with box office success. Then we shot the video for Shatilis Asulo (Daughter of Shatili) in the Alps which became an instant hit, leading to our appearing in 13 French cities. The French produced the disc ‘Georgian Legend’ and then Universal Studios in France compiled an album of the most popular albumns collection and named it ‘World Voices’. Our ‘Daughter of Shatili’ was included at #2.

When did you join the ensemble?

I joined in 1976 as a soloist singer. Before, I had been a member of other ensembles and when I came here I was already a professional. For 22 years I was the lead singer and used to sing Kartli-Kakheti songs. In 1986, the management was changed and Jemal Tchkuaseli came. We continued working, started a new program, the clothing was changed, and new views were born. Then he offered me the chance to move into administrative service in 1998. Now, I am a General Manager. Soon I’ll have been working here 40 years! People often ask me how I stayed in the same job for so long and I say: I love my job! Honestly, my family always supported me in working here. My sons followed in their father’s steps- one joined us and the other graduated in the State and is involved in art. My wife Nana has been working here over 20 years as a costume designer.

You marked the 130th anniversary of the ensemble on November 27th.

Yes, it was a very special day. The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and City Hall assisted us to make this great show. We added new costumes and new performances and the audience clearly showed their intense emotions to see it. We put a lot into it and got back just that!

Following this success, what do you plan next?

It unfortunately happens that, due to the lack of money, we have lost artists. I would say it is catastrophic. Turkey offers tenfold more to them and they go. One of the greatest opera singers told me that, “Of course you should have opera and ballet, but they will always have their supporters from Italy and France and no one will be held to your Chakrulo and Kazbeguri except you.” Since our personnel started moving on, we have lost something of our true spirit. Our dancers serve other countries and we lose our own. That said, Georgia has been through worse times and not lost its folk music. So, we will face the challenges, stand strong, and keep offering the wonder of Georgian folk music and dance to the world as only the Erisioni ensemble can do!

Meri Taliashvili

03 December 2015 21:35