You can imagine them in a Wes Anderson movie too – Owen Wilson is being chased by a sheep and the camera pans over to Trio Mandili, a Georgian musical group of three young women who sing folk songs polyphonically, accompanied by a traditional string instrument known as a panduri. They’re big on Youtube, with 782K subscribers at the time of posting this, best known for their handheld recordings of themselves harmonising down remote country roads, against picturesque backdrops, through local markets and farms, sometimes tugging a donkey along behind them or feeding chickens as they sing.
Trio Mandili’s first video, Apareka (below), posted back in 2014, garnered four million views in a few months. In their village in the former Soviet republic which shares borders with Armenia, Turkey and Russia, three friends took a walk down a dirt road one day, uploaded it to the internet, and it changed their lives. The trio’s name comes from the Georgian word for a handkerchief worn by Georgian women as a headdress, the Mandili, which is traditionally thrown to the ground in a bid to reconcile men in dispute.
Seven years after their first viral video, Trio Mandili’s image appears to remain very grass-roots despite having released three albums and actively toured around the world participating in festivals and solo concerts. The video formats remain the same: girls walk and sing joyfully in a rustic setting, wearing humble, traditional dress and barely-there make-up. But it doesn’t take an eagle eye to notice that the girls themselves are three different people entirely from the original video. Since 2014, the formation has been totally transformed: the three original members are no longer part of the group, and the trio’s line-up has seen a total of seven artists, rotating in and out more times than Destiny’s Child – and without a whole lot of explanation.
The current line-up consists of Tatuli Mgeladze, Tako Tsiklauri and newest addition Mariam Kurasbediani playing the Panduri, who’s sultry looks bring to mind a pre-botox picture of Kardashian beauty.
The last singer to be replaced was Irina (the former Panduri player), who got married and left to the group to have her first child, but when quizzed by journalists about the group’s original members, a producer is never far away to move the conversation swiftly along, raising suspicion that Trio Mandili might have taken a wrong turn somewhere towards something closer to industry manufactured K-Pop territory.
We’ve looked pretty thoroughly and found no reliable intel on the dynamic between old members and new, but we did find the Youtube channel of another group, Trio Lavdila which consists of 2 out of the 3 original members. According to one Reddit thread, some girls left Mandili because they wanted to pursue higher education in Georgia, and the group had been keeping them too busy to do that. “Apparently, they had too many concerts abroad. So then they formed Lavdila where they record whenever they have time for it”. But another commenter in the Reddit thread claims the rivalry “is more hardcore than the US East coast vs West coast rap battles”.
So there’s your dose of Georgian folk pop star drama. But we think you’ll find it nicer to ignore all that and just enjoy the singing and the scenery…