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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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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dances Inspired by Elena

/ Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /
/ (Ah) Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /

Bulgarian folk song

Today's post features two very well-known dances from Bulgaria.  Both are inspired by a woman named Elena. She must be quite popular.

The first is Elenino Horo, better known to to those in the folk dance community as Eleno Mome.  Bulgarian dances tend to be named after the following things: people  (Gankino Horo or Ganka's Dance), cities or towns (Varnenska Tropanka from the city of Varna),  holidays (Koledarska Rachenitsa or Christmas Rachenitsa) or events like weddings (Svatbarska Rachenitsa). 

This version is from a teaching video; part of a series "Teach Yourself Bulgarian Horo." The dance is from Northwestern Bulgaria. Swinging of the arms in time with the steps is typical of dances from this region, and you will notice that their feet.barely touch the ground. The rhythm is 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed (2+2+1+2). There are versions of this dance that are really fast; the one shown here is a moderate tempo.

Eleno Mome is also a folk song.  The instrumental version seems to be more popular than the vocal one.

You can find the lyrics here as well as the sheet music so you can sing along with Rumiana Popova. If you listen carefully you'll hear a bit of the Macedonian dance Toska Memede mixed in at the very beginning. You get two for the price of one.

Elenska Rachenitsa is another Elena dance, introduced and taught by Yves Moreau, and very popular in the international folk dance community.

Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, in 7/8 or 7/16 rhythm (depending on the speed, the lower the number on the time signature, the faster the music). Think of the words apple-apple-pineapple and you have rachenitsa.  Notice the arm movements; they are an intregal part of the dance.

This is a slow and graceful dance from the Thracian region of Bulgaria, performed by the Tanzgruppe Bäckerstraße from Vienna, Austria. They have many videos posted on YouTube and also on the Dancilla website.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances From Cities and Towns

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

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

Vienna is the gate to Eastern Europe.
Niki Lauda

Today's post was inspired by a lady named Monika from Vienna, Austria. On YouTube, she goes by the name Monivienna, and she has a little bit of everything on her channel:  folk dances and workshops, Lipizzaner horses, music events  and even her cat (he's so cute!). I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I have!

One of the pleasures of living in a large city is all the dance events. During the summer, some of them take place outside, and many years ago one of my favorite venues during the spring, summer and early fall was in Central Park in New York.

The Central Park Folk Dancers have been meeting  for many years near the King Jagiello Statue and Turtle Pond.  The entrance to the park is near the Metropolitan Museum of Art  on 5th Avenue and West 81st Street.

There is also an outdoor dance venue in Vienna.  Dances take place at the Donauinsel (Danube Island, by the lighthouse) on Tuesday evenings between 7:00-9:30 p.m.
The  Reichsbrücke can be seen in the background of video #1. It dates from 1980; the previous bridge had collapsed early on a Sunday morning in August 1976 due to a structural defect. I was living in Germany when the bridge fell; it was a major story on the news.

Nearly a year later I visited Vienna and saw what remained of the old bridge; construction had not yet started on the new one. At the time of the accident there were four vehicles and five people on the bridge; one life was lost. This would have been a bigger catastrophe if it happened during rush hour on a weekday.

The dance shown here is a slow and easy one from the Pirin region, choreographed by Yves Moreau to the song Idam ne Idam. The lyrics describe a shopkeeper who's in love with a woman named Felidza.  It's a very lovely song, perfect for a balmy summer evening.

Video #2 is from a dance seminar with Mitko and Antonia. Trunska, the dance seen here, is very high energy. It looks like a fancy variation of the pravo.

Video #3 is from another workshop, Schwitz mit Fritz. You will definitely sweat and have lots of fun at one of these.  Last year a Schwitz mit Fritz video was featured on The Alien Diaries of the Albanian dance Valle Pogoniste.  The link can be found at the bottom of this page.

Here Fritz leads a lively and energetic Daichovo Horo, a dance from northwestern Bulgaria. This is almost three minutes of heavy-duty aerobic exercise. I wonder how many people have trouble keeping up with him?

Video# 4 is from a party with the ensemble Kitka, who are dressed up in those beautiful elaborate embroidered costumes. From what I see here I'd love to go to one of these parties; they really know how to have a great time.  I think people in the States sometimes take themselves and folk dancing too seriously.  At the local dances they know me as the comic relief. Comedy is my forte.

This group does Pravo Horo, one of those "getting to know your neighbor dances." Quite a few conversations are going on here....

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on the Albanian Folk Dance Valle Pogoniste  Fritz calls the steps for  Pogoniste while the dancers sing along.

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World 

Dancing Along the Danube: Folklore Videos from the Tour International Danubien Features music and dance from folklore evenings in Serbia and Bulgaria.

If you have an interest in bridges you may enjoy this post celebrating the opening of a new bridge last year  between Vidin, Bulgaria, and Calafat, Romania (with plenty of music).

Crossing the River, Part Four

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Made in Romania

Many Europeans are confused by the terms Roma and Romania. They wonder if it is an ethnicity or a nation of 22 million citizens.
Traian Basescu

Today's post features a Roma (Gypsy) dance and a medley of dances from the region of Transylvania. 

The first video is the Roma dance, Made in Romania. You can do it freestyle or go by the "suggested" choreography here.  Included are the lyrics and the translation for the song.

I have been known to deviate from the choreography at times and like to create up my own steps. As long as it goes with the music, it's all good, but sometimes it drives people crazy.

The second "Made in Romania" is a folk ensemble who perform a medley of dances from Transylvania. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was the book that made Transylvania famous. It was based on an actual person, Vlad Tepes, (Vlad the Impaler), who ruled Wallachia from 1456 to 1462. He is best known for the way he killed his enemies.  He impaled them on stakes.

Stoker created a novel based on the folklore of Transylvania. Although he had never visited the country, he had read about it extensively, and he reincarnated Vlad Tepes into a vampire. Nowadays, everyone associates Transylvania with Count Dracula and vampires.

The name Transylvania means "land beyond the forest."  A number of ethnic groups have left their imprint in this region:  the Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons (Germans) and Roma.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like

A Romani Potpourri, Parts One and Two

Transylvania: The Land of Count Dracula is a Multi-Cultural Mishmosh

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hybrid Dances From the Balkans

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Today's post features hybrid dances, so called because they have more than cultural influence.

The first video is of a Greek dance from Kastroria with lyrics in Ladino,  Alta es la Luna.  Ladino was the language spoken by the Jews of Spain, who were exiled from that country in 1492 (about the same time Columbus set sail for the New World).  The Spanish Jews, also known as Sephardim, settled in various European countries, including Greece.

You can find the lyrics with translations into English and German here.

By the way, "horon" is the Greek word for dance; "horo" is the Bulgarian cognate.

Momino Horo  is a  "Young Women's Dance" from Bulgaria that has two distinctly different moods. Part one is slow and graceful with step-lifts (the notes describe the styling as Greek Macedonian.).

All hell breaks loose after the musical transition at 2:08;  two stamps, then the "penguin step", followed by an in and out, and more stamps. The choreography in part two is as Vlach as it gets with the shouting and the stamping.

The Vlachs were descendants of Romans who lived in the Balkans.  They had wandering ways and in the old days, they worked as shepherds.

Momino Horo  is based on women's dances from the region of Lom in northwestern Bulgaria, an area with a sizable Vlach population.

Yves Moreau, the teacher in the video, gives workshops in Bulgarian folk dance all over the world. This workshop took place in Haifa, Israel.

Siriysko Horo is a dance that came to the Bulgarian community in Chicago by way of Syria. The music is really strange because it reminds me of rush hour traffic in Manhattan.  According to the notes, the dance teacher Yulian Yordanov saw it performed at a Bulgarian gathering in Chicago. In this video,the music has been slowed down for teaching.

The first time I heard the song for Siriykso, I thought it very weird, but I really like it now. I wonder if the singer, Hamid El Shaeri, a native of Benghazi, Libya, was ever in New York City?

You can find the lyrics here.  What's surprising is this happens to be a love song!

This is the same song, at normal speed, and performed by a group of belly dancers.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Travels of Pajdusko Horo

Allusions, Musically Speaking (how snippets from different cultures get mixed into Balkan folk music)

Bulgarian Folk Songs With A Hungarian Accent

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