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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Balkan Folk Dances Named After Rivers

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Khalil Gibran

Today's post features dance songs from Croatia and Romania that are named after rivers.

Raka Plava po Dravi from Croatia is a very strange song.  The title translates to Duck Swimming in the Drava.  The lyrics are rather strange, because the duck has a hat on its head, and the refrain is "this year the roses will bloom." The woman recognizes her beloved as he walks off a ship (he supposedly has a distinctive walk), and she wants to marry him.. The lyrics are really random, and there was no English translation (although I was able translate from German).

By the way, the Drava is a tributary of the Danube, River of Many Names, which has written about extensively on this blog (see the links to other posts).  The Drava flows from the west, through Italy, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. 

Here's Raca Plava taught by Yves Moreau. He is a well-known teacher, primarily of dances from Bulgaria. He does workshops all over the world; this one was held in Israel.



In the "village" of Vienna, Austria, they dance Raca Plava a little differently. At dance we have a saying, "he or she is "from a different village" when someone visits one of our dances and does a different variation. Choreography is not a static entity.  Remember the game "telephone" you may have played as a child?  Dance works the same way.



The next dance song is about a river in Romania Siriul din Buzau This is another love song, a bit more romantic than the one from Croatia, with beautiful imagery (you can find the English translation here). The music sounds like flowing water.

This group is from the United States.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names (all the links are accessible from part seven); a pan-Balkan series with Danube songs from different countries.

Beli Dunav (parts one, two and three) Danube Songs from Bulgaria

Some Fun for April Fool's Day: Silly Songs, Strange Sayings, Proverbs, and Insults from the Balkans

For more on the "different village" concept read:

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Kraj Dunavsko Horo

A great resource for dance songs and translations is the Songbook for Nearsighted People. The Songbook features lyrics from many different countries (especially the Balkans) in the original languages (transliterated for Bulgarian and Macedonian).  Most of the songs are translated into German and English.

You can view the publication in its entirety or each song as a single page. The font is large, perfect for those who are visually challenged :)

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Friday, July 24, 2015

The Different "Flavors" of Pravo Rhodopko Horo

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
French proverb

Pravo Horo and its numerous variations are popular all over Bulgaria. Today we shall focus on a single region, the Rhodope Mountains, and several versions of the dance from that area.

The basic village Pravo is a simple walking dance, three steps in and one step back, in a diagonal formation.

Here is an example of the basic village Pravo Rhodopsko accompanied by a kaba gaida, an instrument native to that region.  This bagpipe is larger and lower pitched than the traditional Bulgarian gaida.



This dance song Mitro is an excellent example of the fusion of traditional and modern in Bulgarian folk music. Listen to the gaida solo at the beginning and the end of the video.

It's different from the kaba gaida played in the previous video and loud enough to wake the dead.

The Pravo step is interwoven into the dance with stamps and step-hops.



Several dancers in my Sunday night group went to Pinewoods recently, during a session held the last week of June. This year,Yves Moreau taught a number of Bulgarian dances.  One that was introduced to my Sunday night dance group was Hajde Kalino.  Similar to Mitro, the Pravo step here is also interwoven with a faster figure that includes stamps and grapevines.

The dance is moderately slow and speeds up when the singing stops. Rhodope versions of the Pravo are generally slow to medium speed.  In other regions of Bulgaria, they can be so fast that you can barely see the feet!



In the next video, also of the song Hajde Kalino, the singers are accompanied by a kaba gaida.  What I find strange is that neither the singers or the gaida player are wearing folk costumes. This looks like an impromptu street performance.No one actually gets up to dance until 5:45.  Why did they wait so long?



The last video is another "souped up" Rhodope Pravo with claps and stamps (I thought Dobrudja Bulgarians, Romanians and Vlachs had a monopoly on those!)  The song is Sapril Dobri.  The instructor here is Jaap Leegwater, who specializes in dances from Bulgaria. He also led Mitro in video #2.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

Bulgarian Singing Demystified (includes a medley of songs from the Rhodope region, directed by Tatiana Sarbinska)

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Variations on a Theme By Diko Iliev Part 2: Gankino Horo

Music is the melody whose text is the world.
Arnold Schopenhauer


Today's post features several versions of Gankino Horo as interpreted by the composer Diko Iliev.  He lived from 1898 - 1984 and is best known for the piece Dunavsko Horo, danced at just about every celebration in Bulgaria, especially during the New Year.

To get an idea about what the dance is about (since I couldn't find anything on YouTube with people dancing to Iliev's Gankino Horo) watch the video below. If you are familiar with The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel.

The rhythm is 11/16 ( quick-quick-slow-quick-quick).  Gankino Horo is a dance in the kopanitsa family and there are many fancy versions of kopanitsa out there. The one in the video is the basic village dance. The slow beat is the "hiccup" in the middle.

The music arrangement is by Boris Karlov, an accordionist of Roma origin. (It is easy to confuse him with the movie actor with a similar name, Boris Karloff.  If you're a fan of old movies, you may find this link of interest).

The melody is familiar to folk dancers around the world.  Karlov made many recordings of Bulgarian folk dances  for accordion and this one is extremely popular more than fifty years after his death in 1964.

Diko Iliev also used this melody in his Maisko Gankino Horo; there is a link to it at the end of this post.

Remember all Gankinos are kopanitsas, but not all kopanitsas are Gankino.



The next video is music by Diko Iliev: Dukovitsko Gankino Horo.  My guess is that it's name after a village or town.  Many Bulgarian dances are named after cities or towns.  Some are named after people. Ganka is a female name in Bulgaria.

The CD cover pictured is from the album Spomeni (memories, not a fancy Italian ice cream called spumoni.) Confused? Look it up on Google Translate.

There is a picture of the composer, a score from one of his pieces and a bouquet of red flowers.It must be something connected with Diko Iliev.  Does anyone out there know why?



This version of Gankino is actually named after a person named Gano. He is a winner (gano means "I win" in Spanish. Bad joke).  In both Spanish and Bulgarian, female names usually end with the letter "a", male names with the letter "o".



If you like two for the price of one here is Rachenitsa followed by Gankino Horo.  It is common in a horovod (medley of Bulgarian folk dances) to combine dances in different rhythms.  Rachenitsa is in 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed; say the words "apple-apple-pineapple" and you have rachenitsa.

This album cover is a view from the town of Oriahovo, where Diko Iliev lived for 42 years. The town square is named after him.  The Bulgarian National Radio compiled this CD, and you can hear the music from it on YouTube.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Gankino Horo (three different variations of the same tune by different artists, including Diko Iliev)

Variations on a Theme by Diko Iliev (several different arrangements of Dunavsko Horo)

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Bulgarian Dances Named After Cities and Towns

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Friday, July 10, 2015

The Dances of Greek Macedonia

A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
Mahatma Gandhi

Today's post features dances from the Macedonia region of northern Greece.

The name "Macedonia" has been much contested because the region historically known as Macedonia spans three countries: northern Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Pirin region of Bulgaria.

My intent is not to start World War III in the Balkans, but to educate readers why the name of "Macedonia" has stirred up so much conflict.

There are also places with the name Macedonia in other parts of the world, and there are numerous towns in the United States with this name.

It doesn't make sense, to me, anyway, to fight over a name.  See  below for an explanation.The one thing the video does not mention is that there is a region called "Pirin Macedonia" in Bulgaria. Its official name is Blagoevgrad Province.

By the way if people danced more, there would be no fighting. Too much time, money and energy are spent on war.



The first dance is Sire Sire. (If anyone can find the dance notes for this, please let me know).  It is very popular in recreational folk dance groups in the States. The rhythm and the movements of Sire Sire remind me of rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, which can be in either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed of the music. The Greek tik is similar to the rachenitsa, and also to the Romanian geampara. It's the same rhythm: apple-apple-pineapple.

This group is from the city of Edessa.



There is a lot of cultural cross-pollination in the Balkans.  Brass bands, I've noticed, provide the music for all of the dances featured in this post.. They are also popular in Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, parts of Bulgaria, and also in Romania.

 You heard one in the last video, and you will see one here.  The dance is Raiko, also in 7/8 rhythm.



The last dance, which has been featured on this blog before, is also from Greek Macedonia.  It has a very strange rhythm: 12/16.  It also has two names, depending on which side of the border you're from.  In Greece it's known as LeventikosIn the Republic of Macedonia they call it Pusteno.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives

Dancing Through the Alphabet, Letter L


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Friday, July 3, 2015

Beli Dunav Part Three: Modern Bulgarian Danube Songs

I have no plan. I will leave it to the good things and good times to find me.
Nimrat Kaur

The third and final post in the series Danube Songs From Bulgaria features some modern, happy folk songs with amusing videos.

The first video is of the Ensemble Plam from Ruse. According to Google Translate, the word "Plam" translates to enthusiasm or passion.  They certainly express it here!

Plam reminds me of another band from Ruse: Orchestra Horo.  There is a link about them and their music at the bottom of this post.

Plam is into modern instrumentation (except for the tupan.)  There are two guys on accordion, one on saxophone, one on a keyboard and one on a clarinet; you don't see evidence of a gaida or gadulka here.

The song is Kray Dunava (from the Danube region); the music and the dance are another variation of Kraj Dunavsko Horo.  It's lively and fast, and there's some eye candy for the guys (two attractive female singers with bright purple dresses, which alternate with quasi-folk costumes). The dancers get silly with brooms and a bottle of booze. It's fun to watch.



Harry Bend is another group that plays modern versions of traditional Bulgarian folk tunes. The next video is another "White Danube" song (Dunave Beli Dunave).

The instrumentation is similar to Plam except that the drummer plays a modern set of drums instead of a tupan.  This is another fun video with dancers, a man and a woman in a rowboat, and a woman in a swing (all wearing elaborate embroidered costumes.)  I have no idea what's in the two white bags, it could be contraband for all I know :) The guy in the boat also has a kaval,  but you can't hear him play it.

You will recognize the rhythm of this song if you are familiar with the dance Padjusko Horo.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms

The Travels of Padjusko Horo

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Kraj Dunavsko Horo

If you missed the first two posts in this series you can find them here:

Beli Dunav Part One

Beli Dunav Part Two

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Beli Dunav, Part Two: More Songs from Bulgaria: Danube Blues

It's fun to sing sad songs. And it's fun to listen to sad songs. Enjoyable. Satisfying. Something.
Richard Thompson

Singing and listening to sad songs is a universal thing, especially when people have been drinking a little too much alcohol. This tends to bring out the maudlin streak. Songs about tragedy and lost love are common to many cultures, and today's post features four folk songs from Bulgaria. They mention the Danube, River of Many Names, in the lyrics.

The first song is Dunave, Beli, Dunave,  (White Danube) performed by Lyuben Zahariev.  I couldn't find the lyrics or a translation of the song.  The overall impression that I get is that there is a loss, maybe someone traveling far away leaving a girlfriend behind. If anyone out there has a translation, please post it in the comments section.

The festive backdrop in the video is the set for the Bulgarian National Radio's Folk Party show, which is on at 11 a.m. Sundays on the Hristo Botev channel. If you're an early riser in the Eastern United States or Canada you can listen to it live; otherwise you can catch the broadcasts posted on the web page.



Lyuben Zahariev's singing style has often been compared to Kaicho Kamenov, who lived from 1923-1983.  Both men were from northwestern Bulgaria, Vidin region.

This song is about about a man watching the fog and dreaming about his lost love: It is titled Kolko sa mÅ­gli po Dunava (What is the Fog on the Danube? Unfortunately Google Translate is not always 100% accurate, this is the best translation I could find.Kamenov recorded most of his songs before the advent of color TV.  The video is in black and white and shades of gray  (fortunately not the Fifty Shades of Gray from that bondage and domination movie that was so popular recently.)  Fog is a common phenomenon around large bodies of water, especially during spring and fall. It is white and obscures visibility. Many accidents (both on land and water) occur on foggy days.

The text (in Bulgarian) includes a brief bio of Kamenov and mentions his most popular songs, and shows the album cover.  Back in the old days records (anyone remember those?) were 10" in diameter, held one song per side, and the rotational speed was 78 revolutions per minute.  The average recording was about three minutes long.We have come a long way since then.



In the next  video you get to watch a slideshow while listening to Radka Krai Dunav Stoeshe (Radka Stood Along the Danube).  Is she waiting for someone from far away?  Was she in love with a fisherman who never returned? This is another song with lyrics that could not be found, but the overall mood of the song is pure blues with accordion, clarinet, and lament. If you watch closely, you can see an ancient photo, most likely this is Radka. What color is the Danube here?  The same color as the song.



The video for Oj Dunave Beli is even more colorful, featuring people on a steamboat dressed in period costumes from the early twentieth century. The singer is Daniel Spassov, and is an excerpt from a longer video titled Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band).

I was able to pick up some of the song's meaning, which has to do with nostalgia for the past and one's lost youth.



If you liked this you may also enjoy:

Beli Dunav Part One: Danube Songs from Bulgaria

The River of Many Names Part Five:  (Nostalgic songs from Serbia)

The Colors of Bulgarian Folk Songs

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beli Dunav Part One: Danube Songs from Bulgaria

We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle, a good candle, provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100 watt light bulb.
Bill Bryson

You may be wondering why I used a quote about candles.  Read on and you'll find out.

Today's post is first in a series featuring Danube songs from Bulgaria. The title for this one is Dunave, Beli Dunave. In English it translates to "White Danube."  In Bulgaria, the color white is associated with "joy, grandeur and beauty," among other things. There are a number of arrangements and different versions of this song, and I have written about them in previous posts (see links below)

Songs like this are why people are so enchanted with arrangements of Bulgarian choral music.

Back in the late 80's people in the States took notice of vocal music from Eastern Europe.  Marcel Cellier had put together an album called the "Mystery of Bulgarian Voices." It became extremely popular in the United States, and Americans were amazed at the beauty and harmony of Bulgarian folk songs.  One was even used in the TV series Zena, Warrior Princess.

The name of the group in the video is Rosalitsa and this performance took place in the community center (chitalishte) in the town of Svishtov , Bulgaria.  Svishtov has been settled since the time of the Romans, who called it Novae. The Bulgarian name of the town is derived from the word "candle."  There was once a lighthouse there to aid night time navigation, back in the days when there was no electricity.

The song is performed a capella and there are two distinct, yet harmonious melodies blended together. It sounds like something you'd hear in a church or a concert hall.  This is Bulgarian folk song at its best..



If anyone out there can find the lyrics of this beautiful song, please post them in the "comments" section.  It would be much appreciated!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Singing Demystified

The River of Many Names Part 4: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part One

For more on Bulgarian singing click this link

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