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Odoia - Mengrelian Folk Songs
[Audio CD]


Although the cultural anthropology of Samegrelo has not been systematically studied, the following section provides a glimpse into some of the social and cultural features that set it apart from the other Georgian regions.

Many of Samegrelo’s people speak a language—Mingrelian, also known as Megrelian or Megruili—that split off in the first millennium BCE from the language that evolved into modern Georgian.

Starting in 1801, three successive Russian Tsars—Paul I, Nikolas I, and Alexander II—abolished the Georgian kingdoms and principalities, and sought to assimilate the Georgian nation into Russia. One of the principal means by which this assimilation was pursued was an attempt to break down Georgians’ common linguistic identity into smaller parts. Thus, in the second half of the 19th century, the Russians began to replace the Georgian language in Samegrelo’s schools and churches with Mingrelian; tried to introduce a separate script for the Mingrelian language; and sought to translate culturally defining works such as the Bible and the epic 12th century Georgian poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin into Mingrelian. However, the plan proved unsuccessful. Many common people opposed it by staying away from Mingrelian church services and keeping their children out of the public schools, while members of the aristocracy led protests against it. In the face of strong opposition, the Russians relented and discontinued the operation.

Mingrelian folk music is polyphonic, with lyrics in the Mingrelian language. Songs tend to have a melancholic tempo and feel; Mingrelians claim their music reflects the tragic history of their frequently war-torn and impoverished land. Mingrelian romantic songs are often accompanied by the chonguri, a distinctive wooden four-string instrument.

The best-known Mingrelian folk song is the lullaby “Megruli Nana.” Some scholars speculate that the enigmatic words of the refrain, Nana Nanina, are the names of an ancient goddess of summer. The tune from “Megruli Nana” was used by the Russian composer Tchaikovsky in his popular Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. Another well-known song of the region, “Dadianis Modzakhili,” honors the Dadiani family.
Date Added: 04/15/2013 by Kokaia Ilo
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