Saturday, July 19, 2008

Georgia Swings

Vakhtang Kikabidze, Georgia's most popular singer, turns 70 today. He is still poular all over the former Soviet Union, especially in Russia; starring in Mimino, one of the 1970s most popular Soviet movies, made him a national superstar, and everybody in the Union, even if they could not say a word in Georgian, murmured his theme song from that movie: chito-gvrito, chito-margalito, dah... But this is not why I write about Kikabidze today: thing is, initially he was a jazz drummer, and swung really hard. Here's his early video footage from late 1960s. It's Orero, Georgia's most popular group at that time. Orero was not exactly a jazz group: they sung complex harmonies (four- and even five-part harmonies are intergal part of Georgian folk music, and most Georgians sing them naturally) over the background of a regular jazz piano trio. Kikabidze was the drummer in the band and also sung scat solos where 1,500-years-old tradition of Georgian chants interacted with African-American swing. This little video was shot in Moscow, apparently by the Soviet Central Television, and it's so nice and funny to see how Russian capital looked forty years ago, without too many skyscrapers and neon lights. Vakhtang Kikabidze's solo starts around 2:11.

BTW Kikabidze still lives in Tbilisi, Georgia, but was awarded by a state medal of Russia by the Russian president earlier today.

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