Nana Mzhavanadze

Nana Mzhavanadze (right) interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.
Photo: Frank Scherbaum
Nana Mzhavanadze interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.

Nana Mzhavanadze is an ethnomusicologist, professional singer and international teacher of Georgian traditional music. She received her master’s degree in Musicology from V. Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatory (1990). She holds a PhD in Art History and Theory (specialty – Ethnomusicology) from Tbilisi’s Ilia State University (2018). Her PhD thesis, “Musicological and Anthropological Aspects of Svan Sacred Ritual” consists of a study of Svan ritual song using an interdisciplinary approach. 

Nana was born in Guria region, Georgia, to a traditional singing family. Her grandparents as well as her father’s grandparents, were Gurian song-masters. In late 1980s and early 1990s, she took an active part in the revival of Georgian traditional church music, which had been banned and forgotten for many decades, first during Russian Tsarism and later during Soviet times. Along with the famous Anchiskhati men’s choir, which pioneered the revival of traditional chants, Nana began singing with the choir of Jvaris Mama church. This choir, consisting of students of the conservatoire, was at that time the first and only female church choir in the whole country. Years later, these few devotees were reunited to sing again under their  current name “Sathanao”.

In 2008 Nana met a Scottish traditional  singer, Madge Bray. She was also born into a traditional singers’ family in Scotland and shared Nana’s passion for preserving traditional music as an instrument to promote human harmony. Together they sought to study and spread Georgian music. Later they continued their work in the remote village of Lakhushdi in the High Caucasus in Svaneti, where polyphony remained a way of life. There, Nana has played an instrumental role in leading an international project devoted to  preservation and revival of the local cultural heritage. The village of Lakhushdi provided her with a rich study area for her doctoral thesis.

The year 2014 was another turning point. That year, Nana met Frank Scherbaum, with whom she started a very fruitful collaboration, which continues to this day. To systematically study Georgian traditional music, they began combining classical ethnomusicological methods with computational approaches. As a first step, and in order to collect recordings of sufficient quality for their computational processing, they undertook a joint three-month field expedition in the summer of 2016 to record Georgian music using larynx microphones (together with traditional recording equipment). The material obtained during this field expedition is the basis of the current research project „Computational Analysis of Traditional Georgian Vocal Music (GVM)“, where she is currently working as a postdoc researcher. 

Nana’s research activities in recent years have become more and more interdisciplinary and are increasingly moving towards the emerging field of computational ethnomusicology. Within the GVM project she is engaged in the following areas of research: combining computational methods with classical musicological approaches for regional/local musical syntax analysis, studying musical-linguistic relations in traditional Georgian repertoire, developing unbiased visual representations of non-western music. A particular concern of hers is to include cultural contextual information into computational analysis.

Nana Mzhavanadze (right) interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.
Photo: Frank Scherbaum
Nana Mzhavanadze interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.

Publications (2015 - 2020)


Mzhavanadze, N. & F. Scherbaum, (2020a). Svan Funeral Dirges (Zär): Cultural context, LaZar Database ( . (PDF)

Mzhavanadze, N. & F. Scherbaum, (2020b). Svan Funeral Dirges (Zär): Musicological Analysis, Musicologist, 4, 2, 168-197, DOI: 10.33906/musicologist.782185. (PDF)

Mzhavanadze, N. & F. Scherbaum (2020c), Zär, polyphonic group laments from Svaneti/Georgia, Video presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Ethnomusicology, Ottawa, 2020 Oct 30. (Video)

Scherbaum, F., Mzhavanadze, M., Arom, Rosenzweig, S., and  Müller, M. (2020). Tonal Organization of the Erkomaishvili Dataset: Pitches, Scales, Melodies and Harmonies,  Computational Analysis Of Traditional Georgian Vocal Music, 1, 64 pp., (PDF)

Scherbaum, F.  & Mzhavanadze, N. (2020a). Svan Funeral Dirges (Zär): Musical Acoustical Analysis of a New Collection of Field Recordings, Musicologist, 4, 2, 138-167, DOI: 10.33906/musicologist.782094. (PDF)

Scherbaum, F. & Mzhavanadze, Nana. (2020b). “Svan Funeral Dirges (Zär): Language-Music Relation and Phonetic Properties”, unpublished manuscript. (PDF


Mzhavanadze, N., & Chamgeliani, M. (2019). Analysis of mutual influence of music and text in Svan songs. In 9th International Workshop on Folk Music Analysis, 2-4 July, 2019 Birmingham (PDF).

Scherbaum, F., Mzhavanadze, N., Rosenzweig, S., & Müller, M. (2019). Multi-media recordings of traditional Georgian vocal music for computational analysis. In 9th International Workshop on Folk Music Analysis, 2-4 July, 2019. Birmingham.  (PDF) (Video)


Scherbaum,F.,  S. Rosenzweig, M. Müller, D.  Vollmer, & N. Mzhavanadze (2018). Throat Microphones for Vocal Music Analysis, in Demos and Late Breaking News of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference (ISMIR), 2018.  (Link)

Scherbaum, F., Mzhavanadze, N. & E. Dadunashvili  (2018). A Web-Based, Long-Term Archive of Audio, Video, and Larynx-Microphone Field Recordings of Traditional Georgian Singing, Praying and Lamenting with Special Emphasis on Svaneti. 9th International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony, 30 Oct - Nov.3.  (PDF)

Scherbaum, F., & Mzhavanadze, N. (2018). A new archive of multichannel-multimedia field recordings of traditional Georgian singing , praying, and lamenting with special emphasis on Svaneti.  LaZAR-Database. (Link)

Mzhavanadze, N. (2018). Svanuri sak’ult’o rit’ualis musik’ologiur-antrop’ologiuri asp’ekt’ebi (Musicological and anthropological aspects of Svan sacred ritual). PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Ilia State University. (PDF)


Mzhavanadze, N. (2016). On One Cadence Articulation in Svan Singing Repertoire. In The Eight International Symposium on Traditional polyphony; 26-30 September, Tbilisi, Georgia. (pp. 365–374). (PDF)

Mzhavanadze, N., & Chamgeliani, M. (2016). On the Problem of Asemantic Texts of Svan Songs. Kadmos7(8), 49–109. (PDF)


Mzhavanadze, N. (2015). An Articulation Phenomenon in Svan Singing Repertoire. In International Conference on Regional Investigations of Musical Folklore; Vilnius, Lithuinia, December 2-5, 2015. (PDF)

Mzhavanadze, N. (2015). Sashemsruleblo pormebis sak’itkhisatvis svanur sasimghero rep’ert’uarshi (On the issue of performing forms in the singing repertoire of Svans). In Khalkhuri da saek’lesio musik’is sashemsruleblo p’roblemebi (Problems of perfoming in folk and church music). Batumi G. Garakanidze 10th International Festival of Folk and Church music (pp. 246–268).