Ts’utisopeli Preserving Georgia’s Heritage

Georgia is still a fiercely rural country. Roughly two-thirds of the country’s 4.5 million residents live in provincial towns and villages. Visitors to this Caucasian kingdom-turned-republic are regaled with folk fare such as supras, lengthy toasts, traditional music and long gulps of wine from the khantsi (wine horn). Tbilisi may be the country’s political center, but if Georgia’s head is there, it’s heart is certainly in the countryside.

Things are changing, however. Thousands of people leave the village behind each year, leading to fears that the country’s rural roots are beginning to fray.

“There is hardly any work for people in the villages today, so it is no surprise that youth continue to head either towards the capital or abroad to seek better opportunity,” says Aurelia Shrenker, an enthnomusicologist working in rural Georgia. “With each wave of urbanization, folk songs (and folk traditions in general) are largely removed from their original functions and assume different purposes.”

The need for cultural preservation is why Shrenker launched Ts’utisopeli, a project aimed at keeping Georgia’s heart in the village by documenting, recording and sharing folk music. (Ts’utisopeli means “minute village” in the Georgian language, a reference to a proverb about the short-term nature of earthly life).

Shrenker began recording Georgian music in 2010 and has spent the past five years traveling through eastern Georgia and collecting folk songs along the way. 

Read more on the Ts’utisopeli project in this week's Georgia Today, out Friday.

Joseph Larsen

29 July 2015 15:08