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Monday, May 2, 2016

The "Flavors" of Bosnian Kolo

There is something particularly special and personal about the circle and how its curves comfortably rule every aspect of our lives.
Kat Lahr

Once upon a time there was a country called Yugoslavia. It broke apart in the 1990's during a series of ethnic and religious civil wars.  After the breakup it became six different entities, one of which was Bosnia.  Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, was reduced to a pile of rubble during the The Siege of Sarajevo , when the Serbian Army held the city for almost four years.

Barely ten years before Sarajevo had been the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics

Nowadays, Sarajevo is again a tourist attraction, although if you look closely you can see remnants of the war.

Today's post features kolos from Bosnia. Some are in circles and some are in lines.

Sarajevka Kolo, according to John Filcich in the video, was one of the original dances brought over by the immigrants in the 19th century.  The notes have it listed as a Serbian  because it originated with Serbs living in Bosnia, so this is a hybrid dance with dual nationality.   The recording, judging from the sound, is an old one.  Somehow the video got cut somewhere in the middle of the dance.

In the past, Balkan Music Night used to feature costumed folk dance ensembles in between bands. This video dates from 2010 and features a costumed group performing dances from Bosnia.

A commenter on YouTube had noticed that there were no guys dancing with the girls.  The reason is that Islam is the dominant religion in Bosnia (Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism rate second and third). In Islam, contact with the opposite gender is forbidden (except for family relationships).

Video #3 is another Bosnian kolo, with a group from Seattle, Washington.  There is no gender segregation here.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

Hybrid Dances from the Balkans

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

The description of right lines and circles, upon which geometry is founded, belongs to mechanics. Geometry does not teach us to draw these lines, but requires them to be drawn.
Isaac Newton

The kolo is a dance very popular in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Kolo means "circle" or "wheel" and the dance is often done in a circle.

Today's post features kolos from Croatia, and as you will see, not all of them are circles. Some are done in lines, which are also geometric figures. It also depends on the number of dancers in the group.You usually need at least 5-6 people to do a circle dance.

Video #1 is the dance Slavonkso Kolo, from the Slavonia region of Croatia (not to be confused with Slovenia or Slovakia). The performers are the Dunav group from Vukovar.

The dance starts at 0:42 after a short slideshow of Vukovar.  In the video there are many dancers in folk costumes and a large tamburitza orchestra.  Tamburitza ensembles are very popular in Croatia (and all over the world - see Croatian Diaspora).

The dancers start in one large circle, then two circles, one male and one female. Afterwards, the circle breaks and the line goes into a "S" shape, into a a circle again, and finishes with a line. Geometry takes on some interesting forms in Croatia :)  Notice the squares on the floor!

There is a call and response in the song.  Listen for it at 1:18 and 2:24.

Video #2  is the dance song Nabrala je.  The lyrics are provided so you can sing along, and if you need a translation you can find one here (in German). It is about a young woman gathering strawberries and flowers for her sweetheart.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you will recognize the Dunav group from Jerusalem, Israel.  There are a number of folk ensembles from the Balkans (or connected with Balkan music) named Dunav. The reason for this is that Dunav is the word for Danube, the River of Many Names in several Slavic languages.

There are two Balkan dance groups in Israel, the other is Balkanitsa.

Video #3 is Malo Kolo.  Since there are only two dancers, this one's in a line.  This is a more complicated dance than the previous two, with some fancy footwork, and it's accompanied by tamburitza music but no singing.  By the way, this is the Croatian version, there is also a dance with same name from Serbia.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Crazy Croatian Dance Songs

The River of Many Names Part Six: The Danube in Croatian Folk Songs

What's in a Name Part Two: Croatian Confusion

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused (Part Three)

Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.
George Santayana

Sometimes the subconscious plays some very strange tricks on the mind. I was at dance last Sunday and had requested Kopcheto when the dance I had in mind was Vrapcheto. The names sound alike enough to be confusing. They are totally different dances, one slow and easy, the other difficult and fast.

Video #1 is Vrapcheto,  from northern Bulgaria.  You can sing along to it, if you like. The song is about the Russians coming to Kotel.

Kopcheto was the dance I had written on the request list. It is a rather challenging and high energy dance, also from Bulgaria, that's similar to Gjusevska Rachenitsa. I don't think anyone else was prepared to lead it and certainly not I. The men in the video make it look easy.

I couldn't find any dance notes for this in English, which leads me to believe it is much more popular in Bulgaria than it is in the United States or Canada.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused: Part One and Part Two

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused (Part Two)

I had nothing to offer anybody except for my own confusion.
Jack Kerouac

A few months ago I wrote a post about confusion regarding Balkan dances with similar names.  This is the sequel, otherwise the first one would have been too long.

Video #1 is the very popular Jove Malaj Mome from Bulgaria. It has traveled around the world and has gone as far as China.  The lyrics describe a girl named Jova, who prefers the city guys from Sofia, and won't even look at the men from her village. She is way too good for them.

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you've seen the "Bonding Folkdance Class." They have a large repertoire of dances and a high energy teacher.

The dance is in a compound rhythm 7/16 +11/16.  Many folk dance people happen to be good at math (but I'm not one of them).

Video #2 is a dance from Macedonia, Edno Maloj Mome (One Little Girl).  Many Macedonian and Bulgarian songs are in the 7/8 rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple). The dance usually done to this rhythm is lesnoto, but as you will see this one is a bit more complicated.

Before you can run, you have to learn to walk. Video #3 is a "plain vanilla" lesnoto. There are many variations of lesnoto;  this one is the easiest. It's basically walking in 7/8 rhythm while alternately lifting each foot. It is how Macedonians learned to walk when they were babies. This rhythm is ingrained in them in the womb.

The group dances to a medley of four songs: Oj ti pile, Zalna majka, Bitola moy roden krai, and Makedonsko Devojce.

Video #4 is of another dance from Macedonia, Lesnoto OroIt is a dressed up version of lesnoto.  Are you confused yet?

Lesnoto Oro starts slowly then speeds up, typical of Macedonian dances.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused, Part One

Dancing in Sevens, Part One (Bulgaria) and Part Two (Macedonia)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Tribute to Lyubka Rondova

A nation that keeps its millennial history, did not come by chance in this world.
Lyubka Rondova

Today we celebrate the life and music of Lyubka Rondova, Bulgarian folk singer who was born in 1936 in Greece.  She is especially well known for her performances of folk songs from the Pirin region. She passed away on March 15, 2016 after a long illness.

Video #1 is a performance with Lyubka Rondova and Ilia Lykov of the song Цъфнало цвеке шарено ("Bright Flower Blowing" according to the webpage).  I think they were referring to blooming flowers, not blowing ones, but translations from Bulgarian can be a little strange sometimes. Or it could have been a typo.

The dance to this is lesnoto.

Lyubka Rondova was also fond of songs from Aegean (Greek) Macedonia.   Dimitrula Mou (My Dimitrula) is in Greek, from a recording done many years ago.

It is a happy song about going to the taverna to drink retsina  (wine made from pine resin).  To me, retsina smells and tastes like turpentine, but since the Greeks have been drinking it for over 2000 years, it is obviously an acquired taste.

The dance for this song is a devetorka.

Video #3 is a song that tells a story:  Belomorie, made for a documentary about Bulgarian refugees from Macedonia, Thrace and Dobrudja.  You can find the translation here.

Lyubka Rondova was a refugee child uprooted from her village during the Civil War in Greece. Most of the victims were children of Slavic language speakers who lived in the Greek province of Macedonia, and many of them died, along with their caretakers, during their journey out of the country.  They were resettled in refugee camps all over Eastern Europe.  Lyubka Rondova was sent to Poland, and later moved to Czechoslovakia before she rejoined her family in Bulgaria in 1960.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Voices from the Past: Classic Bulgarian Folk Songs, Part One and Two

The Best of the Bisserov Sisters (and Family)

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Chichovo Horo

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.
Desmond Tutu

Today's post is written in memory of one of my favorite uncles. He passed on March 8, 2016 at the age of 85. He suffered from lung cancer during the last few years of his life and when the time came, he was ready. He had traveled extensively through Europe and Latin America and used to tell fascinating stories. I will miss him very much.

The featured dance is Chichovo Horo (Uncle's Dance). It is one of my favorites and the basic version is easy to learn by watching. I don't see too many folk dance groups in the States do it nowadays, although it is very popular in Bulgaria.

This dance can be done to different music, and in that respect it has much in common with another dance from the northern folklore region, Dunavsko Horo.

Chichovo is a member of the Čoček family of dances. I have seen Čoček danced to this piece during Balkan Music Night, a festival of music and dance celebrated every March in the Boston area.

Video #1 is a group of professional dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes.  The melody is the one most commonly associated with the dance.

In video #2 Daniel Spassov sings the song that goes with the music: Davai Chicho. This is an excerpt from a longer video Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band).  If anyone out there can find me the lyrics and translation to the song it would be much appreciated.

This is one of the best versions of Chichovo I have seen on YouTube. The music for this dance is usually played by a brass band, but here the gaida (bagpipe), tupan (drum), and tambura (string instrument) dominate, along with singing. There is only one man in this ensemble and he does all the fancy moves.  The actual dance starts at 1:38.

Video #4 is of a kids' group from Canada: Dimitrovche. They dance a different variation to music played by a brass band. Brass bands are very popular in Northern Bulgaria, and the composer, Diko Iliev, composed many dance pieces for them.

The little girl is the real attention grabber here.  These kids have remarkable energy!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Same Dance, Different Music: Dunavsko Horo

Here Comes the Brass Band!

Three Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chetvorno Horo

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev

The Alien Diaries will be taking a short break for the rest of March.  I will be posting again in early April. You can catch up on the other 300 posts :)  Enjoy!

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Post #300: The Songs of Binka Dobreva

God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This week marks the 300th post and the sixth year of The Alien Diaries. When I started this blog in 2010, I never expected it to go for so long!

In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, today's featured artist is Binka Dobreva from Bulgaria. She performs traditional as well as modern folk songs.

According to Bulgarian Wikipedia, she celebrates her 56th birthday on March 11. She has performed with the Filip Kutev Ensemble and The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices.

Binka Dobreva wears a really strange outfit in video #1. Fashion has come a long way since 1995, when this video was recorded.

Some people who design women's clothes really need to have their eyes examined. The plaid jacket (at 1:00) is totally ugly and makes her shoulders much too wide. Her hair is way too big, (but not as bad as a certain Republican presidential candidate whose name will not be mentioned here.)

She was definitely in need of one of those What Not to Wear makeovers. A folk costume would have suited her much better.

The song is Gergana. The dance to it is Pravo Horo, a very popular dance from Bulgarian Thrace (Trakia).

Let's fast forward 15 years to 2010. Binka Dobreva looks like a new woman! She is like fine wine, and ages well :)  The hairstyle and the clothing are much more becoming than in Video #1.

The song, Хайде всички на хорото (translation: Let's all Dance the Horo) is something that makes you want to get up and dance.

Binka Dobreva is a versatile artist and extremely talented. She does equally well with traditional as well as modern songs.  The next song is a beautiful ballad about woman whose husband left her to fight the Ottoman Turks: Daniova Mama Dumashe (Danio's mother said...)

She's accompanied by the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices choir.

The translation is verbatim from the person who posted the video on YouTube.  I take no responsibility for spelling errors.

Danio's mother was saying Danio,
my son, Danio I'm tired my dear,
I can't stand it I'm tired my dear,
I can't stand it your fahther's anger
your father's sorrows
When you were in the craddle your father left me and went to the Balkan (to the mountain, to fight Ottomans)
I looked for you my dear,
I raised you when you grew up you went to the Balkan too.
Come here, my dear, come here I wanna make your weddings
to have joy with dauthers-in-law
To watch my daughters-in-law and to raise little grandsons.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Valya Balkanska in Concert

Bulgarian Singing Demystified

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