Songs of Defiance: Music of Chechnya and the North Caucasus
Just at the moment when you think you have a grasp on most indigenous European music along comes something that blows away all your preconceptions. Although the North Caucasus is technically part of Europe the music on this seems to come from some mysterious other place, with its uncommon intensity, its rough-hewn energy and its powerful social engagement. Much of the material, text as well as music, is profoundly moving and very beautiful, often recorded under difficult circumstances. There are some quite wonderful performers – both solo singers, ensembles and instrumentalists – and Michael Church has done us a great service by bringing such fine and poignant music to our attention.
Songs of Survival: Traditional Music of Georgia
The Georgians are probably the most musical people on earth and this generous two CD set demonstrates the way in which music permeates all areas of Georgian life. The division between professional and amateur becomes meaningless; such is the commitment of the professional, and the skill of the amateur. Although the two CDs are divided ostensibly between the secular (work, celebration) and the sacred (church, family life), there is so much free interchange between them: music by a group of professional wrestlers, for example, connected to improvised dance music, or music from around the family table. Everywhere there is the staggeringly beautiful three-part vocal polyphony – whether it is a wedding song, lullaby, or richly dissonant religious chant. The recordings are powerful and evocative and give a wonderful cross section of the music of a society in which any musician would give his right arm to live.