Country Comes to Town!

Some weeks ago, BBC radio broadcasted a short piece of information about Shota Adamashvili, a 28-year-old Georgian whose convincing accent, cowboy style of dress and even appearance are enough to make not only Georgians but also Americans and other foreigners think he is from the USA. Nevertheless, he has never been there. His fluent English, learned from country songs, does not betray him either. Shota has practically no rivals in Georgia and is a pioneer of this style. He plays on guitar and harmonica, as Bob Dylan did.

The first question that comes to mind is how it happened that he was interviewed by the BBC. “Last April, I participated in TEDx Tbilisi (Technology, Entertainment and Design), international internet forum. I was a speaker and also performed two of my own songs. Just after my speech, a woman approached me and humbly asked: ‘Hi, I’m from the BBC, can I talk to you?’ I was excited, and answered that it would be a great honor for me.”

Reportedly, for Shota as a student, the main inspiration was the song ‘My heroes have always been cowboys’ from the film ‘Electronic Rider’ by Sidney Polak, starring Robert Redford.

It is hard to make a living with music, especially in a small market like the Georgian one, even more so that country music is not overly popular here. Nevertheless, as all true artists, he never planned to be commercial. “If I mix other styles, too, something people suggest, I will lose my niche. Besides, I am not so good at Georgian folk or other genres as I am at country music,” Adamashvili confesses frankly, a real romantic hero who is a rarity and thus, a living treasure, full of dreams about visiting the US and playing at the Bluebird Café.

He no longer needs to play underground as he did as a beginner as three bars – ‘Zazanova,’ ‘MacLarens’ and newly opened ‘Old Wild West’ have already invited him to play.

The humble, intelligent and romantic Georgian western singer even caught the eye of fomer US Ambassador Richard Norland who invited him to play with Michael Peterson, 1990s country star at the July 4th, 2015 Independence Day party. “Mr. Peterson visited Georgia together with his spouse, Jill Chambers, a former colonel, who was involved in the program of rehabilitating war veterans and warriors in general from stress.” Adamashvili recalls.

One day, hearing him playing at one of the bars of Tbilisi, a lady from the Georgian penitentiary system approached him. She had heard that the country star Johnny Cash used to go to prisons, and suggested Adamashvili do the same thing as a Georgian cowboy. “I’d always wanted to do it so I agreed right away,” he said. I played with teenagers and lower risk prisoners, who I found to be quite smart and communicative.”

Why country? “I like its sincere life stories, and so called ‘chicken-pickin’ playing. Harlan Howard expressed its essence very well: ‘three chords, and truth.’”

Adamashvili has never had any official musical education. Therefore, his talent and artistic manner is much more natural, though strengthened with ceaseless research and determination to improve. In 2013, he performed live on the popular international TV show The Voice (the Georgian version), and the four trainers almost killed one another to win his heart.

He admits that in Georgia, as in some other countries, country music is not always welcome. Therefore, Shota is obliged to mix his repertoire and sometimes performs covers of the Beatles, and other popular groups. If the public is international, he is luckier, as foreigners tend to like the Georgian countryman’s famous country songs as well as some on his own credit.

Shota Adamashvili’s warbling voice is subtle, refined, adorned with a high performing culture. He is close to the country in terms of lifestyle too, as in Bolnisi, he used to work as a farm-hand. So, one can say that he is a real country singer in all senses of the word!

Maka Lomadze

30 June 2016 21:50