By Elizabeth Doyle

Caucasus Mountains, near Mestia village, upper Svaneti

Mdzlevar – Georgia is a really interesting country.  It’s not physically in Europe, and yet, many people consider it to be the place “where Europe began.”  It was one of the first Christian countries in the world.  Many of the important European legends started there. For example, most European images of chivalry and knights in shining armor etc, probably didn’t come from the countries we imagine they came from.  Most likely, they came from here.  Georgia had its Renaissance far earlier than Europe did, and ideas of romance, True Love, and gallantry were a huge part of its Golden Age. Georgians have a distinct language, alphabet, architecture, clothing, and musical tradition.  And it if weren’t for all of the trouble they’ve had with their neighbors over the centuries, (Everybody likes to conquer them), it’s mind-boggling to think where they might have been today.

Really, it’s amazing that they’ve kept so much of their culture through all of the hostile take-overs. But they have. Even if it seems like their culture rarely leaves their borders anymore!  For example, this choir called Mdzlevar sings the most beautiful ancient Georgian music. Yet, from what I know, they rarely get invited to sing it in foreign lands!  Well, let’s see if we can garner them some fans.  Here they are, singing music you just won’t hear anywhere else, from a tiny country in the Caucasian Mountains that’s been there nearly forever, and influenced so much of the world, but sometimes seems forgotten!  Click here.

Performance near Nagoya Castle by other drummers, not Kodo

Kodo –  Taiko, a traditional Japanese drum, is a really exciting instrument. At least, when these guys play it, it is!  Taiko come in different sizes, but generally speaking, they’re large drums, sometimes huge, and it actually takes some athleticism to play them well.  Traditionally, the drumming starts off slowly and then builds up to an “emergency.”  The legend is that these drums were invented by a goddess who banged on them with her feet to cause the sun to rise again during a time of darkness. They were definitely used in wars during feudal Japan to signal soldiers what to do next. But today, taiko are being put to very good use by groups like Kodo, who are giving stirring performances like these:

Mercedes Sosa

Mercedes Sosa – The music world lost a real legend a couple of years ago. Mercedes was known as the “voice of the voiceless” because she sang many songs written by people who would otherwise have likely remained anonymous songwriters in South America.  She herself was born and raised in Argentina.  Blessed with a rich voice that everyone loved, she was practically a singing star already by the time she grew to be an adult! She sang both Argentine folk music, and South American Nueva cancion.  That’s music that’s committed to delivering messages about important social causes.  Although she always called Argentina her home, her career took her all across the globe. She sang at the Roman Coliseum, Carnegie Hall, and even the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.  She’ll be very missed: Click here.

Top photo: Ilia Torlin / Dreamstime.com / Caucasus Mountains, near Mestia village, upper Svaneti

Second photo: Wikimedia Commons / Chris 73 / Taiko performance near Nagoya Castle/ creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0

Third photo: Wikimedia Commons / public domain / Mercedes Sosa