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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Balkan Buy One Get One Free Special: Dances With Compound Rhythms

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

Today's post features three dances from Bulgaria in compound meters, where the music has two different rhythms in the same piece. It's the folk dancers' Buy One Get One Free Special :)

In previous posts, I have featured dances in odd rhythms such as padjusko, rachenitsa, chetvorno, lesnoto, daichovo, and kopanitsa.  Since most western music is written in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8, music in odd time signatures is challenging for dancers and musicians at first.  People in the Balkans have this stuff mastered before they can even walk.

There is an excellent website from the Ethnic Dance Network that explains Balkan rhythms and gives musical examples. You have to feel the rhythm in order to understand it. Hopefully the videos here will add to your understanding of Balkan (especially Bulgarian) folk music.

The first example is Jove Malaj Mome from the Shope Region. This dance is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and kopanitsa (11/16). The dancers are at the Balkanalia  festival in Dresden, Germany, which takes place annually in March. Their webpage describes this event as "a big meeting of international folk dance."

The hardest thing about  Sandansko Horo is the rhythm: 9/16 (daichovo) + 13/16 (krivo). It is best when dancing not to think too much; let the leader do it for you. .This dance is from the town of Sandanski, in the Pirin region of southwest Bulgaria, where they get a little crazy with odd rhythms.

If you want to see an example of Krivo Horo click here .By the way, krivo means "crooked" in Bulgarian, the opposite of "pravo" straight.  The meaning has to do with the rhythm; pravo is in the even meter of 2/4 or 6/8 and Krivo is in 13/16. Thirteen is not only odd, it is a prime number as well.  Many folk dancers are into math; this is a good way to get a conversation going.

Sedi Donka is a party dance in our group. It is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and  kopanitsa (11/16). By the way, this is the slow version; the Ethnic Dance Network has a much faster one.. Sedi Donka means "Donka is sitting", which makes me wonder how the dance got its name.

Hang on to your belts, folks.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States (one of the videos features the group Leb i Vino performing in the town square of Sandanski).

Dancing to the Music of a Different Drummer

Dancing in Sevens Part One and Part Two

Balkan Music and Its Relationship to...Math?

This website is rather technical and geared towards musicians, but some readers may find it of interest:

Mastering Odd and Complex Time Signatures and Rhythms

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Monday, July 7, 2014

What's in a Name? Two Bulgarian Folk Dances: Dobrujdanksa Pandela and Pandelaš

Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

Today's dances have similar names but different meanings, tempos and choreographies.  One thing they have in common is that both are from the folklore region of Dobrudja.

These dances have stampy steps which are characteristic of this region of Bulgaria.  The first, Dobrujanska Pandela, is in the time signature of 2/4. "Pandela" translates to "ribbon" in English.

The second dance, Pandelaš, (pronounced pandelash) means "fleeting thought or idea." (Funny how that little diacritical mark under the "s" changes not just the meaning, but the pronunciation.

 Pandelaš  is a rachenitsa, a dance very popular in Bulgaria.  The tempo is either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speedthis particular dance is in 7/8.  The beats are accented like this: apple-apple-pineapple.

The rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, and in different regions it takes on different characteristics. For example: the Shopska Rachenitsa is fast, with small steps, and the Thracian Rachenitsa is slower and smoother).  The Dobrudjanska Rachenitsa is relatively slow, punctuated with stamps and often accented with strong arm movements.

Click the links to see two more examples of rachenitsa from Dobrudja:  Sej Sej Bop and Povlekana.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part One and Part Two

Stamping It Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Rachenitsa Na Horo (two dances with the same name, different music and choreography)

Looking for some thing fun to read this summer?  Check out my new blog Light and Shadow.  It has been online since January.  It will make you think, and may even make you laugh. 

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for the next two weeks. See you later this summer!

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

More Folk Songs From the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

This week's post will feature some lively songs from the folklore region of Dobrogea.  I am not very familiar with the performers (except for Aneta Stan); nor the songs.  Although they may be popular in Romania, they are not so well-known outside the country.  The songs caught my attention, which is why they ended up on this blog.

The rhythms of Romanian Dobrogea have counterparts across the Danube in Bulgarian Dobrudja. Here are two examples:

Geampara - Rachenitsa
Cadaneasca - Daichovo

The Eliznik website goes into more detail about odd rhythms in folk dances from Romania.  Rustemul is also mentioned. I couldn't find any songs with that name, but here's the dance:

Now it's time to enjoy some very danceable songs by several Romanian folk artists. Although there is no dancing in these videos,  you probably will want to sing (and dance) along to them, and there are some very nice photos to go along with them.

The first song, by Natalia Serbanescu, is Mandra Floare de la Mare.I couldn't get a proper translation; Google ended up with  Proud Flower to the Sea. In the video you can see some pictures of the Romanian Black Sea coast. For all I know this is probably an ad for Romanian tourism:

The song starts as a cadaneasca, then changes into sirba rhythm. Sirba is another popular Romanian folk dance that was featured on a post about a year ago (see link at the bottom of this page).

The next song is a geampara, performed by Ani Orheanu Stanciu, Sunt Fata de la Braila (I am a Girl From Braila). Braila is a port city near the Danube Delta. Some of pictures in this video are scenes from the Delta region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here's another example of geampara rhythm, performed  by Elena Ionescu Cojocaru: Mult ma doare inima (my heart aches...a lot). If  you didn't understand Romanian, you'd never guess this is a tragic love song. Your first impulse would be to dance to it.

Aneta Stan sings Eu Sunt Fata Dobrogeana (I am a Girl from Dobrogea), another example of the cadaneasca. If anyone knows the name of the flower in the picture, please let me know in the "comments section."  Aneta Stan is from the town of Cernavoda; there is a playlist of her songs on the Cernavoda Blog

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

Crossing the River, Folk Songs from the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

If you're interested in music from Bulgaria read: Stamping it Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Trite Puti

Omne trium perfectum (every set of three is complete)

Today's dance is the very popular Trite Puti, from the Thracian region of Bulgaria. In English translation it means "three times." Three times what?

It has different variations, three of which we'll explore here.  The first (and the easiest) is performed by the Filip Kutev Ensemble.  Here the dance consists of three steps forward, three steps back, an in and out step, and three pas-de-basque steps to the right, then left.

The videos were posted on YouTube from the website. There you can find dance videos from all the folklore regions of Bulgaria and also an English translate link in the upper right hand corner of their webpage, if you are Cyrillically challenged :)

Warning: the gaida (bagpipe) here is very loud, so turn up the volume! (This is especially useful in summertime when annoying neighbors sometimes keep you awake with their loud music.)

Variation #2 also features dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes.  The music is slightly different, although at the end it's similar to Trite Puti #1. This video is part of a series "Teach Yourself Bulgarian Folk Dance." This version is the one most commonly done in international folk dance groups.

The teaching part of the video (not shown) breaks the dance down into its individual parts. This is what it looks like put together.

Trite Puti #3 is similar to version #1, with grapevines and side to side steps added, and at a slower speed.  The music is different, although some of it is similar to version #1 and version #2.

This is part of a medley of dances (the other two are Varnensko Horo, at 2:03 and Shopska Rachenitsa  at 4:50 ), which are also worth a look. Good things come in threes!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States (the Ethnic Dance Chicago does a really fancy version of Trite Puti.  It's the last dance in the first video at 4:55)

Three Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Trei Pazeste (for those who really like things in multiples of three).

You can also watch these teaching videos on YouTube.  Emily Nisbet teaches Trite Puti (in English) and if you're feeling ambitious, you can try it in Bulgarian.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dancing Along the Danube: Folklore Videos from the Tour International Danubien

Today's post features Serbian and Bulgarian folklore shows from an annual event: the Tour International Danubien or TID for short.

In 2014 the TID will begin in Ingolstadt on the 21st of June and ends in Sfantu Gheorghe in Romania on the 5th of September.  It includes the following countries: Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Tour is in its 59th year and the intent of the trip is to foster good will and friendship amongst the people who live in the countries along the Danube River. I had never heard about it despite having lived in Germany for four years. There was no mention of it on the news programs nor was I able to find anything on Deutsche Welle, the German news service.

I found out about the TID via the Bulgarian National Radio affiliate in Vidin, about two years ago.

The TID is a demanding undertaking; it involves 2 1/2 months of paddling canoes/kayaks (no motorboats are allowed). They cover an average of 30-50 kilometers per day (and sometimes more) with rest days.  The participants sleep in tents, sometimes at primitive campsites, and have to deal with hazards such as thunderstorms, high water, strong currents, wind, and large ships.  Some sections can be compared to riding a bicycle on a highway while being surrounded by large trucks. The Slovak TID website describes some of the dangers. There have been a few casualties in the past; their advice was that if you pay attention, you'll be fine.

The TID paddlers also have a lot of fun on their journey, get to explore different countries and cultures and have an enjoyable time out on the water.  It's not all work.  (If it were no one would go!)

They have to be self-sufficient, which means carrying tents, sleeping bags, personal gear, etc. in their boats. At each town where they stop for the night they are welcomed, fed, and entertained, sometimes with folk music.  The participants pay a fee for each section of the Tour and the money goes towards providing food, a place to camp, sanitary facilities and entertainment.

I have a feel for what they do because I have canoed and kayaked rivers here in the States (the largest was the Connecticut River in Massachusetts).  My husband and I went on a canoe camping trip many years ago on our own for seven days, in Pennsylvania. I don't know if I could do a trip like the TID at this point in my life, one section would probably be plenty for me. It is something you have to train for; and you have to be prepared for anything.

I would especially like to thank Jürgen Skop from Germany, who created short folklore videos from the Serbian and Bulgarian segments of the Tour on YouTube. They were a pleasure to watch!

Skop also posted two movie-length videos from the TID from his trip back in 2011. They are quite long;  the combined total for both is about six hours.  Part one begins in Germany with narration by Skop. He had originally planned to go all the way to the Black Sea; unfortunately he had to cut his trip short because of of a herniated disc and had to leave the Tour in Lom, Bulgaria.

Part two is a mixture of slide shows plus video; I especially enjoyed the folk dance shows in Bulgaria.  I recognized the dances, since I do most of them. 

The first video is a folklore show in Bogojevo, Serbia. It begins with a welcoming speech in German, then a dance ensemble performs to accordion accompaniment.

Video #2 takes place in Pozharevo, Bulgaria, in the Dobrudja folklore region, near Silistra. The dancers perform pravo horo, rachenitsa, and daichovo horo. From the videos I've seen posted on YouTube, the Bulgarians had the most (and the best) folklore evenings.  I've noticed that the Bulgarians are very eager to share and teach their folk dances to foreigners; they gave dance lessons to people on the Tour. I'm surprised that after a day of paddling that anyone had the energy to dance. Bulgarian energy is very contagious!

Video #3 is the dance Opas from Dobrudja in the village of Vetren. There are several different versions of Opas on YouTube.  The variations, depend, of course, on the village. They go from relatively easy to extremely difficult.

Opas is a fancy Dobrudjan variation of the pravo with lots of stamping.  Only the men do the deep knee bends in this video.  They are not recommended for anyone with arthritis :) 

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Varations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

The River of Many Names Parts Two, Four, and Five (Danube music from Bulgaria and Serbia)

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

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Some Famous (and not so famous) Folk Songs from Romania

I never wanted to be famous.  I only wanted to be great.
Ray Charles

Today's post features music by three female Romanian folk singers. Two of them are almost unknown in the United States. 

We begin with Maria Tanase, born in a suburb of Bucharest in 1913, and best known for her song Ciuleandra. You can find the lyrics here in Romanian, English and German. While you're there, check out the rest of the Songbook for Nearsighted People, a collection of folk songs with translations (mostly in German and some in English).

She became interested in folk singing at a young age and gave many performances in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately she died from cancer shortly  before her 50th birthday. Maria Tanase has often been compared  to Edith Piaf, a French singer from the mid 20th century, because of her sultry voice.

There is a dance to this song, and it's very popular among international folk dance groups around the world.

The next song, also performed by Maria Tanase is Bun ii vinu' ghiurghiuliu.  It has a very danceable rhythm (7/16), and a cimbalom (tambal) accompaniment. I couldn't translate the title, but my guess it has too do with drinking too much wine. You can find the lyrics here.

By the way, Romanian wine is very good, but not easy to find in my area.  I drank some at a friend's graduation party last year which was held in a Romanian restaurant. It was open bar, too!

7/8 or 7/16 is the rhythm for rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria.  When rachenitsa crosses the border into Romania it becomes geampara. 

Aneta Stan is from Dobrogea, in southeastern Romania. She performs songs from all the folklore regions of Romania, however, much of her repertoire is from Dobrogea.

Dobrudja is divided in two parts: Northern Dobrogea in Romania, and Southern Dobrudja in Bulgaria.The spelling is slightly different for each country. For you geography buffs out there, this is the region between the Danube and the Black Sea.

Stan, born in 1944, lived a good portion of her life during the repressive dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu.  He ruled Romania with an iron hand from the mid 1960's until his assassination on Christmas Day, 1989. The borders were surrounded with barbed wire and watch towers, and those who tried  to escape were shot. Ceaușescu's austerity program in that country included the rationing of food, heat and electricity which were sold to pay off Romania's foreign debt.

She is not well-known in the United States, although, according to the interview here in Romanian, she has given concerts all over the world. The places that made the biggest impression on her were Africa, Italy and New York City. During her stay in New York, she volunteered at a hospital and cared for an elderly patient.

She visited the United States during one of her performing tours and her impression was that "America was as gray as Romania" and that at night everything came alive with light. She was probably describing the bright lights of New York City.

The song Cernavoda is about Aneta Stan's home town. It's on the Danube, River of Many Names, in the region of Dobrogea, and has a Bulgarian name which translates to "dark water."

If you listen closely, you can hear a bagpipe (cimpoi). By the way the dance to this is a sirba, and the rhythm closely resembles the Bulgarian pravo horo.

Don't pay attention to the messages at the bottom of the video, unless, of course, you understand Romanian. They describe a gas explosion in an apartment complex. and how elderly people get depressed when drinking alcohol. Folklore shows can do without gloom and doom and CNN headlines, especially during Christmas holidays. They are a distraction.

Ileana Constantinescu, born in 1929, is another singer little known outside Romania.  She also used the odd rhythms of Dobrogea in her music (she was born in the region of Oltenia, southern Romania) The song, Dunare (Danube)is an example of schiopa, a rhythm related to Bulgarian daichovo, but with the accents on different beats.

The lyrics to Dunare can be found here, along with a translation in English..This is a very haunting love song with lots of rhythm.

This particular show takes phone calls and encourages audience participation. The woman on the phone can sing, too.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

Crossing the River, Part One: Music From the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

The River of Many Names Part Seven (Another song by Aneta Stan:  Balade Fetei Dunarene with scenes from Cernavoda)

The Cernavoda Blog (blog in Romanian with a playlist of Aneta Stan's greatest hits) with a short bio of the singer.  She was made an honorary citizen of the town in 2003.

Folk Ensembles Named After Dances (includes the dance Ciuleandra).

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

You can also visit my new blog Light and Shadow, with poetry, stories and pictures by (who else?) me!

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beethoven With a Bulgarian Accent; Mozart goes Greek

Freude, schoener Goetterfunken, ,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was der Mode Schwert geteilt
Bettler werden Fuerstenbrueder
Wo dein sanfter Fluegel weilt

Friedrich Schiller, An Die Freude, first stanza
used by Ludwig Van Beethoven in the last movement of his Symphony #9 in D minor

About a year and half ago I wrote a post on classical composers inspired by Balkan folk music.  Today you will hear the opposite: Balkan folk music with allusions to Beethoven and Mozart.

The first video is the music for the Bulgarian folk dance Opas, played by the Orchester Sabor at a performance in Trier, in Germany.

By the way Trier is a very lovely city.  I have been there many times to shop, visit the Roman ruins, the museums, and drink wine.  The most well known structure is the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) which has stood over the city for over 2000 years.  Also, you can see the remains of what were Roman baths. The Roman bridge over the Mosel River carries traffic to this day. There is even a house where Karl Marx once lived, it is now a museum.

Porta Nigra in Trier, by KDB

What makes this version of Opas unique is that the band uses a bit of Beethoven's Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony. It has a unique sound played on the gaida and the accordion (violins are more typical symphony orchestra instruments.)  The Beethoven starts at 2:58, but the whole piece is worth a listen.    You can even dance to it (looks like the gaida player wants to give it a try, but I imagine it's difficult to dance and play a bagpipe at the same time).

The next piece is a Hasapiko, which during the Middle Ages was the dance of the Greek Butchers' Guild.  There are many versions of the Hasapiko done to different tunes.

This one is based on  Mozart's Symphony #40 in G minor, first movement, and sung in Greek.  I have no idea what the words mean, if someone could post a translation in the "comments" section, it would be much appreciated!

The group is from Hong Kong. If you're a regular here you know that Balkan folk dance is very popular in China!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Dances

Two Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

Allusions, Musically Speaking

Classical Musicians Play Folk Music from Bulgaria and Romania

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