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Monday, May 25, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 20: Kasapsko Oro and Kasapsko Horo

If we each had to butcher our own meat, there would be a great increase in the number of vegetarians.
Ernest Howard Crosby

First of all, I would like to mention that I am not a vegetarian. Or vegan.  I eat meat. As a child, I went on weekly trips with my dad to the butcher shop.  He saved my dad the best cuts of pork chops and steaks. His shop had sawdust on the floor and he wrapped the meat in waxed paper.

It's time for the 20th installment of "confusion, Balkan style" and it has to do with butchers, who provide carnivores and omnivores (human and animal) with a steady supply of meat.

"Kasap" comes from the Turkish word for butcher. The Balkan region was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.

In the Balkans, the butchers also danced!  Today's dances are from North Macedonia and Bulgaria. There are three different dances with similar names but different music; you have to be specific on which "Kasapsko" when requesting one of these dances. The Bulgarian ones come from two different regions which adds even more to the confusion.  You read this blog to become confused, right?

Video #1 is Kasapsko Oro from North Macedonia.

Video #2 is Kasapsko Horo from northwest Bulgaria. What adds even more to the confusion that it's the same group, Dunav, from Jerusalem, Israel. You would think that a group from Israel would be into Israeli dance, but they specialize in dances from the Balkans and the Middle East.

Video #3 is Kasapsko Horo, this time from southwest Bulgaria (Pirin).  Different music and different choreography from Video #2.  These dancers wear elaborate embroidered costumes; this time it's a performing group from Bulgaria.

The zurna, an instrument that resembles the oboe, originally from Turkey, has also become part of the music of the Pirin region of Bulgaria as well as North Macedonia. (There is no zurna in this piece, but you can read about it in the one of the posts listed below. It is an instrument people either love or hate).

Video #4 shows a kind-hearted butcher from Istanbul, Turkey who converses with a cat and offers her choice cuts of meat. She was a daily visitor to his shop .  The cat's name was Yesim. Yesim came to the shop every day for five years, and the butcher, Ikram Korkmazer, took care of her.

Istanbul is known for its stray cat population.  The cats walk into stores and people feed them. They are ferals who maintain their independence and for the most part, have passing relationships with humans. 

Unfortunately, Yesim got sick from dehydration and hypothermia from living on the street; Ikram the butcher took her to an animal hospital. Unfortunately, she passed on.

This video is a loving tribute to Yesim and the butcher. Her favorite food was liver. She asked for it by name 😺.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 19: (you will find a link to the rest of the never ending series at the end of this post.

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music (cultural cross-pollination)

The Butchers' Dance in Balkan Folklore (includes Hasapiko, dance of the butchers' guild in Greece)

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the National Dance of Bulgaria

Dancing - however you do it, even if it's in your living room - is a great workout.

Festivals and in-person dancing, unfortunately, have been cancelled for a while until a vaccine or effective treatment can be found for Covid-19. These days the place to dance is your living room, via a Zoom connection. 

One of my favorite dances, rachenitsa, is the national dance of Bulgaria. Today's post will educate you about it.  If you have been reading this blog on a regular basis, you will know almost as much about rachenitsa as the Bulgarians. They, of course, know more about it than we do.

Tom Pixton does a great job of explaining the dance with text in Video #1.  He also arranged and played the music. He is a musician from the Boston area who plays at various gigs in New England.

This compilation is a delight for the eyes and ears. It is very well put together.

Rachenitsa na Horo means to dance rachenitsa in a line as opposed to solo or couple. We usually do the line rachenitsa at dances.

There are plenty of them, from every folklore region of Bulgaria.  I believe the music in Video #1 is a Thracian tune.  Thrace is the largest folklore region of Bulgaria. There is also a Thrace in Greece as well as one in Turkey, a source of confusion for some people.

Video #2 is a Thracian Rachenitsa. This is a dance performed in the town square during celebrations and holidays (just for the fun of it).  The dancers are of varying abilities; some are confident and some are hesitant.  The gadulka, gaida, clarinet, and accordion are important instruments in Bulgarian folk music.

The gadulka is the most Bulgarian of folk instruments, even more so than the gaida (bagpipe).  Some people find the "buzzy" sound takes some getting used to but I love it. You can hear the gadulka in the video from 1:06 to 2:18.

Video #3 is a rachenitsa arranged for violin. Although I have listened to Bulgarian tunes arranged for non-Bulgarian instruments such as the violin, piano, and marimba, the ensembles that played them kept the Bulgarian soul of the music.  To me this is just a classical piece in 7/8; it just doesn't sound Bulgarian. This melody is Bulgarian in name only.

Rachenitsa can be in 7/8 or 7/16; it depends on the speed of the music.  The best way to get the rhythm is to say the words apple-apple-pineapple.

Video #4 is another classical rendition of rachenitsa. This one is much closer to its Bulgarian roots.  The music is by Petko Stainov, Bulgarian composer who lived from 1896-1977.  It's part of his suite: Thracian Dances.

What is unusual about this version is that it was arranged for brass instruments. Stainov originally wrote it for symphony orchestra. (if you want to hear the symphonic arrangement, read the post on Petko Stainov below.)

Brass music is very popular in northwest Bulgaria and also in Thrace.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on a Theme by Petko Stainov: Rachenitsa Travels to Guatemala

Classical Musicians Play Balkan Folk Music

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Thracian Rachenitsa

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

(Almost) the Same Music Different Dance: Part Two

It's a crazy world, so sports and athletics and music can be a form of escapism.
Eddie Veder

The world has indeed changed in the past two months.  Many of us are under stay at home orders and cannot get together in person to dance anymore for a while.  I have taken to music as a form of escape. It keeps my mind away from all the gloom and doom reports.  There are also plenty of Zoom dance events these days.  It's not the same, but I get some exercise from them.

It's time for some cultural cross-pollination between Bulgaria and Serbia. The dances are Bulgarian, the music is from Serbia.

Video #1 is Tsigansko Horo from Bulgaria. The performing group is Nadigrai Me (also the name of a competitive folk dance show that was broadcast in Bulgaria 10 years ago.  It lasted for several seasons.) The dance is similar to Chichovo Horo, with some fancier moves. Listen to the music carefully.

Video #2 is a crazy version of Chichovo Horo, another Bulgarian dance performed by Lyush from Dallas, Texas. They use the song Kermes by Sanja Ilic and Balkanika.  It's similar to the music in Video #1.  The main difference is that the melody is played on a gaida instead of brass instruments. The chorus part is the same (at 1:25).

Why does the music in Video #1 and Video #2 sound similar?  It's the same band, Sanja Ilic and Balkanika.   They are very popular in Serbia, and have performed at Guca, a brass band festival that takes place every year in August.  They also participated the Eurovision Song Contest for 2018, and placed 19th. (Unfortunately the contest has been cancelled for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, but you can find this year's songs on YouTube.)

This is a totally wild video with a little bit of everything, an auto mechanic, a man with a bullhorn, an oboe player, women cleaning a fancy car, even a dog!

You can find the lyrics for Djipaj (in Serbian) here.

At the end the ladies push the car.  The "mechanic" couldn't fix it!

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

A Sense of Deja Vu

Almost the Same Music, Different Dance: Part One

Eurovision and Folklore

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Friday, April 10, 2020

(Almost) the Same Music Different Dance

When the music changes, so does the dance. - African proverb

Today's theme is about different dances (to similar music). The first is Graovsko Horo. Gravosko is a dance that can done to many different melodies.  The rhythm is 2/4.

Video #1 is the music favored by the Dunav group in Jerusalem.  The dance shown here is different than the one in the notes because the speed of the music does not change.

The Ibro Lolov music in Video #2 is a different arrangement, but the basic melody is still recognizable. The dancers wear costumes from the Shopluk folklore region, where the dance is from. I don't know how they manage to dance on cobblestones.

This version speeds up slightly towards the end.

Video #3 has a different tune for Graovsko. This one is popular in Bulgaria (different music, gaida dominant). The dance has a slight variation as well, watch the feet closely. There is a tempo change at 1:48 that continues to 4:53 which must be the Divotinsko part. These ladies have stamina!

Video #4 is Ogneno Horo, as taught by Roberto Bagnoli. There is a teaching session for most of the video; the music starts at 17.18.

The first two figures are similar to those in the dance Kulsko Horo, and there is one at 11:54 that is used in the dance Vlashko.

This is an interesting combination using steps typical of northwestern Bulgaria and choreographing them to the music for Graovsko.  Remember Video #1?

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 11: Kulsko Horo and Kulskoto

A Family Resemblance: Theme and Variations

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dancing in Sixes

It’s like asking why is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don't see why, someone can't tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, nothing is.
Paul Erdos

Today's post features two dances, two from Serbia, and one from Romania.  All of them have the number six in the name.

Video #1 is Sestorka.  шест is the number six in Serbian.  What is really amazing about these young dancers is their ability (this is not an easy dance) and that they are members of a Chinese folk dance club in Dallas, Texas.

Follow the link to these to old dance notes (there is no year, but you can tell they are old because they were done on a typewriter.)  Also there is mention of a country, Yugoslavia, that no longer exists. Although there are only three kids in the line, the shout "ooh ah" is done after the first set of six steps.  So I see a connection here.

Video #2,  U Sest (In Six) is also a very popular Serbian dance from the region of Sumadija.  The music is played on a frula, a traditional folk instrument.

This is a leader-called dance. The different variations are mentioned in the notes, and if you listen carefully, you can hear Yehuda call them.

The Dunav group is from Jerusalem in Israel, and they have numerous Balkan dance videos on YouTube.  While you are isolated at home, you can connect with the rest of the world and learn some new dances as well!

Video #3 is Hora pe Sase from Romania.  It has three sets of figures: the three steps in and one step out (pravo step), the second figure (czardas), and the last is the step together step.  I don't see anything here in six or its multiples, so how did the dance get its name?  I couldn't find any notes.  If you can find an explanation for the name or dance notes, please post them in the comments section.

The dance reminds me of Bulgarian Pravo Horo with a shot of Romanian attitude.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens (the series)

Dancing in Nines

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Balkan Blues: Some Really Depressing Folk Songs

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by”

J.R.R. Tolkien

There are numerous folk songs from the Balkans that deal with tragic events.  Today's songs are from North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Video #1 is the dance song Tino More from North Macedonia. It's some serious stuff when a young woman is about to lose her husband when her parents live far, far away, and three doctors are at the head of his bed.

Deljo will die.  The doctors have already sent for the priest to perform last rites.

Video #2 is Devojko Mari Hubava, a song from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria. It's about a couple who can never marry.  They drown their sorrows in wine and rakia. In wine there is truth, but too much gives a nasty hangover the next day.  It's misery on top of misery.

Video #3 sounds like a happy song, and the video is very upbeat, with people dancing in colorful costumes.  The occasion looks festive, with wine and dancing, but the lyrics are tragic.

The singer is Daniel Spasov, the song is Tsiganko, and it's about a man so smitten with a Roma woman (Gypsy is the politically incorrect name) that he cries all the time and doesn't sleep.

Note:  You have to watch the video on YouTube.  For some reason it has been disabled on this website.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Beli Dunav Part Two: Danube Blues

A Tribute to Lyubka Rondova

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Songs That Tell a Story

I would like a wine. The purpose of the wine is to get me drunk. A bad wine will get me as drunk as a good wine. I would like the good wine. And since the result is the same no matter which wine I drink, I’d like to pay the bad wine price.
Steve Martin

Today's post is about songs that tell a story.

Video #1 is a dance song from North Macedonia that tells the story about a rabbit on his way to Salonika to get married. He had several adventures on the way, and almost got killed by the hunters and their dogs.  It has a surprise ending!

The song is Zaiko Kokorajko and the dance to it is Arap.

The dancers in Video #1 and Video #2 are from Vienna, Austria.

Video #2 is Sadi Moma, a song from the Pirin region of Bulgaria. It describes a young woman who planted a grape vine. The vine became really big and the grapes from it produced barrels of wine and rakia so strong the soldier who drank it was out of commission for a week. He must have had one hell of a hangover when he finally woke up. Was it good wine or bad wine?

Sadi Moma also underwent a second incarnation as the Free Software Song. It wasn't the same guy who had the hangover after drinking the wine and rakia.

Video #4 is the Dance of Zalongo (you can read the story and the translation of the song here.) This was a really dramatic event that occurred in Greece in 1815. It's similar to the story of Masada, where the inhabitants chose mass suicide over slavery.

The music is in 7/8 (pineapple-apple-apple). There is no dancing in the video, although there is a picture of women in Greek folk costumes, as well as a statue that depicts women dancing to their deaths on the rocks below.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Dance of Osman Taka

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

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