If you’re stuck in Tbilisi and wondering how to cool off and have fun this weekend, head on up to the annual Art Gene folk festival, the best way to get to know Georgian culture, music and cuisine and simultaneously chill in the lap of nature. The festival, marking its 15th anniversary this year, is set to bring all the most important elements of Georgian culture into one space for a mixed local and foreign audience. This year the festival started on June 21 in the regions of Georgia and toured around Adjara, Guria, Imereti, Lechkhumi for nine days, making it the largest-scale regional tour in its history.
Over the years, Art Gene has proven to be one of the most successful, self-sustained festivals attended by all generations, since it covers a wide range of cultural activities. The series of concerts start in the regions of Georgia and end up in the capital Tbilisi, at the Open Air Museum of Georgia, which itself showcases the regions of Georgia through the typical architecture of each, dating back centuries.
The Art Gene Festival was formed by a group of friends whose mission was to identify problems associated with traditional and folk culture and find ways to solve them. Apart from organizing concerts and cultural events, the group has carried out significant investigation in the regions of Georgia by exploring local culture, folk music, various forms of art and customs, and chronicling them.
This year, as per tradition, the festival is to present the bright stars of Georgian contemporary music as well as folk music ensembles and performers from different parts of the country. In Tbilisi, the festival opens on July 8 with the concert of celebrated Georgian musician Nino Katamadze & ‘Insight,’ on July 9 ‘Asea Sul’ (a brother-sister duo from Batumi) takes to the stage, for the first time this year on 10 July there’ll be a day of Hip-Hop, on July 11 Robi Kukhianidze & ‘Outsider’ will perform, on July 12 there’ll be popular Georgian group ‘Frani,’ on July 13 Georgian ballet ‘Sukhishvilebi,’ on 14 July the first Georgian reggae group ‘Reggaeon’ and on July 15 the festival will be closed the popular Georgian folk-rock band Niaz Diasamidze & 33a.
Solomon Gogashvili, one of the organizers of the festival, gave a brief overview of Art Gene 2018.
“This year the festival counts 15 years of its existence,” he told GEORGIA TODAY. “The series of Art Gene events throughout western Georgia has already finished. This year, Art Gene had its grand opening in Keda, in the highlands of the Adjara region, coinciding with the opening of a newly-erected monument dedicated to the homeland. From Keda, the festival moved to Lanchkhuti and was followed by concerts in Tskaltubo and Tsageri. All the concerts in the regions were held for free, so the locals were able to attend and take part in the jam sessions.”
The musicians who took part in Art Gene and preserved their authentic style and bands are presented in this year’s program.
“I’m glad that many new local ensembles that have emerged in the regions of Georgia are taking part in the festival,” Gogashvili told us. “There are also a lot of older ensembles that have breathed new life into folk and will perform in front of the public with a renovated program. From 8 to July 15, each day will be dedicated to a particular region of Georgia, introducing its unique culture and music to the guests.”
He went on to speak of other novelties being set up this year besides traditional folk music and contemporary Georgian singers: one day of the festival will be dedicated to Georgian rap. On July 10, after the folk shows of the Imereti and Abkhazia regions, a hip-hop show will be held. Young Georgian hip-hop performers will have the chance to demonstrate their talent and introduce Georgian rap to the audience. Additionally, ‘Shavparosnebi’ (Black Shields) a Georgian martial arts federation that is known for its combat art performances, will also once again showcase their combat skills and present the art of Georgian battle to spectators.
“Shavparosnebi have been integral part of our festival over 15 years. This year they will deliver the show on July 14. As a supplement, the area will also see various entertaining games and the traditional Georgian game Lelo,” one of the organizers told us.
Apart from concerts, the festival will also showcase traditional Georgian handicraft, various types of art, including black-smithery, tannery, jewelry, cloisonné enamel, basket making, knitting, weaving, sewing, embroidery, “gobelin”, cloth and felt-making, musical instruments, pottery and ceramics, carpentry and stonemasonry, wood carving and, most importantly, Georgian cuisine. Guests will be able to enjoy traditional organic food brought by peasants, including delicious bread, barbeque, cheese and wine.
As Gaga Chikhladze, the lead singer of Georgian group Frani and one of the organizers told us, those who want to explore Georgia within eight days, this is the best and easiest way to get deeper insight into the country’s culture, traditional arts, hospitality and national cuisine.
“This is a festival that has been held annually since 2004, having kept the same meaning and goals. Within the frames of Art Gene, contemporary Georgian groups Frani and Reggaeon held several concerts in the regions. The festival also gave local artists and musicians the chance to perform in front of the audience and introduce their songs typical to the place where they come from. The festival also brings the representatives of all regions to Tbilisi, to introduce Georgian folk music, traditional songs and culture,” Chikhladze noted. “The festival is aimed at preserving Georgian culture and promoting Georgian folklore and ancient traditions, dances and other customs. Through the festival, these important elements have been archived and transferred to new generations- spreading Georgian culture and raising awareness among young generations.”
Those who want to attend the festival, spend the weekend in a pleasant environment, listen to Georgian music and enjoy good food should drop into the Open Air Museum of Ethnography, on the road to Turtle Lake in Tbilisi. Tickets can be bought online from the Facebook page as well as at the gate.