Songs of the Pontic Greeks in Abkhazia

Field notes of Nicholas Shingarova and his brother Constantine, Pontic Greeks living in Abkhazia. Recording ancient songs of the Pontic Greeks part of the job Fred Recordings, the awesome label from Nalchik, which produces traditional music of the peoples of the Caucasus: the Circassian, Chechen, Dargin, Lak. That’s how they tell themselves about the circumstances of the recording:

“This is one of the four releases, we recorded in Abkhazia together with the international ethnographic project, the Sayat Nova Project. Of course, mainly in this expedition, we were interested in the music of indigenous people — Abkhazians. But a lot of effort we have made to the search for the performers of traditional music of other ethnic groups living on the territory of Abkhazia.

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Our plan included the recording of folklore Hamshen Armenians and Pontic Greeks. Unfortunately, Armenian by our team failed to meet. But with the Pontiacs were more fortunate. Pontic cultural center has provided us with contacts your the only folk musician in Abkhazia, Nikolay Shingarova.

Nicholas lives in the village Chernigovka of Gulripsh district, doing housework, and in her spare time plays on the Greek lyre (stringed instrument). This is all the information that we had prior to our personal acquaintance with him. After long communication with local residents, we are the company with the taxi driver still managed to find the house Shingarova, which stood at some distance from other houses.

On the day of recording, we were lucky twice. First, in addition to Nicholas Shingarova at his home, we met his cousin, Constantine Shingarova, which although not played on folk instruments, but he knows and sings some of the Pontian songs. So instead of solo performance, we were able to record a real family Duo.

Second, dry folkloristic the recording session have failed. Shingarova brothers and all the house the family gave us a real feast whose purpose was not only music but also a pleasant pastime. So, homemade food, alcohol, good wishes and, of course, music created the special atmosphere, where we always hunt, although not everyone manages to achieve it.

On the spot recording pretty much failed to learn about the collected tunes and songs. Brothers Shingarova not experts in the field of folklore, though doubtless his native. On the question of what song we just heard, we were not able to answer more specific than “Pontic” or “vintage”. Maybe it affects the fact that both brothers were not professional musicians, and their knowledge received from their parents or older neighbors by oral tradition.

Later we turned to knowledgeable people, and we were told that all the melodies and songs collected by us, are in fact authentic Pontic folklore. Also interesting is the fact that Constantine was improvising while singing and mixing verses from different songs. Their names, therefore, given for the first line sung poetry.”

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