About Darbazi

“stunning harmony” — Chris Kennedy, Musicworks

“vocal polyphony at its finest” — Karen Ages, WholeNote


Founded in 1995, Darbazi is a Toronto-based ensemble devoted to the performance of traditional vocal music from the republic of Georgia, a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia with a centuries-old tradition of polyphonic singing. Darbazi’s repertoire ranges from rollicking work songs to exquisite lullabies to elegiac table songs, spine-tingling krimanchuli yodelling, and majestic sacred chants. This eight-member ensemble has worked continually over many years to extend their fluency and understanding of this extraordinary music.

Darbazi released their first CD Music From Beyond the Black Sea in 2000, and second CD Vakhtanguri in 2008. They travel regularly to Georgia to study with master singers in various regions of the country, and they have performed at the International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2002, 2006 and 2012.

Darbazi has also performed at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, at the Toronto Botanical Gardens World Music Series, as guests of Kevin Mallon’s Aradia Ensemble at Glenn Gould Studio, at Sing! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival, at Canwest Cabaret Festival, Small World Music Festival, Fête de la Musique, Doors Open Toronto, at the World Music Festival in Montreal, and at Festival 500 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The uniqueness of traditional Georgian polyphony was affirmed with UNESCO’s 2001 proclamation that the music is a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Georgian songs come in a plethora of regional styles: from haunting drones paired with intricately ornamented duets in the eastern province of Kakheti, to the exploding counterpoint of the province of Guria in the west, to the stark and dissonant ritual chants of the mountain people of Svaneti. The deep roots of Christianity in Georgia have given rise to a tradition of exquisite liturgical songs. And contemporary life has brought forth a new tradition of ‘city songs’: urban Georgian folk music.

Even with a history of oppression that has continued in recent history, the Georgian people have never lost sight of their ancient and richly unique culture. Because of the work of many contemporary Georgian singers and scholars, there is now a resurgence of interest in traditional Georgian music, not only in Georgia but internationally. Darbazi hopes to spread that enthusiasm amongst Canadians and aid its dissemination around the world.