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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Tribute to Georgi Petrov

When I'm dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance.
― Freddie Mercury

Today's post features several memorable performances of Georgi Petrov, a musician who played the gadulka, the Bulgarian version of a fiddle. He died of a brain tumor in February 2014 at the age of 52. Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about this musician or his music until shortly after he had passed on, when I found this article (in Bulgarian) on the Vidin affiliate of the Bulgarian National Radio.

I read the article (via Google Translate)and listened to the audio file.

Georgi Petrov was from northwestern Bulgaria, Vidin region, and he is best known for playing music from that area. On video #1 you'll hear  Sinagovsko Horo, named after the village, Sinagovtsi, where Petrov lived. It is also known as Dunavsko Horo, the dance done to this music.

Video #2 is a performance of Georgi Petrov from 2003. Here he's accompanied by a group of folk musicians on tambura, kaval, and tupan.  The piece is Dzanguritsa, a tune from the Pirin region.

Video #3 is from a Bulgarian TV show back in 1995 (can you believe that was almost 20 years ago?) of Georgi Petrov playing Kraĭdunavska prikazka; the English translation is A Danubean Tale. It is a beautiful piece and one for which he is best known. Here, he's accompanied by the folk music orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio.The radio station celebrates its 80th anniversary in January 2015.

Video #4  is from a concert in Morocco.. It's a half hour long but worth a listen  It starts with Petrov playing a solo on gadulka, to be accompanied by musicians on  kaval  and tambura. Two vocalists join in at 19:00.  You'll also hear the music from video #1 (at 14:54) and video #2 (21:45)  If you watch closely, you'll also see an artist painting Bulgarian musical instruments. The eye candy is there if you know where to look :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

Same Dance, Different Music, Dunavkso Horo

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Romanian Folk Dance in the United States

When you're dancing, you're dancing for people to see.
Pharrell Williams

Today's post features a costumed folk dance group, Hora Romaneasca, from Boulder, Colorado, USA.  I found them totally by accident, during a search for the dance Hora de Mina on YouTube.

I found several of their videos posted in the sidebar, and I had to share them, they were so good.  These were taken during a festival in 2011.

Video #1 is the graceful Hora Spoitorilor.

Video #2 is something a bit more animated;  Alunelul de Briu, accented by shouts (strigaturi). Strigaturi are a feature of many Romanian folk dances, along with stamps. Should Romanian dancing be stamped out?  I don't think so.

Video #3 is of a dance some find intimidating because it's fast and has sudden changes of direction.  The name is Cimpoi, which means "bagpipe" in Romanian.

Video #4 is Trei Pazeste. It translates into "three times beware"; something about the sudden changes of direction and speed. There is a family of dances with the name Trei Pazeste, with different music and choreography, from other towns in Romania. You can read about them in one of the posts on the bottom of the page.

Notice how how the group uses different formations; first the men, then the women, then the entire group in a circle. (Check out the cute little girl in costume, running in front of them! I think she wanted to join the dancers.)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Trei Pazeste

Two Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Hora de Mina

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance Alunelul

Another Country Heard From:  The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

This month's post on Light and Shadow is about the autumn season.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best of Bulgarika

Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.
Herbie Hancock

Although I understand very little Bulgarian, their folk music speaks to me, and to many other fans of it as well.  When a Bulgarian folk ensemble comes to play, few people sit down (except perhaps to rest for the next dance).  The rhythms are compelling and sometimes hypnotic; it is easy to get into a trance while dancing.

Bulgarika is a folk ensemble that played last month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I was at their dance party in early September. Right now they are on tour in the United States.If you do a Google search on them, you can find a performance somewhere near you.

Nikolai Kolev and his wife Donka, originally from Bulgaria, now reside in New York City, and a number of years ago played in the Kabile Bulgarian Band.

The Bulgarika ensemble on tour this year consists of four musicians:  Nikolai Kolev, gadulka, Donka Koleva, vocals, Vasil Bebelekov, gaida and Dragni Dragnev, who plays several instruments: gaida, keyboard, kaval and tupan.  He just doesn't play them all at the same time :)

Although it was very hot and humid, and the hall had no air conditioning (for cooling we had the windows wide open and fans running at full blast) everyone had a great time dancing and sweating to Bulgarian folk tunes. I felt bad for the musicians who wore long pants and long sleeve embroidered shirts because performing in the heat is hard work. They absolutely love what they do, and played for us (with a short break) for about three hours.

Here is a sample from that evening that I captured in video: the dance is a slow pravo.

This was another dance event with Bulgarika which took place recently in Pennsylvania.  The music is a medley of songs from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria; the dance is Pravo Rhodopsko Horo.

And finally, an older video of Bulgarika from 2011 with Ivan Milev on accordion, and Donka Koleva's daughter Maria (vocals). It took place at an outdoor festival in Indiana. The dances are Pravo Trakiisko Horo, Devetorka, and Trite Puti.  

 It also happened to be Donka Koleva's birthday.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

An Unforgettable Evening With Kabile at Mt. Holyoke College

A Multi-Ethnic Weekend and Some Bulgarian "Free Software"

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

Don't forget to visit my other blog Light and Shadow.  The post this month is "Some Thoughts on the Autumn Equinox."

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dances Inspired by Dimitrija

A woman is more dangerous than a loaded gun. – Ryann Bosetti .

In a previous post I mentioned how many Bulgarian folk dances got their names. They are usually named after people, places or regions.  Dimitrija is the name of the day.

The first song is from the Pirin region, in southwestern Bulgaria.  Dimitrija sits on a stool, a gun next to her, drinking wine and rakia.  If you're searching for a woman with attitude, look no further. She is definitely "more dangerous than a loaded gun."

Here's the dance, performed by the group Leb i Vino. They specialize in authentic folklore from the Pirin region. It sounds quite a bit different from the previous video; with three zurnas and a tupan (drum). 

The Ottoman Turks used the zurna to intimidate enemies.  The people of the Pirin region liked it so much they incorporated it into their folk music.

One of my favorite dances is Mitro, one of the many variations of Pravo Horo. This is a favorite with the Sunday night group, and I often lead it. Mitro is the short form of Dimitrija. The song is from the Rhodope region (southern Bulgaria) and the gaida (bagpipe) introduction is loud enough to wake the dead.

I learned the dance Oj, Dimitrole at a Yves Moreau workshop, although I have since forgotten most of it. Maybe this video will give me incentive to review it. The dance is from northwestern Bulgaria, where brass bands are popular.

The singer is Daniel Spasov, whose specialty is music from the Northern and Shopluk folklore regions.  He also hosts a weekly folk music show on Bulgarian National Televsion: Ide Nashenskata Muzika.

There is also a half hour video with songs performed by Daniel Spasov, not shown here, but I have provided the link: Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band), which is on YouTube. You can also find the post with songs from that video on the bottom of the page.

The first figure in this dance looks like a penguin walk. The rhythm is 6/8, often used in pravo dances and their variations.

If you enjoyed this you may also like

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Here Comes the Brass Band! Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs with Daniel Spasov

Dances Inspired by Elena

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Multi-Ethnic Weekend and Some Bulgarian "Free Software"

I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.
T.D. Jakes

This week's post will be short, as there were two great ethnic events in the area this past weekend.  The first was the Springfield Massachusetts Glendi, a three-day festival of Greek music, dance, and food.  Too bad I forgot to take a picture of the moussaka before I ate it.  It was delicious.

Once my hunger was sated, I took a video of the dancers.  I was traveling light and used my phone instead of the camera to take the video, so the sound quality wasn't great.  You can hear it if you turn up the speakers to the highest setting.

Last year's video was much better because I used the camera. I was able to zoom in on the dancers performing a Pentozali and here you can REALLY hear the music.

There was also a Bulgarian event that I went to last Friday, and I remembered to bring the camera. Everyone got up and danced to Bulgarika, despite the fact that the Masonic Hall was very hot and sticky, and the only cooling devices were two large fans (no air conditioning.) Summer decided to come to New England in September.  It was running late this year.

I will write more on Bulgarika in a future post.  Bulgarika is currently on tour in the United States. They are a four person ensemble; two live in New York City and two traveled here from Bulgaria.

The dance is Sadi Moma, with vocals by Donka Koleva.

In another incarnation, Sadi Moma became the Free Software Song.  By the way, the time signature is 7/8, very common in Bulgarian folk music, and in this song the rhythm is pineapple-apple-apple.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

To Greece and Bulgaria and Back (in one weekend!)

Folklore, Food and Fun at Festivals

The "Flavors" of Greek Syrtos

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quirky, Odd and Unusual Folklore Videos From the Universe of YouTube

Could you, would you,
with a goat?

I would not,
could not.
with a goat!

Dr. Seuss, from Green Eggs and Ham

You could, if the bagpipe is made from an entire goat, including the head.  Read on, you'll find this week's post very entertaining.

I'm not a fan of Sports Illustrated, especially the Swimsuit Edition. The magazine version comes out every February, mainly because people are bored of winter and dream of escaping to tropical beaches where beautiful women abound.  Real women don't look anything like the ones in Sports Illustrated, that's for sure.

Here is something much more fun to watch: the Accent Swimsuit Video. It features the ladies from the Bulgarian folk dance club Accent on vacation in Lake Orhid, Macedonia. You can find their website here (in Bulgarian). Here they ham it up for the camera with Opas, sans elaborate embroidered costumes.

As soon as I saw this video, I thought of a Facebook friend  who regularly reads my blog.  He likes the belly dancers and the sexy female folk singers.  Will, this one's for you :)

A group from China dances Geampara, a dance from Romania. It's amazing how Balkan folk music has traveled around the world. This particular group focuses on Balkan and Israeli dance and they have many videos on YouTube. They have been featured on this blog numerous times and describe themselves as a "bonding folk dance class." The teacher reminds me of a drill instructor; according to the notes on the video, he is a guest teacher from Taiwan. His choice of music suits his personality; it is a very macho piece.

The rhythm for geampara is the same as Bulgarian rachenitsa: apple-apple-pineapple. Just don't call it that in Romania.

Video #3 features a group of Roma musicians, also known by the politically incorrect term Gypsies.

Unfortunately I've read too many disparaging comments on YouTube about the Roma. They have been targets of discrimination for centuries.

Their ancestors originally came from India and migrated west into Europe. Some of the best artists in the world of Balkan music are Roma; famous examples include the singer Esma from the Republic of Macedonia, and the accordionist Boris Karlov from Bulgaria.

These guys are fun to watch, although I think they had a little too much whiskey at the Christmas party :) What is even stranger is that there's no audience here, nor are there people dancing.  The rhythm for this piece is a čoček, a dance made popular by the Roma people in the Balkans.

Finally here's one of the most unusual videos I've ever seen.  Risto Todoroski, a Macedonian living in Sydney, Australia, makes, sells and plays bagpipes made from an entire goat, including the head.  If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for your favorite musician, you can contact him via e-mail at

If you enjoyed this you may also like

A Romani Potpourri One and Two

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Opas

The Bagpipe in Macedonian Folk Music

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms

The reason that you dance and sing is to make the audience feel like they're dancing and singing. As long as you're having fun with it and giving it 100 percent, they're gonna feel that.
Heath Ledger 

Today's post features music performed by Orchestra Horo from Ruse (Rousse), Bulgaria.   Their specialty is modern renditions of folk songs and dances from the northern region of the country. The ensemble celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. What I like most about them is how their repertoire displays the varied rhythms of Bulgarian folk music.  This band compels you to get up and dance. The songs are upbeat, catchy, and take up residence inside your head. Earworms!

Horo means "dance" in Bulgarian, and as you will see in video #1, there was a large crowd dancing Pravo, Daichovo and Devetorka  at the 50th anniversary party.

Video #2 shows a close-up of the musicians and their instruments: three accordions, a small kaval (shepherd's flute), a keyboard, tupan (double headed drum) and a vocalist. (The voice is also a musical instrument.)

Some people consider accordions  instruments of torture and use them for that purpose. I am the only one who likes accordion music at my house. My husband would rather hear the smoke detector go off  than listen to the accordion. Says it gives him a headache.

The accordion, which was invented in a German-speaking country,  was originally not part of the traditional Bulgarian folk ensemble. Boris Karlov, who arranged many folk dances for accordion, was partly responsible for its popularity in Bulgaria.

The song, Tri Vecheri Na Dunava, translates into English as Three Evenings on The Danube, which explains why there is so much blue in the video :) The rhythm for this song is rachenitsa, (apple-apple-pineapple).  It is the national dance of Bulgaria and the time signature for it is 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed. The larger the number on the bottom of the time signature, the faster the music.

The city of Ruse is situated on the banks of the Danube, River of Many Names, and for over fifty years had the only bridge that connected Bulgaria and Romania until the Vidin-Calafat bridge was completed in 2013.

Video #3 is the song, Moma Draganka, (girl named Draganka) also in rachenitsa rhythm.  Notice the dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes, eye candy for those who love Bulgarian folklore. If you look closely, you can see a small red cloth on the tupan.  I own a cloth similar to the one in the video.  Mine has an evil eye pattern in several colors, but mostly red. Red is a lucky color in Bulgaria. The evil eye keeps the bad forces away from the person who wears it.

Next is Shirokata, with more eye candy :) The rhythm is 9/16 (devetorka).

Stari Dedo (Old Grandpa) is a folk song in 11/16 (kopanitsa) rhythm. Another dance from Northern Bulgaria, Gankino Horo, has the same rhythm. There are many tunes associated with Gankino Horo, the most famous being the version played by accordionist Boris Karlov.

If anyone out there can locate an English translation for the songs posted here this week, it would be very much appreciated!

If you enjoyed this you may also like

Folk Ensembles Named Horo

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa Part One and Part Two

The Colors of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Crossing the River Part Four: Celebrating a New Bridge 

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

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