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“Larchem-Soinari” is an ancient wind musical instrument that represents multirod (multipipe) flute (in Europe also known as panflute or panpipes). This intrument originally comes from the Western part of Georgia, the region of Samegrelo (where it is called “Larchemi”) and the region of Guria (Soinari). It consists of six pipes of different length (not gradually increasing length). Each pipe produces a distinct pitch. The larchem-soinari is made of cane. The pipes are tied together with cord and bark. Six pipes are tied so that there are 2 basses in the middle, 2 ”leaders” on the right, 2 “first voices” on the left. The sound range of the instrument is one-one and a half tones. Two pipes are blown at the same. Such blowing produces musical thirds. Practically, there is no principal difference between Megrelian Larchemi and Gurian Soinari. Gurian Soinari is comparatively smaller than Megrelian Larchemi.

It is interesting to note that pipes of Larchemi and Soinari are arranged in the following way: longer pipes are placed in the middle of the instrument and on both sides of them pipes are placed according the decreasing order. This form of construction is well-established in western Georgia. It is worth noting that this kind of design has no analogy among the known multirod pipes (which pipes are arranged consecutively, according to their gradually increasing length). This instrument is the only traditional multi-tube wind instrument with this unique configuration.

As we mentioned, Soinari is made up of six reed pipes of different lengths sewn together with hemp and bark: the first pipe is considered to be the longest that produces deep sound. The second pipe is on the left side to it. It is shorter than the first one and produces a more high-pitched sound. The third pipe is on the right side of the first one. It is shorter than the second pipe and produces more high-pitched sound. In the region of Guria, it plays the role of the third part and the melody begins from the sound of this pipe. The fourth pipe is the pipe on the left side of the second one, is shorter than the third pipe and produces a more high-pitched sound. The fifth pipe is placed next to the third one. The sixth pipe is the last one on the left side of the instrument. It is the shortest one and produces the highest-pitched sound. The first longest pipe is acknowledged to be a chief pipe of the instrument.

Tuning of the larchemi-soinari entirely depends on the maker’s ear. Here is the tuning of two different larchemis according to the order of pipes:
1. h2 – gis2 – fis2 – gis2 – ais2 – cis3;
2. h2 – fis2 – dis2 – cis2 – e2 – h2;

The sounds of larchemi-soinari are powerful, loud, and expressive, evocative of whistling. The diapason of the individual tubes of this instrument is a sixth. The Larchemi-Soinari is played vertically. The sound is produced by blowing into the instrument. About a half an hour before playing the instrument, musicians fill the tubes with water. This helps create a clear, sweet sound and also helps keep the tubes from cracking. As usual, men play Larchemi-Soinari.

Georgian Larchem-Soinari originally comes from shepherds’ being. It is traditionally a shepherd’s instrument, used to gather herds and flocks. That is why the repertoire of the instrument mainly consists of pastoral and dance melodies. Shepherds pastured their flock, by performing melodies on Larchemi. In the western Georgia region of Samegrelo, shepherds used three distinct melodies while tending their herds: The first melody is performed when the herd was driven out to the grassland, a second is performed when the herd was driven back from grassland and a third when the herd was out in the pasture. According to the evidence of shepherds, the flock grazed grass better under this melody. Thus, it was quite natural for shepherds to use Soinari, as it was directly connected with their work. Similar melodies and their connections to various aspects of shepherding can be found throughout Georgia, varying by region.

While the larchemi-soinari is primarily associated with shephered, it often played in weddings, feasts, national holidays and various festivals in Samegrelo. In the Guria region, the Larchemi-Soinari has also traditionally been used as a signaling instrument: hunters from different villages played the instrument when they gathered together to go marten hunting. Mastering the larchei-soinari takes tremendous skill, but stories abound of musicians who played the instrument so well that nightingales would answer the musicians playing the larchemi-soinari, mistakenly thinking another nightingale was singing near by.

The construction of this instrument is connected with the rich tradition of performing polyphonic melodies and songs. At the State Ethnographic Museum of St. Petersburg, there is a wind musical instrument consisting of 21 reed pipes under the name of Larchemi (items #5345-D) the pipes of which are arranged according to their length.

The knowledge concerning the instrument’s design and performance handed down from fathers to sons. In this way the instrument was preserved in all regions of Georgia. Sometimes two or four Soinaris were joined when performing dance melodies. They were also played together with Larchemi, Daira and Svanetian Chianuri. The Soinari players in Guria and Samegrelo often competed with one another. In these competitions, the performer who would play longer was announced to be winner. The competition was often won by the performer who had a smaller instrument, as a smaller Soinari needs less breathing and movements that are physically easier to carry out. Soinari's right pipes produce the following notes: La, Do, and Mi; but the left three pipes - Do, Re, Fa. According to the writer-ethnographist, Apolon Tsulukidze in the 80’s of the last century there were some people in Guria who played on Soinari made of seven reed pipes.


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