Overview: The Southern Caucasus

West Asia and the Middle East: Georgia (Supra)

This week our online class takes us to one of the world's “roughest neighborhoods” – the Caucasus Mountains. There we're going to tip our toes into Azerbaijan and Armenian music – we sing songs this season from both – but we're really going to put our focus on Georgia.

The country Georgia is located in the Caucasus Mountains beside Azerbaijan and Armenia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, and also between three empires -- the Persians, the Ottomans and the Russians -- which were quick to conquer. The countries of the South Caucasus are now independent. Each of the three nations of the Southern Caucasus has its own language, its own culture and its own history. Each also has its own long list of historic struggles, and each has had to face them and press ahead in its own unique way. The three have often had the inclination to unite, first in an unsuccessful attempt after World War I to form the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, then, within the USSR, as part of the Transcaucasian Federation, which disbanded in 1936--but unfortunately, as of late, each of these little countries has had a hard time living beside its neighbors in peace.    

In class we sing:

-- "We Are Happy," a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class. This week we sing hello in Georgian: "Garmarjoba."

-- “Shogher Jan” is a traditional Armenian song that we sing while waiting for the winter-time return of our friend. (More.

-- “Siki Siki Baba” is a Turkish tune about a “strict strict father” who threatens to stand in the way of true love. (More.)  

-- “Hele Hele” is a party song from Armenia that inspires us to get up and shake our bottoms. (More.)  

-- “Jeyran” is a love song from Azerbaijan, extoling the virtues of the strong and stalwart deer. (More.)  


Today's Armenian artists respect their nation's thousands of years of musical tradition but they also find inspiration in music from around the world. One of the most popular, and controversial, new Armenian musical genres is called rabiz, which blends Armenian folk with melodic modern pop. Not everyone approves. For example, from Wikipedia's entry on the music of Armenia: "Rabiz music is distinguished by low quality of lyrics and music with elements of Armenian folk music, though often deformed to such an extent that are becoming more similar to Arabic or Turkish ethnic music not Armenian." Rabiz is known as "laborer's music," a genre of pop that captivates Armenian youth both in Armenia and abroad, especially in Armenian communities throughout Russia and in Los Angeles. Both creators and fans of the catchy dance pop have developed their own street-level fashion and fast-moving, partying lifestyle.

One of the giants of rabiz is Tata Simonyam, known as "Tata" to his fans. Tata Simonyan, is Armenian rabiz music's most poplar international star. Not only Tata has won award after musical award in Armenia and Russia, but he has toured extensively, bringing his energetic form of Armenian pop to fans around the world from 45 Russian cities to a much-anticipated 2010 show at the Los Angeles Staples Center. Watch Tata rock the house on "Karapner" (were you at the show? were you the fan in the front row who handed him a strange thing shaped like a chicken?)  



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