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Seven women, members of Ialoni Ensemble, stand on a bridge.
Ialoni Ensemble. Photo by Levan Vaznareli.

Homegrown Plus: Ialoni

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In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with the Ialoni Ensemble. This women’s vocal and instrumental group was formed in 2009 in Tbilisi in the country of Georgia. Ialoni’s repertoire draws from all three branches of traditional Georgian vocal polyphony: ecclesiastical, folk, and city music. The group selects its repertoire from archival records and manuscripts, field recordings, and published transcriptions, with a special emphasis on reviving relatively unusual, original, and complex songs. They greatly value the character of different chanting schools, as well as the folk and city songs, originating from different regions, taking the time to comprehend them intimately and then bringing them to life with the ensemble’s own signature style.

5 women, members of Ialoni, walk in a circle
Ialoni Ensemble. Photo by Levan Vaznareli.

Ialoni has won several prestigious prizes, including 1st place in the “Women’s Folk Ensemble Category” at the National State Folklore Center Competition (2016), as well as both the grand prix in the “Traditional Chant” category, and the first place and gold medal in the “Georgian Traditional Song” category at the Tbilisi Competition of Choral Music. Ialoni has toured extensively throughout Europe, and hosted many groups of visitors in Georgia, teaching them about Georgian culture and the Georgian vocal polyphonic tradition.

After both videos, I’ll put in links to some further Georgian resources you can explore.  But by now, you’re ready to watch the concert. Rather than record a simple video of the group in concert, Ialoni decided to show some of the contexts of traditional singing, including songs for childbirth, wedding songs, and healing songs, taking the audience along on an exploration of life cycle traditions from birth to death.  There’s even a very special guest, a 90 year old grandma who sings and dances with them on a few songs. See their video in the player below!

In our conversation, Thea Austen and I spoke with Ialoni members Nino Naneishvili and Ana Lolashvili. We spoke about the different types of Georgian polyphonic singing and the repertoires of religious songs, folk songs, and urban songs. We spoke about how Georgians typically learn this music, and where and when they sing and play it. We discuss the concept behind their beautiful concert video as well. We even got a demonstration of some of their favorite instruments. Watch it in the player below!

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the interview at this link.

Collection Connections

Seven women, members of Ialoni Ensemble, stand on a bridge.
Ialoni Ensemble. Photo by Levan Vaznareli.

When we premiered the concert video on Facebook, we also provided some links to additional Georgian resources that might interest anyone who enjoys the concert:

Woman standing on a carpet, outside, near a tree
“Gruzinki [Georgian Woman],” ca. 1910, by photographer Serge Mikha lovich Prokudin-Gorskui [1863-1944], who pioneered the use of three-color separation to produce color photos. Prokudin-Gorski photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Find the full record here.
The Library’s Prokudin-Gorskii Collection contains color photos of the Russian Empire from 1905 to 1915. Find 141 photos of Georgia at this link. Or you can find out about that collection, and look at all the photos throughout the former Russian empire, at this link.

AFC’s Alan Lomax Collection contains approximately 100 recordings of Georgian traditional music gathered by Alan Lomax in Russia and Georgia in 1964. Lomax dubbed some of the recordings from the archives of Radio Moscow; copied some from the collection at the Georgian Conservatory of Music in Tbilisi, Georgia, with the help of the Georgian Union of Composers; and collected some at a traditional feast organized in his honor in Sidili, Eastern Georgia.

AFC included a polyphonic song from Georgia in a podcast on Winter Songs. You can download that podcast, read more about the song, and see a great picture of Georgian men dressed for a formal feast, at this link.

AFC has presented concerts and lectures about Georgian polyphony before including presentations by Malkhaz Erkvanidze, John Graham, and the Anchiskhati Choir. Find videos of those presentations gathered together in the blog post at this link.

Thanks for watching, listening, reading, and exploring! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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