International Choir

The project «International Choir» consists of two weekly workshops (held in June and October 2017) on international folk music and a subsequent concert tour through Abkhazia* in spring 2018. The project is organised by artasfoundation in collaboration with the singer and choir leader Franziska Welti, the musician Jean-Daniel Girod and local cultural institutions. 28 young women and men between 10 and 18 years old from different regions of Abkhazia are invited to sing folk songs from different countries of the world together with Franziska Welti and train themselves in the techniques of body percussion together with Jean-Daniel Girod. Participants come from Eastern Abkhazia (district of Gal/i and Ochamchira), from Sukhum/i and Western Abkhazia (Gudauta). 
Two singing teachers from Gal/i, a choir leader from Gudauta and three music teachers from Sukhum/i participate in the workshop as co-teachers and work with the students together with Franziska Welti and Jean-Daniel Girod. 

The first workshop was held in Ochamchira (Eastern Abkhazia) from 3. – 9. June 2017. Ochamchira lies on the coast of the Black Sea and has been host for several of artasfoundation’s projects before. 25 young women and men and 6 teachers from the region of Gal/i, from Sukhum/i and Gudauta took part in this workshop. Besides the lessons in singing and body percussion, in the evening there were movie screenings and presentations about the origin countries of the songs the choir learned. They sang songs from Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Congo, Italy, Israel and South Africa. Furthermore, they sang two Mingrelian songs with the teachers from Gal/i and the teachers from Sukhum/i and Gudauta rehearsed with them two Abkhazian songs. On the last evening we held a small concert which was attended by many family members of the participants.


From 5th until 10th October, the second workshop took place in Pitsunda. Pitsunda is a traditional holiday destination that lies on the coast of the Black Sea north of Sukhum/i. For the second workshop we could increase the number of participants to 28 and additionally invite three young women from Ochamchira. The choir refreshed all that they had learned in June and added three new songs from Turkey, Armenia and Serbia and two new songs including body percussion, which were very popular among the participants. At the end of the week we held a small concert in the Hotel, which thrilled the audience. In October, the photographer Christoph Läser accompanied the choir to Pitsunda and documented the workshops. 


The goal of the project is to take up the rich local traditions and by the means of music (workshops and concerts) opening them to musical traditions of other corners of the world. In post-soviet countries, artistic education is often dominated by a very technique-oriented approach and characterised by strong formal subordination. The «International Choir» tries to offer a working method that is more open and focuses more on individual creativity. Furthermore, the project wishes to open new horizons and give new impulses to young people living in peripheral or disputed regions characterized by an atmosphere of uncertainty and waiting. With the assistance of experienced artists the young participants are provided with a new space for free experiments and stages for public display of their skills. Through the participation of international artists and through a specific selection of participants – partly across ethnical boundaries – new possibilities of encounter arise in a context characterized by low mobility.


In connection with the workshops and the concert tour there will be further education and networking for the local artists (co-workshop leaders) participating in the project. The continuation of the artistic activities after the end of the project and the definition of organizational forms for these activities are to be prepared during the workshops.


At the end of March 2018, there will be a third workshop held in Ochamchira, followed by a concert tour to all the cities where the participants are from: Ochamchira, Gal/i, Gudauta and Sukhum/i.



project coordinator:

Fenja Läser


*artasfoundation would like to underline that its use of names and titles particularly with regard to the conflict regions should not be construed as implying any form of recognition or non-recognition by the foundation or as having any other political connotation whatsoever.

Stiftung Smartpeace


Workshop leaders:

Franziska Welti

*1965 in Winterthur, singer and voice improvisator, lives and works in Winterthur and Berlin.


Jean-Daniel Girod

*1977, musician from Zurich, teaches body percussion in Zurich and at the Konservatorium Winterthur.



Project partners in Abkhazia:

Gudauta Music School

Esma Gunba


House of Culture, Gal/i

Irakli Gvilava, Nika Shubitidze


Music School No. 1, Sukhum/i

Violetta Kapiza, Tamara Shanava


Ochamchira Youth House

Selma Zantarya


Sukhum Youth House

Diana Shanba


Project coordinators in Abkhazia:

Angela Adzinba, Sukhum/i

Tsira Schubladze, Gal/i



Christoph Läser