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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dances from Stara Zagora

A city isn’t so unlike a person. They both have the marks to show they have many stories to tell. They see many faces. They tear things down and make new again.
Rasmenia Massoud

Today's music and dance are from the city of Stara Zagora in the south central (Thrace) region of Bulgaria.

Video #1 is Starazorska Rachenitsa, named after the city. Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria and danced all over the country; it has many regional styles.  The Thracian rachenitsa tends to be slow and smooth. Oftentimes in this dance the arm movements are emphasized.

The name rachenitsa is derived from the Bulgarian word for hand or forearm: ръка.

Here you will see a club demonstrating the dance.  Afterwards, there is instruction, and then everyone else joins in. This version is "na horo" or in a group.

The next dance is Staro Zagorsko Horo. The difference between rachenitsa and horo is that a horo is a group dance; rachenitsa can be performed solo or as a couple as well as in a group.

Staro Zagorsko Horo is a pravo variation.The pravo is the most popular dance form in Thrace, although there are regional variations done in other parts of the country. Like the rachenitsa, it is danced all over the country.

This dance starts off slowly and speeds up.  The beginning is a pravo variation with grapevines and sways. The fancy footwork starts at 2:32.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Chinese "bonding folk dance class."

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part Seven: Balta and Ca La Balta

“Knowledge is the name professors give to the confusion they create.”
― Marty Rubin

Today's post will give you even more knowledge about the confusion of names in Balkan dance with two dances from Romania.

Video #1 is the dance Balta, which fits a lot of steps in less than two minutes. The music reminds me of Calusari, another Romanian dance.

"Balta" is the Romanian word for marsh or swamp. It is also the name of a commune in Romania.

The performance in the video is smooth and seemingly effortless. It is a pleasure to watch this man dance.

Video #2 is Ca la Balta.  This is a modern version played on a saxophone. Click here if you want to hear the traditional version on panpipe and cimbalom. The name translates to "as in Balta."

If you enjoyed this you may also like the rest of the series Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused.
The link goes to Part Six, you can access the other posts from there.

Crossing the River, Part Two: The Stick Dancers - Romanian Calusari and Their Bulgarian Counterparts

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song Chichovite Konje

All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song.
Louis Armstrong

Today's post features different versions of the Bulgarian folk song Chichovite Konje. It translates to "My Uncle's Horses" and is from the Shope folklore region. You can find the original lyrics with a translation here.

One of my uncles passed away recently. When he was a young man, he had a job tending horses, so this post is dedicated to him.  He lived to the age of 96.

Video #1 is the most popular version of Chichovite Konje,  sung by the Philip Koutev choir. This is a high energy piece of music, and typical of the Shope region.

Video #2 features a solo female singer. I don't know her name, but I got a little dizzy watching her. The background noise takes something away from the performance, which is otherwise good.

Video #3 is a totally different (and modern) rendition of this song.  This time it has a masculine touch with two men and one woman (one of the men plays a drum).  There is no other musical accompaniment.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs. Part Three (links to Part One and Part Two are included here).

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music, Part One

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dances from Spa Towns

Hot water is my native element. I was in it as a baby, and I have never seemed to get out of it ever since.
Edith Sitwell

Spa towns are known for healing thermal and mineral springs, used to treat many different ailments. Doctors in Europe often prescribe spa treatments; unfortunately this practice is not commonplace in the United States. The name "spa" originated from a town of the same name in Belgium.

Today's post features music and dance from spa towns in Bulgaria and Serbia.

Video #1 is of the Bulgarian folk dance Staro Bansko Horo (old dance from Bansko).  Bansko is a town in southwestern Bulgaria (Pirin region).  It is best known for its ski resorts, however the nearby village of Banya is the place where you find the spa and the hot mineral springs.

The music is typical of the Pirin region, in 7/8 meter (pineapple-apple-apple) with vocals and tarambuka accompaniment.

Video #2 is another dance from Bulgaria: Sandansko Horo, from the town of Sandanski, also in the Pirin region.  The rhythm alternates between 9/16 and 13/16.

Sandanski is a popular resort town with many mineral springs and is one of the warmest places in Bulgaria.

Video #3 is the popular dance Niska Banja from Serbia (from the town of the same name) Banja means "bath" in Serbian, and you can wash away your aches, pains and worries at the local spa.

Niska Banja is another odd-rhythm dance.  It is in 9/8. Although there is a choreography specific to this dance, we dance Devetorka to it.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Dances With Compound Rhythms

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Foxy Singers of Bulgaria and Macedonia

Even the handsomest men do not have the same momentary effect on the world as a truly beautiful woman does.
Jonathan Carroll

One thing that I've noticed in my forays through the Universe of YouTube is the number of attractive female folk singers.  This could be a ploy to get more men to watch folklore videos.

I have to admit these videos are fun to watch and the performers are talented.

Video #1 is of Valya from Bulgaria. She wears a dress with folkloric accents that isn't overly revealing.  It looks good on her and she has an amazing voice.

Her backup is a group wearing costumes from the Northern folklore region.  The dance is a variant of Chichovo Horo.

The title of the song translates to "nine mountains." I couldn't find the lyrics or a translation.

Video #2 is of Aneta Arsovska, a singer from the Republic of Macedonia.  I think somehone had to pour her into that dress (it's tight!)  One of my readers (I won't reveal his name) will probably appreciate this video. She performs the song Majstore, Majstore.  

I found an English translation from Macedonian.  The word "majstore" is interpreted as "repairman." I think a more accurate word would be someone who is an artisan or master of a trade, The song is not about a master-slave relationship as depicted in  Fifty Shades of Gray. It is about the passion of a woman in love.

The dance to this is cocek.

In Video #3, this lady is practically popping out of that dress.  My guess is that it's attached onto that part of her anatomy with Super Glue since there were no wardrobe malfunctions.

Her name is Emilia and the song is Stano, Stano.  I had some trouble understanding the translation.  I think some idioms from Bulgarian don't translate well into English. My guess is that the song is about a man in love with a woman named Stana, who has burned the fire out of him.

A dance group accompanies Emilia and they wear elaborate embroidered costumes from the Bulgarian region of Thrace. The fire in the floor has some kind of connection with the song.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Songs From the Balkans About Women and Girls

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chichovo Horo

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Bulgarian New Year Celebration

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.
F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Will 2017 be a better year than 2016?  I certainly hope so. There was the loss of Lyubka Rondova and Esma Redzepova in the world of Balkan music.  They will be missed.

Today's post features two Bulgarian New Year celebrations.  The first one has dancing and singing; the second, fireworks and music.

Video #1 features Nikolina Chakardakova, a Bulgarian folk singer from the Pirin region. Here she leads a New Year's celebration in 2014 with a medley of danceable folk songs.

The beauty of this is that she gets everyone up and dancing, even though it's cold outside (it is a good way to keep warm).

The event was broadcast on Bulgarian TV.

Video #2 is quite noisy because Bulgarians get a bit crazy with the pyrotechnics for Nova Godina. There are three pieces traditionally played at midnight: the Bulgarian National Anthem, Mila Rondino, (0:20),  Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo (1:44), and a Russian hymn sung by Boris Christoff (last name also spelled Hristov) Mnogaya Leta  Grant, O Lord, Many Years (6:27).

Boris Christoff was best known for his operatic performances, especially in  Boris Godenov.   He was born in Plovdiv. He left Bulgaria for Italy in 1945 and never went back for the rest of his life. When he died in 1993, his body was returned to Bulgaria and given a State funeral.

The Bulgarian National Anthem has undergone a number of changes over the years.  The version currently in use glorifies the beauty of the country. You can find the lyrics in the original language, transliteration and English translation here.

Notice: you won't find Auld Lang Syne anywhere in this video.  In my humble opinion it's a sappy song suitable only for those drunk enough to sing it.

Happy New Year 2017!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Best of The Alien Diaries 2010-2015

Now That We've Survived The End of the World (next prediction is for August 2017)

Happy New Year 2014: Same Dance, Different Music: Dunavsko Horo

In memory of two great singers who passed on in 2016:

A Tribute to Esma Redzepova

A Tribute to Lyubka Rondova

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song: Ripni Kalinke

We have a secret project at Third Man where we want to have the first vinyl record played in outer space. We want to launch a balloon that carries a vinyl record player.
Jack White

Today's post is about one of my favorite Bulgarian songs, Ripni Kalinke from the Rhodope region. It is about a couple who try to get close at a dance while their parents are watching. The parents are opposed to them being together.

Video #1 is the original version by Nadezhda Hvoineva, who lived from 1936-2000. This recording is used at folk dances. She was born in village near the town of Smolyan and performed as a soloist in The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.

The dance for this is Pravo Horo.

Video #2 is Ripni Kalinke performed by Valya Balkanska, best known for the song Izlel e Delyu Haidutin. This was one of the songs on a golden record that NASA launched into outer space in 1977.

In this version, Valya Balkanska is accompanied by a kaba gaida, a traditional instrument from the Rhodope region.

Video #3 is the children's group Hopa Trop from Seattle singing and dancing to Ripni Kalinke.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Golden Record, Rhodope Folk Songs, and Valya Balkanska in Concert

Hopa Trop: Children's Ensemble from Seattle, Washington

Merry Christmas to all!  Enjoy some Bulgarian Christmas songs.

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