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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Tune: Bucimis

I'm attached to the beat. The beat speaks words. I love music.
Travis Scott

One of the most popular (and difficult) folk dances is Bucimis from the Thracian region of Bulgaria.

Video #1 is the melody and the dance we know and love.  It is short, only a minute and half long.



This tune has made the rounds in some musical circles (pardon the pun).  It is challenging to play because it's in 15/16.

Odd time signatures are very common in Balkan music.  This is the only dance I know of in 15.  Western musicians in general, have difficulty internalizing the rhythms because they are so used to music in 2's and 4's.

In the next two videos, the musicians have mastered the rhythm.  They also play it on instruments not usually used in Bulgarian folk music (except for accordion in Video #2, and tarambuka in Video #3).

Video #2 starts with a very long drum solo.  For some reason drummers have a field day with this piece. The melody, played on mandolin and accordion, starts at 2:50.



In video #3, a group that usually performs Middle Eastern and medieval music, plays Bucimis with violin, two recorders, drum, tarambuka, and oud.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Classical Musicians Play Balkan Folk Music

Mandolins, Marimbas, and Bulgarian Folk Music

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Golden Steps and Greek Blues

The nearer the dawn the darker the night.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I was at a Greek festival recently. One of the performing groups danced a Hasapiko. I didn't capture it on video because I ran out of space on my phone; but I did manage to take a picture of the dancers.


Hasapiko  was originally a dance performed by the butcher's guild in Greece.  The more modern form is also known as Sirtaki.

On the Universe of YouTube I found a superb rendition of Hasapiko performed by a couple to the beautiful song I Fili Mou Haramata (My Friends At The Break Of Dawn). The song blended so well with the dance that I had to share it.

The song itself is about a woman who wants to hide from everyone, including her friends, because of a relationship breakup.  They gather at her house at dawn, happy, with drinks in their hands.  She isn't having any of it.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Beethoven With a Bulgarian Accent; Mozart Goes Greek


The Butcher's Dance in Balkan Folklore

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Periniţa: A Romanian Wedding Dance

“Who wouldn't want to get married in a room full of love stories?”
Jen Campbell

Many of the dances on The Alien Diaries recently have been about weddings. Today's dance is Periniţa from the Romanian region of Muntenia It is pronounced "peritnitza." The dance is in sârba rhythm, a popular dance form in southern Romania similar to the Serbian Cacak or Bulgarian Pravo Horo.

The idea behind the dance is to "capture" a partner with a scarf. Both women and men can pick partners. They kiss after their turn at the dance and move on to find other partners until the music ends.



Periniţa can be done as a hora (group), couple or even as a threesome (1:44).  The threesome part reminds me of the Russian dance Troika. At 2:48 two couples kiss.  It's really sweet!


You can read the story behind the dance here.  It was a favorite of the dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, and under his regime it was the last dance at every party. It's still popular from what I've seen on YouTube.

Once you listen to Periniţa, it will live on in your head for days because it's a catchy, repetitive tune, also known as an earworm.


Here is another version of Periniţa performed at the wedding of Marius and Geana in Galati.



If you enjoyed this you will also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Hora

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

Romanian Wedding Videos from the Universe of YouTube

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused: Part 15

Before I came here, I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture, I am still confused -- but on a higher level.
Enrico Fermi

Folk dancers are often in a state of confusion because there are so many dances with similar names.

This post is a part of the longest continuous series on The Alien Diaries.  There are 14 other posts on this subject (see links at end).

Today's dances are Maleshevsko Horo and Maričensko (the full name is Maričensko Pravo Horo, but no one ever writes that on request lists.)

Video #1 shows the dance club Chanove from the city of Ruse performing Maleshevsko.  Although this is a very macho piece of music, there are women as well as men in the line, so this is an equal opportunity dance.

Maleshevsko is from the southwest Bulgarian region of Pirin.



Maleshevsko can be danced to more than one tune; here is another example done to the folk song Ay da idem Jano; click on the link and you can sing along, provided you can read Bulgarian. This is a slightly different choreography by the group акцент (Accent).



Video #3 is Maričensko Pravo Horo. It's a moderately fast Pravo from the Shope region.

Pravo is one of the most popular dances in Bulgaria; it has many variations, from slow to hold on to your neighbor's belt fast.



Video #3 was the only example of Maricensko I could find with dancing, but here's another version  that's worth a listen, played by a very talented guitarist, Ewan Dobson. You can dance to this one too.



If you enjoyed this you may also like the rest of the Balkan Dances that are Often Confused Series.  You can link to all posts by going backwards from this one:

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused, Part 14

Pravo Horo variations from different regions of Bulgaria:
Dancing Across Bulgaria, the Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Dance Name Malapropisms, Part Two

“I think he’s suffering from a nervous shakedown.”
Stan Laurel

Today's post is about a piece we used for the final dance recently. One of the people there pronounced it "Hora of Misery."

 Hora Miresei, from Romania, was actually a dance for the bride and her family, done after the wedding before she leaves with her new husband. Maybe that's what the "misery" is about. Can you imagine how maudlin they were about the bride moving to another village, to live with her new family?  If there is booze involved, and there usually is, mourning her loss is even harder!

Nervous breakdowns (or "shakedowns") are common before, during and after weddings.  The drinking and the dancing help by alleviating some of the stress. After the wedding is when reality sets in, especially for the parents of the bride. Then for the bride, there's the wedding night...

The lyrics for Hora Miresei are beautiful and poignant, and the story told from the viewpoint of her mother. She wants to prolong what little time she has left with her daughter.  Here are the lyrics so you can sing along.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dance Name Malapropisms (Part One)

Songs and Dances about Brides


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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Thracian Dances at Bulgarian Wedding

Never give a sword to a man who can't dance.
Confucius

The video below is a group of Thracian dances performed at a Bulgarian wedding.  The music is from the folklore region of Thrace.

The dances (in order) are Trite Puti, Pravo Horo (with attitude), and Bucimis, Notice that the choreography is different from what we do at recreational folk dances in North America.  It starts with a mixed line for Triti Puti. During the Pravo (at 1:47) the guys dance in separate line from the women.  Traditionally, men in Bulgaria dance as a way to flirt with women and demonstrate how macho they are.

At 3:28 the women form a separate line for Bucimis, so they get a chance to show off, too. At 4:03 it becomes a mixed line (with the bride somewhere in the middle).  At 4:39, the guys form a separate line for Bucimis, and all hell breaks loose.

This is a fun video to watch.  I would love to go to a Bulgarian wedding!



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Trite Puti

Wedding Dances and Bloopers from Bulgaria and Romania


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Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Good Man is Hard to Find....

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible!
—Audrey Hepburn

Today's post takes us to western Slavic territory: Slovakia.

Last week I listened to some Czech brass band music and some Slovak folk dance music on YouTube. It made me think about why Czechoslovakia (a country that no longer exists) split up. It was an amicable breakup between two countries with similar language but totally different musical cultures.

It was weird to hear "Bavarian beer hall music"sung in Czech, not German. Culturally, Bavaria and the Czech Republic share two things: a love for brass band music and a love for beer. The best beer that I ever had was a Pilsener Urquell from the Czech Republic.  Turns out that the person who created that beer style was from Bavaria.

The first time I heard Slovak music was the theme song for a Slovak radio program in New York City back in the 1980's.  I didn't know the name, nor had I danced to it, but the song took up residence in my head. The music was haunting and beautiful and the first thought that came to my mind was a young woman, wandering in a field on a hot summer day, searching for something elusive to her.

A few months later, I was in Central Park, looking for the venue where the folk dancing was held (E. 82nd Street near the King Jagiello Statue).  It didn't take me long to find it because I heard that song again.  Because of that song I found the group.  A woman saw me watching, and drew me into the dance: "You can do this!" The dance was Horehronsky Csardas.

Slovak music sounds like Hungarian music with a Slavic accent because of the strong Hungarian influence in that region.  Here is an example:



As for Horehronsky Csardas, the song to it is To Ta Hel'pa, about a young woman, who has an interest in one man out of 100 in the town of Hel'pa.  It was originally recorded (on vinyl, you can hear the needle static in the beginning of the recording, it's that old!) during the 1950's.

Here is a link to an English translation:

Before the Internet it was difficult to find folk song lyrics, and almost impossible to find them in English translation. Now I knew what had eluded the singer.....good men are hard to find.  Also, she would perform an amazing feat for this special guy; jump across the Danube, River of Many Names and a field as well. 

I don't know of anyone who could do this, except maybe Wonder Woman.  Here is an essential skill the singer could use.



This video shows a hydrofoil making the trip from Bratislava to Vienna. There are a number of huge vessels in this video. Check out the barges at 0:23 and 1:01. There are more if you continue to the end.



If our singer wants to jump across a river this wide and busy, she must be desperate for love.  This is a common them in folk songs; the desire for what one can't have.

Finally here's the video for the dance with lyrics so you can sing along.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names, Parts One Through Six (Part Six has links to the previous posts)

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 10: Cigansko Horo and Ciganko (Ciganko is a song about a man who is madly in love with a Roma woman.)

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