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Georgian Folk with Ilusha

The country of Georgia, situated at the border of Asia and Europe, is home to one of the oldest known polyphonic traditions: a style of three-part harmony, traditionally sung a capella by choirs. As Georgia’s folk music evolved, instruments were added into the mix. Musical performance is largely a part of social activities; for example, songs are regularly sung as toasts at large feasts, or supras. There are more than a dozen regional styles of folk music within Georgia, each with its own musical trademarks and identity.

Ilusha has taken this Georgian tradition and transplanted it to Brooklyn. He was born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1983. His family immigrated to the United States when he was eight, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, and Georgia was slipping into civil war. He studied jazz in college but soon circled back to the music of his homeland. A singer, guitarist, composer, and arranger, Ilusha creates music that includes both distinctly personal interpretations of traditional Georgian folk songs and his own original songs. Ilusha’s music pushes the boundaries of what it means for a folk song to be relevant outside of its original context and asks the question: What happens when ancient musical traditions from a little nation on the Black Sea find refuge in New York City?

Meet Ilusha!

Introduce your students to Ilusha with this “Meet Ilusha” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Ilusha and the other Program Seven artists.


Ushguli mountainside
Lesson 1: Learning “Shina Vorgil”
Students will sing “Shina Vorgil” in choirs; learn about call-and-response form, harmony, and accelerando; and experience spatial effects.
Ilusha and friends
Lesson 2: Learning “Shen Genatsvale”
Students learn the refrain of “Shen Genatsvale”; explore the differences between two versions of the song; and explore the meaning of the lyrics.

Resources for Teachers

The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.

Image Credits

View of the Ushguli village at the foot of Mt. Shkhara by Creative Travel Projects.
Ilusha Tsinadze childhood photo courtesy of artist.

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