Mamuka “muki” Ghaghanidze


Mamuka Gaganidze

Vocals, percussion

His parents said that, already at the ripe age of three, Mamuka would spend hours lost in song—he could perform nearly every popular Georgian tune on cue. Mamuka himself recalls frequently performing in front of the mirror in his childhood, imagining a full auditorium and the applause of a captive audience.

At age six Mamuka began to study the piano and was invited to join the children’s vocal-instrumental ensemble “Nergebi” [The Saplings]. The ensemble toured in Georgia, Russia, throughout Europe, and even in Cuba. Mamuka, however, never went to Cuba because his mother was afraid that the route west would take him over the Bermuda Triangle. At this the young Mamuka was, quite naturally, infuriated. Gradually Beatles songs replaced children’s songs in Mamuka’s standard repertoire. Determined to start their own band, Mamuka and his friends raised money for guitars and equipment and began to play in the streets, at parties—anywhere they could find an audience. There was hardly money for the best instruments, but the band still came together and began to perform regularly.

Then there was the army. Mamuka was sent to serve in the corps of engineers. It was difficult there, and it would have been even worse were it not for music and chance. By a stroke of good fortune, Mamuka became acquainted with a certain Mayor Savtsov, who was supportive of his talent and helped him to form an instrumental ensemble. The ensemble turned out to be very successful; it performed frequently in the area around the base and even took part in the army’s special musical events.

After the army began years of searching. At first Mamuka entered the faculty of Oriental Studies at Tbilisi State University. He wanted to learn more about the cultures of the East, and to travel to Asian countries. He began to study Hebrew, then Arabic. But after some time he realized that Oriental Studies was not his calling. He transferred to another faculty and began to study cinematography, then later transferred to the faculty of law. Mamuka completed his studies in law but never worked as a lawyer, for he finally understood that his true gifts were as a musician.

In the 1990s Mamuka met up with his friend Zaza Marjanishvili, who was obsessed with jazz and infected Mamuka with the bug. They founded a quartet which quickly found popularity, performed frequently and even recorded for radio and television. Everything went well until 1993, when Zaza emigrated to America and the group fell apart. In Georgia civil war had broken out. Now there was neither room for ideas, nor the opportunity to realize them—the circumstances were grim. But on one otherwise dark, hopeless day, Mamuka received a phone call that would change the course of his life. It was call from the band Adio. Adio invited Mamuka to join the band as a vocalist. At that time Adio was a legend, and to join the band was the dream of many musicians.

And so in 1996 Mamuka found himself in Germany, where Adio was based. During his tenure with Adio Mamuka first realized that in music it was possible—indeed, necessary—to find his own voice, and not to feel compelled to imitate other musicians. Indeed, the musicians of Adio had achieved a rare synthesis of Georgian traditional music and contemporary forms. The ensemble performed at festivals and recorded an album. But precisely at the moment when Adio seemed to be taking off toward a tremendously promising future, it fell apart at the seams.

In 2002 Mamuka was invited to join The Shin, which had been founded by Adio members Zaza Miminoshvili and Zurab J. Gagnidze. Mamuka contributes to The Shin as a vocalist, percussionist. He has played a vital creative role in all of the ensemble’s projects to date.