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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

Vlachs have been called "the perfect Balkan citizens" because they are able to preserve their culture without resorting to war or politics, violence or dishonesty. (from article)

It would be nice if the entire world lived by the Vlach philosophy.  There would finally be peace on earth.

The Vlachs traditionally worked as shepherds, and wandered all over the Balkans to search for pastures for their sheep.  They speak a language related to Romanian, and wherever they traveled, they brought their language, music, and dance with them.

Today's post shows examples of Vlach dances from Bulgaria and Serbia.

Video #1 is a group of people in elaborate embroidered costumes.  They are the Severnjaski Ensemble from Pleven.

The dance is Shira Horo.  There are a number of variations of this; depending on the village where it originated.

Vlach dances have a number of steps in common: crossovers, stamps and arm swings.  Sways are also common (you will see those in many Romanian dances as well).



Video #2 is the version from Kula, a town in northwestern Bulgaria.



Video #3 is Kulsko Horo, another dance from the town of Kula. This one has arm swings and stamps. Each figure builds on the previous one.

The dancers are from Jerusalem in Israel. There are actually two Balkan dance groups in Israel: Dunav from  Jerusalem and Balkanitsa from Haifa.  Both have been featured regularly on this blog, and if you're looking for new dances to teach your group, their videos on YouTube are an excellent resource.



Video #4, Zenske Vlashke Igre is a women's dance from Serbia. Hang on to your belts, ladies, this one is going to be fast....

If you want to skip the introduction the dance starts at 1:30. Check out the jumps and the stamps (3:20 to 3:40).  It is thought that stamping drives away evil spirits; no evil can survive what these women do. There were no notes to be found, and the link to the group's web page, KUD Polet, was a dead end.  They do, however, have a Facebook page.



Video #5 is Vlaski Sat,a  popular dance in the Sunday night group in Wethersfield.  Several members of the group learned it at Pinewoods, a music and dance camp held every June in the Boston area.

This dance has both sways and stamps. 

The teacher here is the very energetic Bianca de Jong; this took place at a workshop in Austria in 2002.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on a Vlaško Theme 

Stamp it Out: Vlach Dances from Serbia

Two Variations on a Serbian Folk Dance: Stara Vlajna

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dances to Music Arranged by Boris Karlov

I knew nothing of the real life of a musician, but I seemed to see myself standing in front of great crowds of people, playing my accordion.
Lawrence Welk

My mother used to watch the Lawrence Welk Show on TV. The show never interested me because Welk was not into Bulgarian folk music. He was more into polkas, waltzes and ballroom dances. Back in those days I thought an accordion was an instrument of torture.

Today's post features music and dances connected with the great Bulgarian accordionist: Boris Karlov, 1924-1964.

His music will live forever as long as there are people who like to dance Bulgarian horo played on the accordion. If you go on YouTube, there are numerous videos of his compositions.

Video #1 features George Terzieff leading Dudino Horo and Kyustendilsko Horo (not be be confused with Kyustendilska Rachenitsa,a totally different dance that Karlov also arranged). Both are from the Shope region of Bulgaria, and very fast.



I couldn't find any dance videos with Kyustendilska Rachenitsa. This tune is very popular at our dances, so here it is, played by Karlov himself:



Video #3 is another Karlov piece. The Bulgarians call it Pazardishka Rachenitsa; we know this dance as Gjuesevska Rachenitsa.  This is a particularly fast and difficult dance from the Shope region.You can always tell, with the Dunav group anyway, how difficult a dance is going to be by the number of people dancing.  Here there are only two: Yehuda and Mika.

The Dunav website is an excellent source for dances from the Balkans and the Middle East.



In Video #4 the dancers use Karlov's version of Eleno Mome, also known as Elenino Horo.  There are many different tunes for this dance, some for accordion, some for brass band (look up Diko Iliev on YouTube) and even vocal versions (see Songbook for Nearsighted People).  Although it's only 2 1/2 minutes long, it's very fast and requires aerobic endurance.

Remember what I said about the number of dancers?  This time there are five, so this dance is relatively easy.  It is also very popular.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dances Inspired by Elena

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune Gankino Horo

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Black Sea Folk Songs from Romania and Bulgaria

 "Seagull Flying in a Blue Sky"by Michael Haddad (from Wikipedia)

There comes a time in a man's life when he hears the call of the sea. If the man has a brain in his head, he will hang up the phone immediately.
Dave Barry

Today's post features folk songs about the Black Sea. Seagulls are part of the seaside experience, and people tend to romanticize them (especially those who have read the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They are obnoxious birds that are a big nuisance at the beach and they will eat just about anything.  Seagulls especially like to hang around while you're eating a sandwich; the smell of meat attracts them. A friend of mine used to feed them (bad idea!) and they never left us alone after that.  They got into the potato chips while we were in the water. My husband saw one eat a spare rib bone, whole!

The Black Sea coast is a big resort area, and there are places that have a reputation for being party towns overrun with human seagulls :) especially Sunny Beach (see Video #1).



Video #2 is a song from Romania in an uneven rhythm (9/8): Cantec de la Marea Neagra (song from the Black Sea). The Black Sea region of Romania, also known as Dobrogea, is an area known for music in odd rhythms. The dance to this is cadeneasca, similar to Bulgarian daichovo.



Video #2 is of a Roma song from Bulgaria, Karavana Chajka. The lyrics (in Bulgarian) are about the group Edessa, who have been invited to play at the Café Seagull on the Black Sea coast. You can find the lyrics here, along with an English translation. You can sing and/or dance along to the music (the dance is a cocek).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

More Songs from the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Best of Ensemble Lado from Croatia

I like surprises.
Christopher Hitchens

The Universe of You Tube never fails to surprise me.

Today's post features some goodies from Lado, the National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia. They are a group of over fifty dancers and musicians and their repertoire includes all the folklore regions of Croatia.

The ensemble was founded in Zagreb in 1949 and has been performing for 67 years. In this post you will see some samples of them in action. If you like tamburitza music and choral singing you will love Lado.

Croatians usually sing and dance at the same time.  The most popular dance is the kolo, which they do in circles and serpentine lines.  They are also big on call and response songs and tamburitza music.

The medley in Video #1 is from the region of Posavina.



Video #2 is from the town of Valpovo, in the region of Slavonia.  The women's costumes are colorful, ornate, and how many petticoats are they wearing?



Video #3 is of a dance called Drmes.  It is a kolo with a "shaking" motion. There are many versions of this dance in Croatia and you can read a description of one here.  



Video #4 is song/dance medley from the Baranja region of Croatia.  There is also a district in Hungary with the same name. Oftentimes, names cross borders, another example is Dobrudja in Bulgaria and Dobrogea in Romania.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

Crazy Croatian Dance Songs

What's in a Name: Part: Two: Croatian Confusion

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part Four: Bavno and Ravno

My father would take me to the playground, and put me on mood swings.
Jay London

I used a quote totally unrelated to today's post to get everyone's attention :)  Now that I have your attention, today's post features two dances from Macedonia that have names that sound very much alike.  Confusion reigns again!

Bavno Oro is the more popular of the two. Just about every folk dance group has it in their repertoire. There are different versions of the music for this dance; some with vocals and some without.

Bavno Oro translates into "slow dance" in English. It has five figures (four that go with the slow music and one with the fast). The slow part is in 7/8 and the fast part is in 7/16. It is a relatively easy dance that can be learned by watching.

Version #1 has vocals and you can find them here.



Version #2 is a tune arranged by Boris Karlov (1924-1964). He created and composed dance tunes for accordion and they are played at folk dances over fifty years after his death.



The next dance is the more difficult Ravno Oro. It is also an accordion tune that starts slow and speeds up as the music progresses. The dance has three distinct parts that go with the music.

The 7/8 rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple) is very popular in Macedonia and southwestern (Pirin) Bulgaria.  By the way, there are three different versions of 7/8 (the faster version is 7/16) and you can read about them in two of the posts below.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens, Part One

Dancing in Sevens, Part Two


The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part Three (this has the links to the previous posts in the series)

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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Alien Diaries Best of the "Worst": Earworms from the Balkans

There are, of course, inherent tendencies to repetition in music itself. Our poetry, our ballads, our songs are full of repetition; nursery rhymes and the little chants and songs we use to teach young children have choruses and refrains. We are attracted to repetition, even as adults; we want the stimulus and the reward again and again, and in music we get it. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be surprised, should not complain if the balance sometimes shifts too far and our musical sensitivity becomes a vulnerability.
― Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

In previous posts I have written about songs called "earworms." They take up residence in your head for hours and refuse to move out. Today's post features earworms from five Balkan countries.

Video #1 is Valle Kosovare/Shqiptare from Albania.  The group is Valle Tona from Worcester, Massachusetts. This song rang in my head for hours the first time I heard it.  You can find the lyrics here, in Albanian and in English translation if you'd like to sing along.



The song in Video #2 is by Maria Tanase, a Romanian singer who passed away in 1963 at age 49. During her relatively short life she gave performances around the world, and also had parts in movies and in a musical by Ralph Benatsky.  Her most famous song, Ciuliandra, is very popular at folk dances.

Ciuleandra  is not as much of an earworm as Bun ii vinu'ghiurhiulul.  You will definitely need more than a glass of wine to remove this song from your head.  You may even need an entire bottle!

Notice the 7/16 rhythm and repetitive refrain. It is the rhythm for the dance Geampara in Romania and Rachenitsa in Bulgaria.



Earworms tend to have an element of repetition; a distinct rhythm and catchy lyrics, which is why they tend to stay in memory for a long time.They can even drive you crazy as you find ways to purge them from your head.

There is a science to this which is explained in Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sachs, M.D. I borrowed the book from the library to check out his take on music.  His research is primarily focused on neurology and experience with stroke, Parkinson's and dementia patients, musical savants, and classical composers.

There is an entire chapter devoted to rhythm and another devoted to what he calls "brainworms".  I saw nothing on Balkan music and its asymmetric rhythms, nor does he mention folk instruments like the gaida and zurna. (If you want to read about how the Ottoman Turks used the zurna to intimate their enemies, see the list at the end of this post).

The song in Video #3 is from Croatia. For some reason, Croatian songs tend to stay in the brain forever.  It's the repetitive lyrics and the tamburitza music that accompanies them.

U Selu Pokraj Dunava (In a village near the Danube.) is about a man in love with the young woman who lives in the village. You can find the lyrics here, but no English translation.



One of the best sites for folk song lyrics in the original language, English and German is the Songbook for Nearsighted People, so named because because the lady who compiled typed the lyrics in a large font so they could be seen in places with poor lighting. It is also good for those who are visually challenged.

You can find the lyrics and sing along to Oj Shope Shope in the Songbook. It has a German translation for the song which is about a young man from the Shope region of Bulgaria who thinks he's God's gift to the world. This is a song that refuses to be evicted from the brain. Last year it was part of a gala concert featuring several Bulgarian women's groups.  It  kept me awake that night.



Video #5 is a song from Macedonia, Dedo Mili Dedo,   It tells the story of a day in the life of an elderly couple who still love each other after all the years they've been together. This song has that earworm quality: repetitive lyrics and a catchy rhythm.  There is also a dance that goes with the music.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Some Famous and Not So Famous Folk Songs from Romania

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

Age is an Issue of Mind Over Matter: Old People in Balkan Folk Songs 

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music 

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Call and Response: Daichovo Horo

Call-and-response is a time-tested technique for getting attention, not just in classrooms but in the military, in churches, at sports events, and in traditional cultures in various parts of the world. Instead of repeating yourself, train students to respond to a fun or inspiring statement!

From teacher website The Cornerstone


Last week at dance we reviewed the dance and the calls for Daichovo Horo. It is a dance in 9/8 or 9/16 from northern Bulgarian and supposedly named after a rich cattle merchant from Pleven named Daicho.

The "village Daichovo" is an easy dance that anyone can do. Read a description of it here.

Video #1 is an example of a "village" Daichovo.



The version that we did was more complex with different calls and responses.  A member of our group wrote them down (in transliteration, since very few of us can read or write Bulgarian Cyrillic) and posted them (see photo at beginning of post.)

After researching further, I found that there were even more calls and responses.  See complete list here from Dick Oakes' Phantom Ranch website.

I check Google searches on this blog and I found that "Daichovo calls" was often requested.  The choreographed version of the dance is in Video #2.  The music is from an old recording by Bulgarian accordionist, Boris Karlov (1924-1964). The dance is sometimes known by the name Zizaj Nane.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Daichovo, Plain or Fancy; Take Your Pick

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

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