“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” is a Negro spiritual written in the late nineteenth century that echoes the slavish existence of African-Americans during those times. Pier Paolo Pasolini used this melody in his film, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew”, in a scene which pictures shepherds coming to see infant Christ. In the very next clip, Joseph, Mary, and little Jesus have to leave their native Bethlehem, due to dangers young messiah might face.
I think it is an interesting parallel, especially in terms of the musical effect.
Parallels can be found anywhere, even in different, opposing mediums, because we, as a global society, are always connected through the chain of events, be it one way, or another.
Metaphysical loneliness of being is a recurring theme in the work of Vazha-Pshavela, one such example being his iconic poem, “Populus”, that discusses the unfortunate fate of an anthropomorphic violet:
Oh, how pitiful is the violet,
That came to be on mountains!
Wretched, always harmed by cold,
Or stricken by lightning, on its top;
God gave the pitiful,
A short lifespan,
In this realm, for its loveliness,
A mere second of existence, is the plan,
When violet starts to wilt,
“Oh!” to god, it will weep:
“Why was I given life, O’Lord,
If a short stay, was my reward?”
Populus, like a “motherless child”, also happens to be a slave of a cruel fate, doomed to suffer and die alone…
From Negro spirituals to modern hip-hop, African-American music has been a steady guide to understanding the complex and tragic history of those brave people, but in terms of influence on popular culture, jazz music definetly takes the lead: emerging from the brothels of New Orleans, the saying goes that if you play something in a spur of a moment, then it’s most definetly jazz! But the main question of this essay is, does it have anything to do with Georgian culture? It does and i already mentioned the answer above: the spur of a moment. If you think about it, the craddle of our country lies in words born from the spur of a moment that we call spoken folk poetry: Tush kaphya, for example, which is also popular in other mountainous regions of Georgia.
Kaphya (Arabic:Rhyme) is a poetic genre of Georgian oral tradition, a satirical-humorous poem, which is created through verse competitions (much like a rap battle). Questions and answers are obtained through poems, both by someone else and by one’s own poems. In Pshav-Khevsureti, Kaphya is also known as the poem of self, in fact, the practice was so well-known in the region of Pshavi, that Vazha himself wrote one:
(dedicated to Shio of the Cave)
Receive this small offering
From your brother,-
My heart aches as well,
I know the feeling of being oppressed by the enemy all too well,
Teach children by using their means,
Those tunes, that are close to the heart,
The love for nature and greens,
And our ancestor’s way of war.
Keeper of secrets for our daughters and sons,
You slog silently in your cave,
The fortune and misfortune of the little ones,
On your heart feels like an ulcer, engraved.
Who knows, when will the time come again,
For me to approve, the words that are spoken raw by men,
So, I am sending you my regards,
As well as brotherly hugs!
To understand the poem, it is important to know who Shio of the Cave was:
An ecclesiastical figure, one of the Assyrian fathers, founder of Shiomghvimi Monastery Complex, devoted believer and a hermit, who is famously know for living in an isolated cave, hence his moniker, “Shio of the Cave”, is one of the most important people in Georgian history.
The “poem of self” that Vazha created is a dialogue, a “Kaphyan duel” with the honorable past of Georgia, with Shio of the Cave as the symbol, as author’s homeland has become a shell of its former self during his time… Isn’t jazz the same? Music that defies times and space, connects performers of all time periods and always rejoices in the spur of the moment, just like Kaphyan duels…