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 gained her MA in Musicology at V. Sarajishvili Tbilisi State Conservatoire (1990) and went on to obtain her PhD in Art History and Theory (specializing in Ethnomusicology) at Tbilisi’s Ilia State University (2018). Her PhD thesis, “Musicological and Anthropological Aspects of Svan Sacred Ritual” consists of research into Svan ritual song using an interdisciplinary approach. 

Nana Mzhavanadze was born in the Guria region of Georgia into a traditional singing family. Her grandparents and great grandparents from her father’s side were Gurian “songmasters“. In late 1980s and early1990s, she became actively involved in the revival of Georgian traditional church music which was banned and forgotten for many decades first during Russian Tsarist and later during Soviet times. Alongside the famous Anchiskhati male choir, who pioneered the revival of ancient chants, Nana started to sing with the choir of Jvaris Mama church . This choir, comprising students of the conservatoire was the first and only female church choir in the whole country at that time.  Years later,  these few devotees reunited to sing again under their  current name “Sathanao”.

In 2008 Nana met a Scottish traditional  singer, Madge Bray. She too had been born into a traditional singing family in Scotland and shared Nana’s passion for the conservation of traditional music as a tool for promoting human harmony.  Together they set up an NGO, in Tbilisi, dedicated to the exploration and proliferation of Georgian music. Later they continued their work in the  remote High Caucasus Lakhushdi  village in Svaneti  where polyphony remained a way of life. Nana was instrumental in spearheading an international musical and cultural inheritance project there. Lakhushdi village was to provide a rich study area in which part of her PhD research was to take place. 

2014 was to represent another turning point. During that same year Nana Mzhavanadze met Frank Scherbaum, together with whom she started a yet ongoing, very fruitful collaboration. They started to combine classical ethnomusicological methods with  computational approaches to study Georgian traditional music in a systematic way. As a first step and in order to collect recordings suitable for the application of computational tools, they performed a joint three-month field expedition during the summer of 2016  aiming at recording Georgian music with larynx microphones (together with the traditional recording means). The material obtained during this field expedition is the core of the research project „Computational Anaylsis of Traditional Georgian Vocal Music (GVM)“ in which she is currently working as a postdoc researcher. 

 Nana Mzhavanadze’s research activities during the last years have become increasingly inter-disciplinary and have moved more and more into the newly evolved field of Computational Ethnomusicology.  Here current research  areas are : 

  • the music-language interaction in Svan music which is following from the core of her PhD work, 
  • the investigation of regional/local characteristics via extensive field work, and most recently 
  • combining classical ethnomusicological methods with  computational approaches to investigate various research questions related to Computational Ethnomusicology.
Nana Mzhavanadze (right) interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.
Photo: Frank Scherbaum
Nana Mzhavanadze interviewing Bochia Kaldani in Adishi.


Scherbaum, F., Mzhavanadze, M., Arom, Rosenzweig, S., and  Müller, M. (2020). Tonal Organization of the Erkomaishvili Dataset: Pitches, Scales, Melodies and Harmonies,  Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal, submitted for publication.

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, and 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. (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).

Mzhavanadze, N., & Chamgeliani, M. (2015). On the Problem of Asemantic Texts of Svan Songs. Kadmos7(8), 49–109. (PDF)