K’asletila is a Svan1 women’s ensemble from Udabno, a settlement of 180 residents in the desert near the border with Azerbaijan. The members of K’asletila have a unique story that brought them together from the high peaks of the Caucasus to the desert:
On the morning of January 9th 1987 in Svaneti, after four days and four nights of snow so deep the villagers had built tunnels to one another’s homes, a devastating avalanche struck. Many died in the following days, and the residents of the worst-hit villages were relocated to the plains.
Today, Pikria Margiani leads this ensemble of ten women. Through their songs, with grace and courage, the group strives to keep Svan tradition alive in a place much different than the land of their ancestors.
Ensemble Members: Pikria Margiani; Khatuna Margiani, Lia P’irveli, Tsutsa Naveriani; Nazi Parjiani; Dodo Parjiani; Nana Gvidani; Tamar Gvidani; Irma Muk’vani; Tamari Tamliani.
1Svaneti is a region in northwestern Georgia, perched high in the Caucasus Mountains. The local language is Svan, one of four Kartvelian languages spoken in Georgia. Due to its isolation, Svaneti more than other regions has retained many of its ancient customs, including its unique choral singing tradition. Most Svan songs are antiphonal, alternating between two choirs, and are performed in a round dance. The ch'unir, a 3-stringed bowed lute, and the changi, a harp mostly played by women, are frequently used to accompany singing.