Nika Memanishvili holds the impressive title: General Music Director of The National Music center of Georgia.Besides that he is a conductor and a big TV celebrity.
      Nika Memanishvili
conductor and celebrity

Text and photo
Eistein Guldseth, 2006
    Tbilisis old concert hall.  
        NIKA'S NAME IS
on everybody's lips in Georgia. He is Georgias biggest TV-celebrity, conductor  and cultural force. His concerts are among the most popular, and people stop him on the street for autographs. When he's not on TV, you can be sure he is in the center of the events. Many times before they happen! And he has been like that since he was eight years old, they say. The Americans have a word

for it: "Star quality". But Nika is more than that. After seven years in Vienna, he returned to Tbilisi to start building a new career. He is an octopus; his fingers reaches out into many corners of cultural life and the highest offices. His biggest project now is to revitalize Tbilisi's old concert hall; into the National Music center of Georgia.

The Fårikål demanded pay-back.
Yesterday evening Nika had the traditional Norwegian dinner "Fårikål" prepared by me, and invited us for some cultural "pay-back" for that experience. Though he claimed to like the dinner. We went to see his big project which takes most of his time:

Revitalizing Tbilisi's old concert hall.
for it
The building looks impressive, but has been
heavily destroyed by functionalist soviet-architecture over years. Nika has began the restoration, and both lives and works in the building. His main problem now is financing the next step of the project. 3 mill dollars doesn't sound too much, but in a country where culture has no minister with money, it is not easy. Private founding are also hard to get: "They want logos on everything, and doesn't understand the necessity of having a genuine Concert hall for classical music." When I mention the Opera house in Oslo, now in the finishing stage costing 1,5 billion dollars, he looks at me and nods: "A bit over the top, huh?" "Anyway 3 mill dollars will do just nicely for us. The only problem is getting them. At the moment we have only 500 000 $ in founding". The center includes Georgia National Symphony Orchestra, Georgia National Chamber Orchestra, Georgia National Choir, and Georgia National String Quartet.

Changing times -new strategies.
for it
In Georgia as in Norway, culture audience is changing. What before was common cultural knowledge of classical music and part of education, is now more and more being changed into popular cultural expressions. New-rich people is more occupied by consuming goods than culture, and the traditional upper-class in society has lost their cultural influence. That reflects in an older audience; and a new strategy Nika has developed for his work. He arranges popular concerts and spends time in the spotlight as a celebrity. That way many people comes to his classical concerts, because they know who he is; not the classical work his orchestra plays. That brings some money into the business.

Lunch - at last!
for it
After having seen his project and discussed "commercialism vs. the suffering artist"-myth, we need food. In fact Nika has lost 50 kg of weight during the last year. Much exercise, strict diet, and a couple of weeks in a hospital in Moscow is his recipe. Still he manages to eat a whole Adjaran kachapouri. That is WITH eggs. I finished after half of it, and I am twice as tall as him!

In his office.


The old concert house..

Under construction in 2006.

Inside the music center musicians and dancers rehears.