Tamada blends Georgian folk with alternative, contemporary music, sending messages of unity and respect in the process


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Tamada blends Georgian folk with alternative, contemporary music, sending messages of unity and respect in the process

Before adopting the artist name Tamada, Lasha Chapel released house music with a western feel under his own name. Then he had a life changing accident—he fell from a balcony and was left bedridden for months. During this time, he began to pay attention to a side of himself he hadn’t previously nurtured, an alter-ego within himself that he describes as “a Georgian man with traditional values.” By rebranding as Tamada, Chapel gave this side of himself a voice. Now, he’s crafting a unique oeuvre of music that honors his cultural background and blends traditional Georgian folk with western alternative music. By doing so, Chapel hopes to inspire unity in his socially and politically divided home country.

Following his A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘Dao’, we spoke with Tamada about his upcoming album, and why for him, “without respect there is no freedom.”

Did you grow up in a musical household?

My mother was a violist, but she gave up playing, and my uncle is a successful pop singer in Russia. My family didn’t expect another one of us to be successful. I was determined to break out on my own, and here I am now.

What’s your earliest musical memory?

Probably listening to Georgian folk music and ’90s Georgian pop. I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to fall in love with traditional Georgian music and ethno-folk in particular. It’s had a lasting effect on me.

Where does your artist name, Tamada, come from?

In Georgia, a Tamada is the toastmaker at weddings—they lead the evening with their poetic words and are the central figure of the night. A Tamada is a sacred figure in Georgian culture, so taking this name on was not done lightly. It’s important to clarify though that I feel a satirical rather than spiritual connection to this figure.

You previously released music under your birth name, Lasha Chapel. What inspired you to take on a new musical persona?

While living in Berlin I had a life changing accident. I fell from a balcony and sustained serious injuries. After surgery I was bedridden for 6-months, which led to a lot of introspection. I came out on the other side having no choice but to be honest with myself, and to honor a part of me I hadn’t in the past. I knew that there was a different version of myself, an alter-ego who was a traditional Georgian man with an Eastern mentality. I was determined to explore him and give him life. That’s when I began building the character of Tamada.

What are the main differences between the music you released as Lasha Chapel and what you release now as Tamada?

As Tamada I’m able to play with my cultural background freely and honestly. Through honesty we find true success.

Tell us about how you blend traditional and contemporary elements in your music.

I was waiting for an artist to create music that blended traditional Georgian music with contemporary music, but they never came along. Well, a few did, but they never pushed the genre in the way I imagined. I wanted something more, something radical. I began thinking to myself ‘Why am I waiting for someone else to do this when I could do it myself?’

“My songs offer a sense of freedom and provide space for everyone. They promote respect.”

What does being radical mean to you?

To me, being radical means not being shy or afraid. I could tell that other artists were hesitant while trying to mix alternative music with Georgian folk. Something was stopping them, perhaps it was fear. I wanted to hear something that was fully free and honest, for someone to give 100 percent.

For nearly a decade you lived between Latvia and Germany. How has your time bouncing between these two regions influenced your music style? 

Latvia was where I first began experimenting with electronic music and where I first began performing. I’m grateful for my time there because of the people I met who believed in me; because of them I was able to go on to perform in Berlin.

Berlin gave me a lot. Music was everywhere and I was constantly inspired wherever I went. If I was going to eat a kebab, for instance, I would hear Turkish music playing with electronic mashups. This made me question why a Georgian artist hadn’t done the same. These experiences pushed me to create.

The lyrics in your music touch on religion and the socio-political temperament in Georgia. Do you consider your music to be a safe way to talk about otherwise difficult topics?

It can be. My lyrics are poetic, and not everyone grasps their message on the first listen. To me, that’s what makes them beautiful. In Georgia there is a strong divide—people are ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal. This leads to conflict. My songs offer a sense of freedom and provide space for everyone. They promote respect.

Tell us about the song you performed for COLORS.

It’s a sarcastic love song. It’s about that type of love you have for someone who ends up feeling more like a sibling than a lover. The title of the song, ‘Dao’, has a double meaning. It directly translates to ‘sister’, but is also a reference to the Doa philosophy of harmony. The track has a humorous take on love.

“Everyone should know that they are important. No one deserves to be disrespected because of their beliefs.”

What can we expect from your next album?

This upcoming album was originally supposed to be released in July 2023, and then again in November, but because of the ongoing wars in Ukraine and in Gaza I didn’t have the will to promote new music.

The album’s message is unification. It promotes anti-segregation, anti-hate, and focuses on the opposing political sectors in Georgia. The tracks all strive to unify the conservatives and liberals here, and to show them how they’re both necessary for our society to function. Everyone should know that they are important. No one deserves to be disrespected because of their beliefs.

If you could send one message to our audience right now, what would it be? 

Move with respect. Whether you know someone or not, approach them with respect. Without respect there is no freedom, today and always.

Tamada is a Georgia-based artist whose A COLORS SHOW was released on the 26th February 2024. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.

Text: Katerina Lytras
Photography: Levan Maisuradze, Khatuna Khutsishvili, Aurelien Foucault, and Port Lekveishvili


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