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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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Monday, May 30, 2016

Another Folk Ensemble Named Horo

Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.
~John Wain

In the past I have featured folk ensembles named Horo.  Here is another group with that name from Kozloduy, Bulgaria.

The town of Kozloduy is best known as the place where Hristo Botev landed after hijacking the Austrian steamship Radetsky on his way to Bulgaria from Romania to organize an anti-Ottoman uprising. He was shot and killed on June 1, 1876 near Vratsa.

Hristo Botev was one of the key figures in the overthrow of Ottoman rule in his country, and is much revered by the Bulgarian people. He left a legacy of revolutionary poetry.

There is a replica of the Radetsky docked in Kozloduy,  now used as a museum ship. It houses memorabilia of Hristo Botev. The Austrian
shipping company destroyed the original Radetsky in 1924. Forty years later, a group of school children raised money to build a replica, to be used as a museum, which opened in 1966.

In video #1 the group dances on the deck of the Radetsky.  They wear dresses instead of traditional Bulgarian folk costumes. (How can they dance so well on those high heels?)  It looks like they're doing a dance from the northern folklore region; if anyone out there can name that dance, please post it in the comments section.



In video #2 the dancers remind me of bees in their yellow T-shirts and black pants.  The dance is Sitno Selsko za Poyas (za poyas means belt hold) from the Shope folklore region.  It's similar to another dance from that area: Graovsko Horo.



Video #3 is a medley of two dances: the Vlach Trei Pazeste and Sitno Selsko (same dance as the previous video.)

There is also a group of dances from Romania with the name Trei Pazeste; there are different variations depending on the town they originated.  The steps in Bulgarian Vlach dances are similar to dances in Romania.(See my post on Vidinsko Horo).

The ensemble is decked out again in yellow and black; in fancier costumes this time. If you want to skip the introduction and the logo, the dancing starts at 2:14.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like

Folk Ensembles Named After Dances

Folk Ensembles Named Horo

Orchestra Horo:  Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary (short bio of Hristo Botev with links to his poetry and the story of the Radetsky.)

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Elitsa Stoyneva, a Young Bulgarian Folk Singer

Youth comes but once in a lifetime.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had the pleasure of listening to Elitsa Stoyneva at Balkan Music Night in March in the Kefana, a space designed for performances.

She performed songs from different regions of Bulgaria.  In video #1 are two songs from the Rhodopes, a mountain area near Greece. The second song is Posteno Ludo i Mlado. It has a beautiful, haunting quality  that you can imagine echoing from the mountains.



Elitsa was pretty cool. She explained what the songs were about (one of them was quite funny; unfortunately I don't remember the name of the song, so I couldn't provide the video.) She even involved the audience in a song from the Shope region. The second and third songs in the video are an example of Shopi style singing, which  involves whooping and long notes (impossible for me to do but it was fun, anyway).

Here she performs with two singers from the United States. 

Elitsa is the woman on the left.  I actually got to meet her while we were dancing a rachenitsa later on in the evening.  Her English is excellent, tinged with a charming Bulgarian accent.  Since the music we were dancing to was so loud, I couldn't hear her very well, but from what I gathered, she wasn't familiar with the dance the way we do it here.  Different village, you know.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Singing Demystified

The Best of the Bisserov Sisters (and Family)

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

Check out this blog on Bulgarian singing, written by an American named Martha Forsyth, who performs with Zdravets, a Boston based group.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dances I Would Like to See Revived

“Variety's the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”
William Cowper

What I find discouraging sometimes during the Friday and Sunday night dances is that most people request the same dances week after week. What's lacking sometimes is variety in the repertoire. That can be due to a number of factors: aging dancers (it is difficult to do certain dances if you have arthritis in the knees or hips); people leaving the group for whatever reason (relocations, graduations or retirement) and the dance gets lost when that person leaves. If you don't use it, you lose it and many dances are forgotten simply by not practicing.

Oftentimes leaders of dance groups bring home new dances from workshops. Some of them "take" and some of them don't.

Here is an example of a dance that was taught to the Sunday night group a number of years ago. I hope to revive it when I get proficient enough to teach it. It "fell through the cracks" and although it's on the master list, no one has requested it in years.

Video #1 is Celebinkso Horo from Bulgaria, Trakia region. It's not difficult; the trickiest part is the rhythm which is in 9/8.  The Daichovo and the Devetorka are also in nine, but Celebinsko Horo has the accent on beat two. Daichovo has the accent on the first beat, and Devetorka on beat four.

You can sing along to this as well, the lyrics are on the bottom of the screen.  I couldn't find a translation.



Video #2 is of a really challenging dance I found on YouTube recently, Gergebunarsko Horo.  I couldn't find notes for it anywhere. Fortunately a lady named Sonia Efron posted this dance because she had an interest in its preservation. Unfortunately, many dancers have aged and would probably have a problem with the steps, which are intricate, fast, and athletic.That is why we need more young people to come to folk dances!

At the beginning of the video, there's a performance with George, Sonia and Jeff, then an explanation and a teach by Sonia, and then the actual dance. By the way, this is one of the many variations of Pravo Horo.



Video #3 is Izruchana.  I don't recall ever doing this at a dance group or a workshop, but it's popular on YouTube.  There are a number of versions of this dance that can be found there with North Americans, Israelis, Bulgarians, and Chinese performing it.  Somehow our group never "got the memo." I would classify it as moderately difficult.

Izruchana is a Vlach dance from Northwestern Bulgaria.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing Through the Alphabet, Letter I (Chinese performance of Izruchana)

The Aging of the Folk Dance Population

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

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Monday, May 2, 2016

The "Flavors" of Bosnian Kolo

There is something particularly special and personal about the circle and how its curves comfortably rule every aspect of our lives.
Kat Lahr

Once upon a time there was a country called Yugoslavia. It broke apart in the 1990's during a series of ethnic and religious civil wars.  After the breakup it became six different entities, one of which was Bosnia.  Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, was reduced to a pile of rubble during the The Siege of Sarajevo , when the Serbian Army held the city for almost four years.

Barely ten years before Sarajevo had been the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics

Nowadays, Sarajevo is again a tourist attraction, although if you look closely you can see remnants of the war.

Today's post features kolos from Bosnia. Some are in circles and some are in lines.

Sarajevka Kolo, according to John Filcich in the video, was one of the original dances brought over by the immigrants in the 19th century.  The notes have it listed as a Serbian  because it originated with Serbs living in Bosnia, so this is a hybrid dance with dual nationality.   The recording, judging from the sound, is an old one.  Somehow the video got cut somewhere in the middle of the dance.



In the past, Balkan Music Night used to feature costumed folk dance ensembles in between bands. This video dates from 2010 and features a costumed group performing dances from Bosnia.

A commenter on YouTube had noticed that there were no guys dancing with the girls.  The reason is that Islam is the dominant religion in Bosnia (Eastern Orthodox and Catholicism rate second and third). In Islam, contact with the opposite gender is forbidden (except for family relationships).



Video #3 is another Bosnian kolo, with a group from Seattle, Washington.  There is no gender segregation here.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

Hybrid Dances from the Balkans

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