Zurab J. Gagnidze


Zurab J. Gagnidze

Bass, vocal, arrangement

They say that Zurab began singing at the age of three. Actually, he didn’t have much choice—almost everyone in his family sang. At any given point in time, there were between nine and eleven people living in his apartment; friends were always gathering, there was always singing in the air. Zurab could stand listening, transfixed, for hours. He could recognize nearly all the album covers and knew all the best-loved melodies by heart. When he was ten years old, Zurab began to study voice with one of his grandmothers, a Georgian song enthusiast. In the ninth grade Zurab and his friends signed up for the school’s guitar ensemble, but the ensemble lasted just three months. After that, Zurab spent several months studying with a prominent rock guitarist, and then switched to bass. In the tenth grade he formed his first band. They covered Deep Purple and the Beatles, then when the first jazz-rock bands appeared, they fell in love with Chicago. One of their first concerts caused a sensation that sent waves rippling throughout the entire school.

Zurab enrolled as a student of information technology at Georgian Technical University. The university was rich with musical and artistic life; the Uni’s student theater was acclaimed not only in Georgia, but abroad as well. Each year the Uni held an inter-faculty music festival; nearly every faculty had its own ensemble. Zurab took part in the festival beginning in his fourth year, as a member of the Uni big band. Zurab received wide acclaim and was invited to perform for television and radio. Zurab was later invited to play bass in the university ensemble “Khomli,” whose repertoire included original compositions based on Georgian traditional music.

Zurab graduated from the university with honor and began graduate studies in London. For thirteen years Zurab worked in the department of information technology studies at Georgian Technical University and continued to play music. Then, one fine day, guitarist Zaza Miminoshvili walked into the department and proposed to Zurab that they play together. That moment initiated a long creative collaboration between these two musicians. In 1990 they founded the group “Adio.” (Incidentally, the bass that Zurab plays on the album “Adio” was purchased in London when he was a graduate student.) This was the culmination of a long search for a compelling synthesis of traditional Georgian and contemporary music. One night the renowned Georgian composer Giya Kancheli (ECM) showed up at an “Adio” concert. He was impressed with what he heard and proposed that the musicians compose music for a Robert Sturua theater production. Much of the music featured in Rustaveli Theater productions originated this way.

In 1993 “Adio” was invited to record an album and tour in Germany; the musicians remained there for several months. As it turned out, for Zurab that tour has continued to this day. Being in Germany, Zurab took part in Okay Temiz’s famous “Black Sea Project” as a Georgian representative and in many more international music festivals in subsequent years. He has composed music for films and theatrical productions, led seminars on Georgian polyphony, and performed with Giora Feidman, Randy Brecker, Chaka Khan, Ramesh Shotam, Jorge Pardo and other renowned musicians. In 1998 Zurab with Zaza founded the duet “The Shin”; in 2000 they were joined by the gifted vocalist and percussionist Mamuka Ghaghanidze.

Zurab with The Shin launched project “EgAri,” in 2005 (In Georgian, “that’s it!”). This was the result of many years of experimentation and creative thinking about Georgian traditional music. The project required that Zurab with the band members work meticulously with musical material, trying at once to preserve its originality and instill it with a fresh sound. This is Zurab’s perspective on tradition in general, and on how to ideally practice it not only for an elite circle, but for young and old, for Georgians and for people from many countries who, just now finding out that a country called Georgia exists, respect and even love it thanks to the music of The Shin.