Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Back from the dead

Well not literally dead, but in a bad state and going downhill fast.

This is the story of how Dr Terry Wahls went from a fit and active parent and academic to someone unable to sit up or rest without being in a specially padded recliner.  She had relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and the standard treatment wasn't working.

Today she is back and now cycles many miles without difficulty.

How did she do it?

Terry is a medical doctor, practising and teaching at a medical school in the USA.  She knew how to dig into research on MS and ways of treating it.  After 7 years she found Functional Medicine, an organisation which helps doctors take better care of complex chronic diseases.  After taking nutritional supplements and finding some improvement in her condition, Terry began to consider how to derive the same nutrients from her food intake.

Her research and experimentation led to the Wahls diet, which can be summarised as:

1  Eat 3 cups of greens, 3 cups of sulphur rich vegetables, 3 cups of colourful fruit and vegetables, fats from food (seafood, grass fed meat, game, wild fish, organ meat, flaxseed, walnuts)

2  Avoid gluten and dairy (to prevent allergies)

3  Find high quality food (organic, locally grown or your own produce)

The focus of her efforts was to keep her mitochondria in good condition.  These are the the oval shaped sub units of human cells, which are known as the 'power plants' of the cell.  They supply energy to the cell in the form of adenosine triphosphate as well as playing an important part in signaling and the growth and life cycle of the cell and the aging process.

One of the difficulties that many enthusiasts have is in convincing people that their findings have value.  Dr Richard Bernstein was dismissed when he tried to get his results published in medical journals, because it was 'just anecdotal evidence' of improving health and minimising symptoms of diabetes.  He studied for a medical degree so that he could publish and treat others who deteriorated on the standard diet and lifestyle recommended by government and diabetes associations.

As a practising doctor and university lecturer, Dr Terry Wahls is not so easily dismissed.  Watch her TED talk and make up your own mind.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Flat Earth 4

I was wrong.  There are small signs that some people are beginning to see sense.

Dr Oz has invited Dr William Davis on his show as a guest and treated him respectfully in discussing the negative effects of wheat on health.  He has also discussed cholesterol truths with Jonny Bowden in a recent programme.

More research results are being published about the effects of insulin in fat accumulation and obesity in both insulin sensitive and resistant individuals, though there isn't universal agreement on what these mean.

Today I read that an endocrinology professor at John Hopkins Medical School has challenged the lipid hypothesis using exerpts from 'Supersize me' and 'Fat Head' films to stimulate debate amongst his students.

I imagined that medical students at a prestigious medical school would participate in this discussion with energy and enthusiasm.  Apparently not.  Most students started to leave and muttered disapproval as they did so.

Perhaps 'Invasion of the body snatchers' has come true.  Maybe mass indocrination from an early age has worked and students of higher education are no longer interested in seeking truth or engaging in science, just received opinion.


Friday, 14 December 2012


OUBS B822 is no more

Here's part of the message from the Supreme Leader, David Mayle:

'OK, the final presentation has now ended, with just re-sits and deferrals to wrap up in May13, so while we can all still remember what the fuss was about it seems sensible to organise the wake.

In a nod to workloads and 'organisational forms', we're out-sourcing this to a colleague, Bill Naylor...

Stage one is to build the database of invitees. I have a 'Friends of B822' spreadsheet which I maintained religiously up until maybe 8 years ago, but these contact details – even if still current – are not mine to disseminate. The OU could of course (OK; 'probably') provide names of both CourseTutors and ResiTutors, but they too would not issue them – for all the usual reasons.

The solution is to go viral, and this eMail is a start (I'm pasting all sorts of eMail addresses into the bcc field, so you shouldn't get to see other folks' details, just your own; I'll probably have to send out a few, 'cos I suspect spam filters use the number of recipients as an indicator). I'll also be comparing the emergent list with my own records so that we can check for completeness.....'

(Someone video taped this from their tv, methinks.  Poor quality, but hits the spot.)

Outbreak of sanity at the EU

I've been listening to a radio consumer programme, which criticises new EU regulations on food labelling.  Health claims on food labels are now strictly controlled.   For example 'gut healthy probiotics' must now be labelled 'contains micro organisms'.

Labels may not claim that fruit and vegetables are part of a heart healthy diet, for example.


Because no cause-effect relationship has been established.

In spite of Western governments misinformation over saturated fats and 'healthy whole grains' and skewing of research statistics, the EU Commission has decided to let science take the lead.

A £2 billion 'healthy food' UK industry is threatened.

Some concern has been expressed that high sugar breakfast cereals with added vitamins may get an easier ride than other 'healthier' foods.

Why is this man smiling?  What is he thinking?

Tom Naughton says:  "I told you so."

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Leaving toilet seat up kills

A new study confirms the damage to health caused by leaving the toilet seat up.  Women have long complained about this behaviour by men, but scientists have now confirmed the ominous consequences.

A team at the prestigious Aardvark Medical School carried out a 3 month research project to test anecdotal evidence about toilet seat effects on heart health.  Professor Manteaublanc explained that previous studies were marred by excessively broad parameters.  "We excluded people who usually take a dump in the woods and those with chronic heart disease.  Our 30 test subjects were 50/50 male female and a range of ages."  His colleague Dr. Brad Huffenpuffer pointed to studies that failed to monitor people adequately.  "Unless you confine people to a closed research facility, it can be difficult to monitor behaviour 24/7.  We overcame this by using undergraduate students on a rotating schedule to monitor each subject continuously."

Results showed that far fewer female subjects left the toilet seat up.  A similar percentage of women in the study suffered heart attacks, indicating a strong correlation between seats up and myocardial infarction.

Women who suffered heart attacks during the study typically visited the toilet after a deep sleep at about 3 or 4am and failed to lower the seat to the healthy position.

Undergraduate participant tester, Bo Lurker, reported that heart attacks were more dramatic and noisy than he realised from tv and film.  "I wanted to make sure I documented everything, so I walked up alongside my subjects to check their activities, especially when they were spending a long time taking a leak or combining it with vigorous exercise.  The guys would shout and swear, pushing me away as they grabbed their chest and staggered around the bathroom."

Fellow student, Blondina Einstein, agreed.  I thought women didn't have heart attacks much and mostly took time to faint quietly.  In this study my subjects would pad to the bathroom at about 3am looking half asleep.  I'd stand in the corner and then move closer to check their behaviour.  These women would scream, stagger and push me away before falling to the floor in convulsions.  In all cases they hadn't put the seat down, which proved conclusively the danger of keeping the seat up.

Manteaublanc and Huffenpuffer undertook the research to stem the growing tide of sloppy ideas about heart health.  Dr Malcolm Kendrick's ludicrous assertions about stress and lipids and quack journalism by former physicist Gary Taubes were two of many who are spreading dangerous misinformation, according to the research team.

"We are confident that our work makes a significant contribution to the body of work, building on our previous studies of heart healthy margarine and the preventive effects of statins.  We can confidently recommend the elimination of fats (especially saturated) from the diet, routine statin supplementation to water fluoridation and automatic toilet seat closure devices as the route to heart health.  It goes without saying that  the diet should be built on healthy whole grains with 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day."

PS  I'm getting a lot of web traffic to my blog for this article.  I suspect that some readers may have missed the point.  The aim is to spoof popular science journalism, which blurs the distinction between correlations and cause effect relationships (eg when it's hot, people wear fewer clothes - versus - walking around semi-naked causes the sun to shine and raise the temperature.)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Chess TV

How do you make money with a patent diet and lifestyle with accompanying books?

If you're Dr Mehmet Oz, you write a book and appear on the Oprah Winfrey show, wearing your surgeon suit to emphasise your medical credentials.

It helps if you recommend a universal, simple formula such as healthy whole grains and lots of fruit.  You build a following and get your own tv show.  If Oprah Winfrey fails to lose weight and maintain a healthier state, the audience doesn't notice.

Once you have your own show, it's important to differentiate yourself.  One of the ways to do this is to junk people with contrasting views.

How do you junk opponents?

It's your show.  You control the format and the visual aids.  Invited guests have little option but to comply with your script.  In the case of Gary Taubes, Dr Oz parodied his low carb high fat diet and offered a comparison between diets without allowing Taubes to present his own meal choice.  Oz showed a plate of pork scratchings and implied that Taubes ate those, rather than his usual steak and salad preference.

In the media game of chess, Dr Oz has cornered Taubes' king and forced him to resign.

Make sure the videos stay on your website, so they can be buried if public opinion and Department of Health guidelines change.

How do you maintain your high profile position?

Dr Oz invites popular guests who are prominent in the media.  Their fame reflects on him.  One recent guest was Dr William Davis, a cardiologist who now focuses exclusively on treating heart disease through diet and lifestyle changes to prevent the need for medication and surgery.  He has a 'Track your Plaque' programme which achieves excellent results.  One regular comment from readers and patients was that wheat seemed to be the primary cause of health problems and the key to health improvements from his diet.  At first Dr Davis dismissed it, but then carried out a blog survey which seemed to confirm the idea.  He then researched modern wheat and wrote a book about his findings, starting a new 'Wheat Belly' blog to accompany it.  The book has been a great success and Dr Davis continues to give generously of his time and information, whether people read the book or not.

One example is his recent 'Quick and Dirty' summary of the guidelines in a blog post.

Dr Oz invited him on the show, despite the fact that Dr Davis challenges his 'lots of fruit and healthy wholegrains' diet advice.

He introduced Dr Davis as the author of a book that has been on the best seller list for 6 months.  As a practising cardiologist, it's difficult for Dr Oz to challlenge Dr Davis on the science and patient results.  Oz has previously stated he knows that a high fat diet causes heart disease, because he's up to his elbows inside people's chests daily and sees the fat. (No need for scientific experiment to PROVE a cause-effect relationship.  Dr Oz KNOWS the truth.)

Dr Oz cannot junk Dr Davis, who has a 6 month track record of pulling in the punters as well as lots of personal testimonies from patients/readers to support the efficacy of his guidelines. Oz would be rash to trash the author and risk losing that reader base and some of his own as viewers start to lose faith in him.

What can he do?

Dr Oz has no option but to embrace the new ideas.  He can attempt to save face by setting up some visual aids and sliding in 'as we've covered in previous episodes' comments, giving the impression that he thought of the ideas and understands the role of simple sugars and insulin in the creation of fat.

Oz is running to catch up and looking foolish as the central plank of his diet has been burned.

Check mate to Dr William Davis.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Copenhagen reversal

The fat tax is no more.  The Danish government has reversed its decision to tax saturated fat.

The original tax was imposed because politicians believed the lipid hypothesis.

It has been abolished because Danish consumers voted with their feet and bought their saturated fat from Sweden and Germany.  The government realised that the tax was damaging the dairy industry and the Danish economy.

Unfortunately producers have adapted to the original tax.  'Butter' is now widely available with rapeseed oil as a major ingredient.  Many baked goods are made with vegetable oils, rather than the more traditional butter.

What hasn't changed is the common belief that saturated fat causes major illness, such as heart disease.

Monday, 12 November 2012

"Don't tell me what I'm eating!"

'People in California don't want to know what's in their food and drink.'

That was one argument used by the opposition alliance formed to defeat Proposition 37 in California. Prop 37 aimed to enforce labelling of genetically modified organisms in food.  Companies allegedly spent $45 million on campaigning to block the adoption of this simple measure.

Are the residents of California uninterested in health or the type of food and drink they consume?

The West coast of USA is populated by many people who are very concerned with health, fitness and longevity of the body beautiful.  Although some of them may resort to surgery, chemical enhancement and other 'artificial' means to stay young, I believe that many adopt healthy lifestyles.  Part of this strategy involves self education and close study of the content of what goes in the body.  I do not believe that all residents of California are stupid or ill informed.

The vote was lost.  How did this happen?  

Alex Jones and his colleague have a strong view of this, which they describe as fraud:

The USA have abolished the rule limiting the amount of money that can be spent on any election.  They seem to have redefined multinational corporations as individuals for this purpose.  The argument runs that an individual should have a constitutional right to participate to the full extent that they wish, without any constraint.

In my world, that opens the door to corruption.

Friday, 28 September 2012

ბრენდინგის ერი Branding a nation

I sing in a Georgian choir and am often asked to explain which Georgia it represents.

No it's not 18th century English music nor songs from a Southern United State.  If I mention Stalin, people think of USSR.

One leader has the power to evoke Georgia as a nation and that is Eduard Shevardnadze.

Georgians don't understand how this came about.  In the West we saw a succession of Soviet leaders, who seemed to be appointed because it was their turn.

They often seemed indistinguishable and equally lifeless.

Krushchev may have been chubby and cheerful, but seemed to have dead eyes.  He was most often ridiculed as the Michelin man.

Gorbachev showed greater promise, but still had a buttoned up quality.  His Minister for Foreign Affairs always stood out in television news film.  Shevardnadze appeared to have a functioning brain behind the eyes, a sense of humour and a pulse.  USSR seemed to be moving away from the film set of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and appointing warm blooded humanoids to lead them.

Shevardnadze pushed for greater reform, particularly in the Republics of the Soviet Union, when Gorbachev wanted to slow down or back pedal.  He was a product of the Soviet system, but was a major driver for reform.

After the break up of the USSR he returned to Georgia and became President in his mid sixties.  He presided over a country with limited infrastructure and well established black and grey economies.  The police were corrupt and the country struggled to function, with violence, criminality and regular power cuts.  Shevardnadze avoided major military attacks on rebellious regions, which had caused such bitterness and resentment in Abkhazia under Zviad Gamsakhurdia.  He attempted to maintain civil relations with Russia and improve trading links.

His greatest achievements were in foreign policy, particularly his contribution to German reunification.

He is not admired for his attempts to hold on to power by rigging elections, although we are familiar with hanging chads, bogus voting applications and boundary changes in both the USA and the UK as some of the means for 'influencing' electoral outcomes.

Some criticise him for his failure to tackle corruption, which was widespread through most Soviet Republics.  One member of his government told me that he had the typical attitude of an old man.  Listening to this account, I was reminded of all the young men I'd met, who had strict fathers that turned into indulgent grandfathers.  Shevardnadze kept slack control of the budget and the economy suffered as a result.

Overseas we are left with the image of a handsome man with flashing teeth and twinkling eyes, who contributed to major innovation in state bureaucracy and international relations.

This contrasts with Vladimir Putin, who has become a gay icon, for his bare chested appearance in hunting, shooting and riding photos.

In 2003 Shevardnadze was tired and had tried to resign, but was persuaded to stay.  He is reported to have asked Saakashvili, when Misha came to unseat him in the Rose Revolution, 'Thank God, what took you so long?'

He continues to take an active interest in foreign policy and warns against other ways of trying to retain presidential power by participating in an attack on Iran.

History may re-evaluate Eduard Shevardnadze as a good statesman, who helped dismantle the soviet empire and emblems of the Cold War, but couldn't keep the lights on at home.

Mikheil Saakashvili is proud of his achievement in keeping the street lights shining all night on the main boulevards of Tbilisi, even if the power still shuts off sometimes in Svaneti.  He has been less successful in foreign policy and taming the Russian bear.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The pot noodle approach to health

What's that?

Just add water and stir.

Many people are involved in health and nutrition.  They recognise that people want a simple formula that they can easily follow and that will bring results.  Books are published, films are made, interviews are recorded, blog posts are written, which all tend to emphasise a simple formula.

This implies that we are all the same and respond in similar ways.

It ain't necessarily so.

I've been a follower of the low carb community since a health crisis a couple of years ago.  I'd tried more conventional ways of stemming weight gain, which didn't work.  I tried low carb eating and had great success in losing weight, improving fitness and feeling better.  This lasted for a couple of years and then I had some setbacks.

I noticed that I had heart arrythmia with very low carb days and protein smoothies.  I also felt better with slightly higher carb intake at various times.

I had a couple of holidays in Georgia and consumed a lot of khachapuri (cheese bread), kubdari (meat bread), shusha (potato and cheese) and matsoni (yogurt) with honey but didn't put on weight.

In the United States, some doctors keep their medical credentials, white coats and stethoscopes (though they no longer practice), so that they can sell their diet books, supplements and cooking appliances.  They also pick their unique selling point and find euphemisms for including ideas they wish to de-emphasise or distance themselves from, because these are contentious (high fat) or associated with old diet plans (calorie counting).  Protein and nutrient density are two popular terms that fit this category, as a higher protein intake is easier to advocate than high fat, given the huge public health campaigns against fat.  Calorie counting is deemed outmoded, but avoiding 'nutrient dense' foods may help avoid unintended weight gain.  Weight may be demonised to distinguish a plan from a generalised exhortation to avoid starch.

The growth of the blogosphere has encouraged people to experiment with their own health and publish the results as a general truth.  This may include the observation that very high Vitamin D3 intake in the mornings improves sleep.  Others conclude that high vitamin D3 intake increases blood vessel calcification and heart disease.

The advice to test things for ourselves is good.  However we have little evidence of measurable effect, if we don't have access to relevant tests.  We may also confuse cause-effect relations between 2 things, when something else is involved.

One aspect of the low carb movement is the number of young, fit men who routinely assume that a diet of red meat works as well for everyone as it does for them.

Mary Dan Eades points out the problems older women face with hormonal changes and weight gain.  Gary Taubes does not refer to this in his work to establish irrefutable scientific underpinning for medicine in the field of nutrition.  Perhaps the inclusion of Stephan Guyenet on the panel of experts for NuSi may help to redress the balance.

Jenny Ruhl, who runs Blood sugar 101, to help others control their blood sugar and deal with mis diagnosed diabetes, is critical of low carb dietary advice.  She wrote 'Diet 101' to clarify some of the simplistic myths about low carb eating.  Jenny encourages people to be realistic about weight loss they can achieve in later life (and to drop dreams of returning to the figure they had in their 20s).

She encourages people, especially women, to count calories to ensure they eat what their body needs (and no more), with a nutritional calculator to help.  Jenny reckons that some have problems with low blood sugar and exercise, so may need a tiny intake of glucose to keep them well.  She cautions against very low carb eating and side effects.  Her main advice is to focus on good health rather than just weight loss.  Jenny repeats the old maxim about the dangers of falling cholesterol.  A previous blog post noted that Bill Clinton fell foul of this phenomenon.  She would prefer people to achieve stable blood sugar than very low weight.  Jenny admits that she is now averse to steaks and red meat, from her experience of Paleo eating.

Diet Evolution includes examples of older people (men and women), who successfully reduced weight and improved health to realistic and enjoyable levels.

The focus on health continues with the reduction of diabetes, heart disease and cancer through diet and nutrition.

Dr Steven Gundry addresses many of those issues in his diet, which encourages people to reduce calories and increase intake of vegetables, particularly raw.  He explains how the body deals with different types of foods and shows how some have an aversive effect, rather than being naturally healthy.

Jenny Ruhl reminds us that specific foods don't make us fat, but may stimulate us to eat more than is good for us.  Low carb eating can help stabilise blood sugars and reduce cravings for sugar and starches.

One size does NOT fit all.  Find a way of eating that helps you achieve realistic goals over a long period and leaves you feeling healthy.

სანახავად შორიდან View from afar

On 1 October Georgia holds a general election.

This is a time of great change in Georgia.  The new parliament will move from the capital, Tbilisi, to Kutaisi, Georgia's second city.  Parliament will also preside over a new constitution, which seeks to limit the power of the President in favour of the Prime Minister and government of the country.  Presidential elections will take place next year.

From the outside, I see this as a battle between 2 sides:  President Mikhail Saakashvili and Georgian Dream leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In the blue corner is Misha, the man who led the peaceful Rose Revolution and enabled Eduard Shevardnadze to step down as President in 2003.  His United National Movement party came to power and his team of young MBAs have focussed on finance.  He claims to have protected Georgia from Russian incursions through his alliance with the West, stabilised the economy and restored confidence in the bond market.  He seems to model himself on the 11th century monarch, David the Builder, by initiating a huge wave of construction and refurbishment in Batumi, parts of Tbilisi and the new ski resort around Mestia in Svaneti.

In the red corner is Boris the oligarch, who made billions through computers, push button phones, hotels, chemist shops in Russia.  In 2011 he moved into politics and philanthropy in Georgia, called himself Bidzina, dismissed the importance of his French citizenship and began his challenge to Misha, drawing on his personal fortune for the campaign.  He leads the Georgian Dream party.

Turnout for Georgian elections is usually low, but Monday's vote is expected to be unusually high.  People are demonstrating on the streets.

What are the politicians offering the people?

In the West we'd describe it as negative campaigning.  In LAB Profiling terms, Georgian politicians seem to believe that people are motivated by moving away from the negative (ie what they're against).

Misha implies that Boris is a Russian stooge and would open the door to renewed dominance and opression by familiar political and economic tyrants.  There are questions about how Bidzina made his money and the methods used.

This can be summarised by the following lines:

'And always keep tight hold of nurse, for fear of meeting something worse.'
Hilaire Belloc.

'Better the devil you know, than the devil you don't know.'

Boris states that he aims to hold power for a couple of years and then return to his philanthropic life.  He implies that he would help wrest Georgia away from tyranny so that it could return to true democracy.

Pictures of Ivanishvili being blessed by the Georgian Patriarch appear daily on the net.  This is the spiritual equivalent of a Triple A credit rating in Georgia.  Misha was characterised as the Anti-Christ early in his Presidency and the pictures are an easy way to imply that Boris is a saint.

Cynical Westerns say that this may have a direct connection with the Patriarch's large new golden cathedral in the centre of Tbilis, funded by Bidzina.  This seems an example of 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.'  Questions remain about Bidzina exceeding legal limits on party and electoral funding, implying that he is trying to buy the election.

A week ago a blurred video was released that allegedly showed beatings and violation of prisoners.  There was uproar, ministerial resignations and a flurry of activity to attack and defend justice policy in Georgia.  The unstated implication was that such treatment would cease under the godly rule of Boris.

In summary, Bidzina's electoral pitch seems to be:  "I'm not the anti-Christ or 'the Spanish Inquisition' "

There's nothing new about the revelation that Georgia has one of the largest per capital prison populations, with tough sentencing for first time offences.  An early blog post included a Thomas de Waal video that was critical of Misha's regime.

Political and military leaders have been blessed by religious leaders since the beginning of history and I'm willing to bet that most of the tyrants who invaded Georgia had a ringing spiritual endorsement from God, Allah and the gods of Mount Olympus.

In 1999, Augusto Pinochet, friend of right wing Western politicians, was supported by the Pope, when a Spanish judge wanted to bring him to justice for war crimes.  He penned political prisoners in a sports stadium, famously had the hands of a folk singer cut off (to stop him singing protest songs) and used rodents on women prisoners rather than broom handles on men to violate them.  Beware of cosy endorsements.

Nowhere do I see a clear outline of what each politician promises to deliver.

In LAB terms there is an absence of Towards the Positive (ie what are they FOR).  The Georgian Dream seems to be not-the-nightmare.  In psychological terms it's another version of  'I won't give you a blue elephant.'  The unconscious mind deletes the negatives and you're left with the image of the blue elephant and nothing else.

Misha has a strategy, though many believe that it benefits only his friends and supporters.  I've certainly met ex-patriot Georgians who are reluctant to voice political opinions in case they get back to the government and harm relatives in Tbilisi.  The state has a tight control on the media and mainstream television channels.  Bidzina seems to be generous to some people, but this won't necessarily benefit Georgia and move it forward in a direction that benefits everyone.  There seems to be no overt philosophy or strategy.

Georgian elections seem to come down to one question:

Which is the lesser of 2 evils?

I guess that may lead Georgia to a coalition government, much uncertainty and no solution to severe problems of unemployment and decline in agriculture.

Good luck

(Poll posted on Wednesday 26 September 2012)

1  Georgian Dream

2  United National Movement

3  Christian Democratic Movement


The above poll was accurate and Bidzina's Georgian Dream (coalition of a strange assortment of minority parties) won.  They now form the government.  Next year we find out who will become President.

Friday, 15 June 2012

მემკვიდრეობა Legacy

On Sunday 10 June 2012 Gigi Giorgi Garaq'anidze died suddenly in Tbilisi aged 30.

Gigi had a tough start.  His family were killed in a car crash when he was about 15 years old.

Helen Chadwick, who had hosted workshops in England for his father, Edisher, started a choir to raise funds to pay Gigi's medical bills and keep Georgian song in the mouths of Brits.

Gigi had a bewildered and lonely life, dealing with health problems and economic difficulties.  He struggled to follow his father's path as an ethnomusicologist, leading choirs, resurrecting lost Georgian folk songs and refusing to settle for a secure day job.  Edisher taught children and developed Amer-Imeri choir to sing freely in the old tradition, without a conductor. 

The main choir, Mtiebi or morning star, developed Edisher's vision of an ethnomusical theatre, presenting a range of songs in their cultural context.  Here's the original choir.  (Edisher and Gigi are 3rd and 2nd from the right).  When Edisher died, Koba Khutsishvili led the choir and helped them stage a new ethnomusical theatrical performance.

Sadly Koba also died suddenly at the end of 2002, after annointing Gigi as the next leader, despite his youth and frail health.   Edisher had persuaded Mtiebi to develop a performance of a village wedding, showing traditions and songs for the celebration.  Under Gigi's leadership this was made into a DVD.

In recent years Gigi had put his life on an even keel.  He was happily married and had a child.  He published a learned volume on Georgian ethnomusicology.  He was earning a regular income and acclaim amongst colleagues.

His death was a shock to everyone and was mourned at his funeral on Thursday by many.

'So what?' you may ask.  This is a common story amongst cultural leaders in developing countries.

There is something different about Garaq'anidze father and son.

Edisher taught workshops in the UK with a passionate fervour that infected participants. He encouraged people to start their own choirs and gave them confidence to do so.  He had a rare ability to take people with little or no musical education and teach them to sing complex Georgian harmonies in a short time.  Edisher went beyond the tradition of separate male and female choirs, encouraging people to maintain Georgian song traditions by singing in whatever forms they could.  He was well aware of the risk Georgian culture faced under Russian occupation and strongly believed in disseminating traditional song widely in order to keep it alive.  Edisher reminded us of the roots of Georgian polyphony, with songs that were sung from birth to the grave and accompanied all parts of everyday life.

Edisher said:   'If you can hear, you can sing.'

His work established a love for Georgian folk song in the UK that has persisted for decades.  4 friends,  Helen Chadwick, Frank Rozelaar-GreenVenice Manley and Michael Bloom, continued his work in various ways.

Today there are many UK choirs that sing Georgian traditional songs, whether they know of Edisher or not.  His work on collecting regional polyphony was published posthumously as '99 Georgian Songs'.

Helen credits Edisher with inspiring her to start 'Sing for Water', giving her confidence to lead huge groups of people in singing together to raise funds for clean water in developing countries.

Gigi also taught workshops in the UK and brought Mtiebi to perform here.  His warmth and humility helped him connect with adults and children alike, leaving a deep impression on all  who studied with him.  He was generous to foreign choirs travelling to Tbilisi, helping them rehearse and showing them warm hearted Georgian hospitality.

Both Edisher and Gigi were devout followers of the Georgian Orthodox Church, but they also recognised that many Westerners wished to feel inspired by Georgian church music without accepting church dogma.  They understood that Western choirs might sing church songs in secular concerts and did not insist on reserving church music solely for church services.

Gigi also took a pragmatic view of traditional customs.  He told me that it was fine for us to develop a more relaxed UK version of the Georgian supra, without strict adherence to the rules of toasting.  He believed that customs and culture evolve and shouldn't be kept in a sterile museum, but adapt to circumstances.

Both father and son believed in Georgian song and the importance of keeping it 'გული და სული  Guli da suli' in the heart and soul of people, so that it wouldn't die.  Their tireless work abroad led to increasing participation of foreign choirs in the bi-annual symposium on Georgian polyphony at the Tbilisi Conservatoire.  This had a major impact on Georgia and inspired a resurgence of interest in Georgian traditional song amongst children.  

A significant part of tourism to Georgia is connected with Georgian song.  Nana Mzhavanadze and Madge Bray take groups to the Caucasus mountains each year to learn songs from village people.  Profits from the trip go to developing infrastructure in the village.  Edisher and Gigi opened the door through which others followed.

How will Gigi's wife and son survive?  What impact might Ilya Garaq'anidze have on Georgian traditional song by 2042?

I have no idea.  I hope they have a happy and healthy life, despite the loss of Gigi.

May Georgian song continue to be the secret weapon of Georgia, binding many people to it, heart and soul.

Thank you Gigi and Edisher for your hard work, sacrifice and love.  May you rest in peace.