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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year 2012

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the Old Year leaves.
Bill Vaughan

Some dire predictions for the year 2012 have been making the rounds, especially the one about the world coming to an end on December 21st, according to the Mayan calendar.

You can even buy an End of the World Calendar and have fun waiting for the Big Disaster (which could be alien invaders, floods, fire, earthquakes or even nuclear war):



Everything you always wanted to know about December 21, 2012 can be found here:

http://www.december212012.com/

2011 has been a difficult year for many people, for some, it has been the year for natural disasters. I experienced two in 2011. One was a tornado, which passed within a mile from here, the other was a freak October snowstorm which caused widespread damage and power outages. I was without power for a week in the cold and dark; there were downed trees everywhere, including one that fell on top of my garage.

Still I consider myself fortunate. Others, such as the Japanese, have had it much worse.

Here's hoping the 2012 will be a better year than 2011 :)

Today's post will ring in the New Year with music from the United States and Bulgaria.

Here in the States the biggest New Year's Eve party is held in Times Square in New York City. Although I lived in New York for many years I never went to a New Year's Eve in Times Square. It was too cold, it was infested with tourists, and there were no sanitary facilities or places to sit down. I went to parties with friends instead, and we watched the ball drop (a New York tradition) on TV.

In the first video, Imagine plays before the ball drops; then at midnight, Auld Lang Syne, based on a poem by the Scotsman Robert Burns (which became popular as the New Year Theme Song many years ago). The finale is New York, New York.. At parties, we'd link arms around each other, kick up our feet and sing along to Sinatra. It was fun, especially after a few drinks.



Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians made Auld Lang Syne a very popular New Year's song in the United States. read more about it and the band here:

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/newyearcelebrations.html

By the way, the tradition of using noisemakers and lighting fireworks on New Year's is supposed to scare away the evil spirits who bring bad luck. In this celebration from Bulgaria, the noise from the people and the pyrotechnics is so loud it drowns out the music!

If you listen carefully, you can hear the three traditional songs that Bulgarians play to bring in the New Year. They start with the national anthem, Mila Rodina, then an Orthodox chant sung by Boris Christoff, and the finale is Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo.



A New Year's celebration in Bulgaria would not be complete without dancing to Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo at midnight. This piece has become the second national anthem of Bulgaria, and the dance is second in popularity to the rachenitsa (the national dance of Bulgaria).

There are other musical versions of Dunavsko Horo, besides the one by Diko Iliev (although his is the most popular). The version these young people dance to at a Christmas show is played by a folk ensemble.



If you don't know how to dance Dunavsko Horo and would like to include this tradition in your New Years Eve party, here is part of a Bulgarian teaching video, if you watch the dancers, you can easily follow the steps.



For some more New Year music from Bulgaria, click this link from the Bulgarian National Radio:

http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Music/Pages/3012BellsAreRingingNewYear%E2%80%99sConcert.aspx

A Happy New Year to all!

If you enjoyed this you may also like Some Interesting New Year Rituals

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/01/some-interesting-new-year-rituals-and.html

Afterwards, you can Have a Blast With Diko Iliev. Do it before the world self-destructs on December 21...

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/having-blast-with-diko-iliev.html

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Folk Songs and Dances from Bulgaria

In course of time, religion came with its rites invoking the aid of good spirits which were even more powerful than the bad spirits, and thus for the time being tempered the agony of fears. Paul Harris

You may be wondering...what do evil spirits have to to with Christmas? Read more and find out!

Today's post will feature Christmas songs and dances from Bulgaria. These videos will put you in a festive mood.

In Bulgaria, the word for Christmas is Koleda. It is one of the most important holidays on the Eastern Orthodox calendar. Although it is a religious holiday, pagan elements (such as the rituals to drive away evil spirits) co-exist harmoniously with the religious ones.

The first video of a children's group is really cute, with several boys singing and playing on traditional instruments (gadulka, tambura and drum). Their teacher must be so proud :)



More Christmas songs, but the setting here is not in synch with the season, except for the hats on these guys. What I find odd here are the flowery curtains. Where are the Christmas trees and decorations? Maybe they are dreaming of spring in the middle of winter.



In Bulgarian tradition the men do the singing and dancing at Christmastime. Groups of men (Koledari) go from house to house and sing (this takes place in the smaller towns and villages) and the the hosts at each home give them food and drink. In some respects it is like the Puerto Rican parranda, which I wrote about in one of last year's posts (the link to it is at the end of this one).

Now it's time for some pagan rituals which involve the driving out of evil spirits.

Back in the old days people believed that the sun disappeared around the time of the winter solstice and that scaring the evil spirits would bring it back, which is why the Surva ceremonies were held during the time between the winter solstice and the last day of December. Here are some masked men who intimidate with looks alone. When a bunch of them play the zurna  (a double-reed oboe like instrument) and the drums, the noise is loud enough to scare away any evil spirit who dares to get close.



For more on Surva, read: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Bulgarian-Surva/1126125

Cbristmas would not be Christmas without dancing. These Koledari begin with a rachenitsa (national dance of Bulgaria) then go into a buenek (walking dance). I posted something not too long ago about folk ensembles named Dunav, this is another group with the same name.



A big thank you to everyone who stopped by and a Merry Christmas to all!

If you enjoyed this you may also like A Bulgarican Christmas, a cross cultural comparision of Christmas traditions (this includes an old Sesame Street video with Oscar the Grouch!)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/12/bulgarican-christmas-cross-cultural.html

Dreaming of Spring in the Middle of Winter (if you like flowers and folklore you will love this one.)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/01/dreaming-of-spring-in-middle-of-winter.html

The River of Many Names Part 3: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav (there are lots of them!)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/10/river-of-many-names-part-3-folk.html

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Allusions, Musically Speaking

Words are illusions.
Bodhidharma

First of all, let's begin with the definition of allusion. Most people confuse allusion with illusion. They are two totally different things, although the quote above states that "words are illusions." If you think about it, have you ever listened to a really good story that was the product of a crazy imagination? Most likely it was illusion and allusion at work.

Literary types would define it as a reference to something else in a written work, usually subtle or implied. An illusion, well, that's an idea that's taken up residence in your imagination, or something that you see when you've had too much to drink :)

Of course, to understand a literary allusion, you have to go back to the item it was originally written about. It's the same with music.

Today's post is about allusions in Balkan folk music. If you listen hard enough you will find them :)

The first video is of Gori More, a dance song which came from Serbia via Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hidden somewhere in the music is an allusion to another folk song, which leads me to believe the composer knows something about Macedonian folk music. (Hint: it's at 1:38). Listen carefully, because it's short, maybe about 20 seconds.



Now listen to the song Zajko Kokorajko, from Macedonia. The story behind this song is about a rabbit and his surprise bride (the fox who wants to eat him). The dance is Arap.



Berkovksa Duhova Muzika, a brass ensemble from Bulgaria, crosses the line between traditional and modern. They use an allusion to an American pop song in this rendition of their signature piece, Chichovo Horo, a folk dance from northwestern Bulgaria. This time it's up to you to find it. It's somewhere in the middle, and very well woven into the musical fabric.



Here's the original song, a one hit wonder from the 1950's on the original 78 rpm record.



If you are over 50 you probably remember 78's. If you're younger, your grandparents or parents may have a few gathering dust in the basement.

They were big clumsy things, 10 inches in diameter, made from vinyl and played on a turntable with a stylus. The sound came from the needle moving along the grooves as the record turned. You could get about three minutes of music on each side. They skipped when they got scratched, which was often, which is where the expression "you sound like a broken record" came from.

By the way, if you're interested in Tequila, click this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tequila

If you enjoyed this, you may also like Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/bulgarian-folklore-and-pop-culture.html

And if you didn't get enough of pop culture and folklore, here's more:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/11/bits-and-pieces-more-folklore-and-pop.html

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Dances

Musicians from the beginning of time have been there to express the mood and the musical feelings in the air for whatever's going on in that particular culture. It's the greatest joy as a musician to be able to translate that, be part of something and watch the scenery around you.
Trey Anastasio

In today's post we'll explore music by classical composers who were inspired by folk dances from the Balkans.

The Romantic Period in classical music, which took place during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a time of musical nationalism, and composers from several countries used folk motifs as part of their compositions. Some famous examples from the 19th century include Brahms (who wrote 21 Hungarian Dances); Smetena (his folk opera The Bartered Bride is very popular to this day), and Franz Liszt, who wrote a set of Hungarian Rhapsodies.

There were also composers in Balkan countries who wrote music based on folklore themes; most of them they are unknown in the States, except for George Enescu, who did quite a bit of traveling. He gave concert tours in the United States and Europe and spent his final years in Paris, France, after the Communist takeover of Romania. They had confiscated his home in Bucharest, and he never returned there.

This video of Romanian Rhapsody #1, composed in 1901 by George Enescu features some beautiful scenery from his homeland. The work was based on songs and dances from Romania; it's a very dramatic and beautiful piece. Although it's a bit long (14 minutes) it's worth a look and listen.



The next piece is by Bulgarian composer Petko Stainov (1896-1977). Stainov composed a number of works based on Bulgarian folk dances, this one is simply titled Rachenitsa. The concert commemorates a Bulgarian holiday, March 3, 1878, celebrating the liberation of that country from Ottoman rule.



The last video is of a kolo (circle dance) from the folk opera Ero s onoga svijeta (Ero the Joker). The composer, Jakov Gotovac, was a native of Croatia. When the opera made its debut in 1935, Croatia was part of a larger entity, Yugoslavia.

I heard the orchestral version of the kolo many years ago on a New York classical music station and maybe once or twice. I searched for it on YouTube using the words "folk opera Yugoslavia kolo," since had no idea who the composer was, and I had forgotten the name of the opera, but I recognized the music when I heard it.

This is the lively finale from Ero the Joker, Zavrsno Kolo, done in true Croatian style, with tamburitza accompaniment.



There is an article on Wikipedia about Jakov Gotovac, click here for information about his life and music.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakov_Gotovac

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev (Bulgarian composer of the 20th century who wrote music based on folk dances)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/having-blast-with-diko-iliev.html

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa (national dance of Bulgaria)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/07/flavors-of-bulgarian-rachenitsa.html

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Bits and Pieces: More Folklore and Pop Culture From the Universe of YouTube

I love many kinds of music: world music, jazz, classical, pop. Anita Diament

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I have a fascination with folklore and pop culture, especially that related to music from the Balkans. Today's post gives you both with music from Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia.

The Muppets are extremely popular; a new Muppet movie was released recently. There was also The Muppet Show which was broadcast on TV in the 1970's and 80's. Everyone knows them from the show Sesame Street. The Muppets have even ventured into Greek folk music as you will see in the first video.

A friend sent me this excerpt from a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show. Miss Piggy sings Never on Sunday, accompanied by dancing pigs, a Greek folk ensemble, explosions, and plate breaking. This is the wildest crowd of Muppets that I've seen :)

There are bottles of Ouzo on the table, which is a liqueur similar to anisette, it has a strong licorice taste. It's the national drink of Greece.



Part of the Balkan cultural experience involves booze. This is a Bulgarian commmercial for rakia (brandy) with men in kilts performing a folk dance, accompanied by a Scottish pipe band (playing Bulgarian music). It's very cleverly done.



The final video in this post is a rap song with a Jamaican accent and a Romani beat. The performers are Ras Tweed from Jamaica and Esma Redzepova from Macedonia. This delightful and eclectic mix of folklore and pop culture is Raise Up Your Hands.



If you enjoyed this you may also like: Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/bulgarian-folklore-and-pop-culture.html

Folklore and Pop Culture (again!)Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Count Dracula (this one includes a vintage Sesame Street clip)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/10/folklore-and-pop-culture-again.html

How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-bulgarian-folk-music-induces.html

For more on The Muppets read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Muppets

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Bagpipe in Macedonian Folk Music


"Gaidasheep", photo from Uncyclopedia

These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
Alfred Hitchcock

If Alfred Hitchcock had lived in Macedonia, the pig probably would have been replaced by a goat.

Today's topic is the bagpipe in Macedonian folk music, also known as a gaida. The gaida plays a very important part in the music of Macedonia, and they love it as much as the Bulgarians, if not more.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you've probably noticed that I'm fond of music played on the gaida (Eastern European bagpipe). It has a unique sound, and can be haunting and annoying at the same time. For example, when one or more members of my family start to get on my nerves I find the loudest and most obnoxious piece of gaida music and play it from my computer. That usually keeps them in line. They think of it as an instrument of torture. To some people, it is.

Traditional instruments in the Balkans are created from the skins of animals; sheep, goats, or pigs. For example, the gaida is made from the hide of a sheep or goat, and the tupan (double headed drum) is often made from a pig's hide.

Balkan cuisine is very heavy on the meat; the farmers utilized just about every part of the animals they slaughtered. The skins came in very handy in the creation of musical instruments.

What really caught my attention in the first video is that the man plays a gaida made from the body of a goat, with the head still attached. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would not approve, despite the fact that these instruments are very much part of the cultural fabric of Macedonia.

The musician is a Macedonian living in Australia who makes his own bagpipes, tupans, and kavals and advertises them on YouTube. If you're looking for a one of a kind gift that stares back at you send Risto Todoroski an email at sirulsko@gmail.com. If you order one soon, it just may get to the recipient in time for Christmas :)



This eponomous piece is Gaidarsko Oro. It is also known as Narodno Oro, which means simply "folk dance." The piper is accompanied by an ensemble of traditional instruments; the tambura (lute), the tupan (drum) and the kaval (flute).



The Tanec folk ensemble of Skopje are ambassadors of Macedonian folklore. They have given numerous performances in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas since the group was founded in 1949. In this video, there's a great gaida solo (sans goat head). This video is a part of Tanec's 60th anniversary celebration in 2009. The group performs Osogovka Oro, a men's dance. Notice the men wearing short skirts, these are called "fustanella" and are part of the traditional costumes of Macedonia and Greece.



You can read about Tanec here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanec

If you liked this you may also enjoy:

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/bagpipe-and-bulgarian-folk-music.html

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/08/another-country-heard-from-bagpipe-in.html

More Interesting and Unusual Instruments in Balkan Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/04/more-interesting-and-unusual.html

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Romani Potpourri

You cannot offend anybody by a song. Romani proverb

If you like Romani (Gypsy) music you have come to the right place. Today's post features some lively songs and dances played by talented Romani and non-Romani musicians. All songs are in the Romani language. Romani has many dialects, and it's one language you won't find on Google Translate. For more info on the language, read this article from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_language

The Roma people, who originally came from the Indian subcontinent, were nomads. They made their way westward to Europe, and many of them settled in the Balkans. They encountered much discrimination because their customs and physical appearence were different than the mainstream population. Despite the prejudice, the Roma managed to survive wherever they settled. They found they could make a decent living as musicians and were very good at it.

The first video is of a very popular dance song, Opa Cupa, performed by a band from the west coast of the United States, Brass Menažeri (pronounced "menagerie"). Their specialty is Romani and Serbian brass music. It will make you want to get up and dance, and the enthusiasm from the audience is contagious!



The next video is a song from Macedonia very popular amongst folk dancers all over the world, Rumelaj. The Dunav group is based in Jerusalem, Israel. They have numerous teaching videos on YouTube; this is one of them, and their website is one of the best places on the Internet for information on Balkan music and dance.



To visit the Dunav website, click here:

http://www.dunav.org.il/index.html

Here is a totally different rendition of Rumelaj, performed by the Hungarian band Besh O Drom. If you like music on steroids, you'll love this.



You can read more about Besh O Drom here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Besh_o_droM

Esma Redžepova, the "Queen of the Gypsies" is a very well known singer, songwriter and humanitarian from Macedonia. She has been performing since 1957, when she was "discovered" during a singing contest sponsored by a radio station, back in the day when Macedonia was part of a bigger country, Yugoslavia. You can read more about her here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125580636

In this video she sings the anthem of the Roma people, Djelem, Djelem., a very emotional and beautiful song.



The translation can be found here:

http://www.dunav.org.il/lyrics/djelem_djelem.html

And finally, here's Esma performing her most famous song: Chaje Shukarije with the Gyspy Kings and Queens. She puts her body and soul into it, which is why she's been so popular, not just in Macedonia, but all over the world, for over 50 years.



If you enjoyed this you may also like People Are Afraid of What They Know Little About which describes the situation of the Roma in Eastern Europe, and includes lots of music.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/09/people-are-afraid-of-what-they-know.html

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music: Another Instrument of Torture Heard From (fifth in a series)


photo by KDB of "Oreo"

"The gadulka just isn’t meant to bring happiness to modern people." Rayko Baychev, from The Gadulka is Burning

You're probably wondering...why is there a picture of a cat here? Read on, you will find the answer later.

This is a musical intrument most people (except for Bulgarians) know little about, and some would consider it an instrument of torture like the bagpipe (gaida) or the accordion. People either love it or hate it. I describe it as a fiddle with attitude.

To get a sense of what a gadulka is about, first read this article from Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadulka

Now it's time to hear what a gadulka sounds like when played by a virtuoso. This is a solo performance by Nicolai Kolev. The piece is a rachenitsa, a Bulgarian folk dance in 7/8 time (apple-apple-pineapple).



Here is another piece with some beautiful scenery in the background...a gadulka serenade, how romantic :)



The gadulka is an integral part of the Bulgarian folk ensemble, and not usually featured as a solo instrument. It gets lonely all by itself, and prefers plenty of company. One of my favorite bands, Kabile, plays Bulgarian wedding music, and they go on tour in the United States every couple of years. I have danced to their music on several occasions, and they are one of the best groups around! In this video the gadulka is accompanied by its friends the gaida (bagpipe), accordion, clarinet, tupan, (drum), kaval (flute) and of course a singer! Synergy at its finest :)



A little gadulka humor is in order. This link goes to a memoir (in English translation) by a Bulgarian musician and gadulka player, Rayko Baychev. You will especially enjoy his description of how the Bulgarian folk orchestras use dead animals (cats, goats and pigs) to make music. Don't worry, it's funny, not gory. This is some excellent writing, enjoy!

http://www.granta.com/Online-Only/The-Gadulka-is-Burning

If you enjoyed this you may also like The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/10/accordion-in-bulgarian-folk-music.html

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/bagpipe-and-bulgarian-folk-music.html

The Clarinet in Bulgarian Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/01/clarinet-in-bulgarian-folk-music-third.html

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Folklore and Pop Culture (again!) Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Count Dracula, Transylvania, Sesame Street and Cereal

I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting.
Bram Stoker, Dracula, Chapter 1

Today's post is about Count Dracula and some pop culture related to him.

The character that Count Dracula was based on was Vlad Tepes, a nobleman who lived in Wallachia (present day southern Romania) during the 15th century. His favorite way of disposing of his enemies was impaling them on stakes. He had one hell of a reputation, even the Ottoman Empire functionaries, who ruled the Balkan lands in those days were terrified of him. I wonder why....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_tepes

Let's fast forward 400 years to Ireland, the homeland of Bram Stoker. Stoker was a writer fascinated by Eastern European folklore. He read Emily Gerard's travel book The Land Beyond the Forest (the Latin name for Transylvania). It was from this book that he found information about the folkways of that part of the world, including legends about vampires. The peasants of the region were quite superstitious and had a fear of the creatures that wandered in the night.

Stoker was so fascinated by the vampires (nosferatu) in Gerard's book that he created a novel that took place in Transylvania. In the novel, Count Dracula is an undead creature who feeds on the blood of unsuspecting victims, creating more of them in the process. Part of the idea must have had something to do with the evil reputation of Vlad the Impaler.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracula

Dracula is a popular book even now, and there are many references to it in popular culture as you will see later.

The castle of Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is an important Romanian national treasure, located in Transylvania, in the northwestern part of the country. It was one of Vlad's temporary residences. Here is some background and video about the castle.



Transylvania, back in the old days, was a part of the great Austro-Hungarian empire. To this day there is a large minority of ethnic Hungarians who live there. This region was given back to Romania after the first World War.

The next video is a folk dance from Transylvania, with a mixture of both Romanian and Hungarian influences. There was a lot of cultural-cross pollination in this part of the world. If you watch closely, you'll see lots of stamping, which is typical of Romanian dances, mixed in with a Hungarian csardas, a couple dance with lots of turning.



Now it's time for Count Dracula in popular culture.

First, there's the 1931 movie. Bela Lugosi was a natural for the role because of his looks and that strong Hungarian accent.



Your kids will certainly recognize this guy, he's the Count on Sesame Street. He even sounds a little like Bela Lugosi!



There is also a cereal, Count Chocula, with 100% of your children's daily requirement of sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors. It is guaranteed to turn them into monsters. I remember eating it as a kid; I picked out the marshmallows and ate them before eating the cereal. And as for the sugar, it made me want to dance all day and night.



I prefer this kind of cereal...oops, I meant Siriul. This is a folk dance from Romania, and is not a favorite of serial killers, at least not the ones I know :) I don't think Vlad Tepes was the dancing type.



If you enjoyed this you may also like Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/bulgarian-folklore-and-pop-culture.html

And you may want to try some Dancing by the Numbers.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/10/dancing-by-numbers.html

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leb i Vino: Traditional Music from the Pirin Region of Bulgaria

Interested in some very unusual and primitive folk music? Look no further. If you like odd rhythms, hypnotic drumming, super-loud bagpipes, dissonant harmonies and musical instruments that you've never heard of, such as the kemene, zurna, and tarambuka, this stuff is for you.

The group Leb i Vino (Bread and Wine in English) specializes in authentic Bulgarian folklore, which includes singing, dancing, playing handcrafted musical instruments, and the creation of traditional artworks. In this video, the dancers are accompanied by a zurna (a double reed horn often used in Middle Eastern music) and a tupan (large double headed drum). These instruments are the legacy of the Ottoman occupation of Bulgaria, which lasted about 500 years.



Bulgaria has six folklore regions. The music of each has a distinct character. Leb i Vino specializes in music from the Pirin, the area of southwestern Bulgaria, which shares a border with the country of Macedonia. Music and dance often cross borders, and sometimes it's hard to distinguish between music from the Pirin and music from the Republic of Macedonia. This has been the subject of a lot of contention on YouTube. I personally don't care about ethnic rivalry, which has no place on this blog. The important thing is the creativity of the artists, and the beauty of the music, which transcends national borders. The little kids in folk dress are really cute, and the food pictures will make you hungry :)



Songs in the Pirin are often accompanied by a tambura. It's a member of the lute family and it's strummed with the fingers. The woman plays a tarambuka, a small drum that looks like a large goblet.



The kemene resembles another Bulgarian folk instrument, the gadulka. The gadulka is so named because it makes a buzzing sound, and is a string instrument played with a bow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadulka

The tarambuka and the kemene create a very hypnotic combination in the next piece, and they are accompanied later by a kaval, which is an open-ended flute.

There are three distinct rhythm changes, which correspond to the following Bulgarian dances: lesnoto (pineapple-apple-apple), rachenitsa at 3:18 (apple-apple-pineapple) and devetorka at 5:10 (a kaval player joins in during the devetorka.) All three are in odd time signatures, 7/8 and 9/8 respectively, for you music theorists out there.



You can read about the group Leb i Vino on their website:

http://lebivino.com/index.php

If you enjoyed this, you may also like How Bulgarian Music Induces Altered States:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-bulgarian-folk-music-induces.html

For more on the different folklore regions of Bulgaria and some information on the country's national dance, the rachenitsa, read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/10/flavors-of-bulgarian-horo-and-diversity.html

Since my last post was about food, and I've gotten a few requests for recipes, click the next link for some traditional Bulgarian bread recipes. You can enjoy them with some of your favorite wine while listening to Leb i Vino. Don't forget to spread some lyutenitsa on that bread. Delicious!

http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/bulgarianbreads/r/basic-white-bread.htm

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blog Action Day 2011: A Look at Peppers in Bulgarian Food and Folk Songs




(Pepper plant photo by KDB; Shopska Salad from Wikipedia Commons)

Here's the link to the 2011 Blog Action Day webpage:

http://blogactionday.org/

In keeping with Blog Action Day, today's post will be about food. Since food is such a general subject I decided to focus on that multinational and multicultural staple, Capsicum, otherwise known as the pepper. They come in many varieties from the sweet bell pepper, the somewhat hotter jalapeño, and then there's the hottest pepper in the world, the ghost chili. Capsaicin is the chemical in hot peppers that makes them spicy. It has medicinal qualities and can be used to treat minor aches and pains. Ironically it's also the same substance that fires up your mouth when you eat a hot pepper.

Peppers are used in a wide variety of cuisines, such as Latin American, Italian, Chinese,and Eastern European. They add flavor and sometimes heat, depending on the type. The milder ones are used in salads, and the hot ones as a garnish, or an ingredient. They are very nutritious. Peppers have Vitamin C and beta carotene, and are a good source of dietary fiber. Did I forget to mention they also taste good?

Bulgarians are quite fond of peppers. They are eaten raw in salads, or stuffed with rice, vegetables and cheese and baked.

One of the key ingredients in the Shopska Salad is red sweet peppers (either raw or roasted). Shopska Salad is very easy to prepare, and the ingredients can be found in any supermarket: sweet red peppers, tomatoes, white brined cheese (similar to the Greek Feta), onions, cucumbers and parsley, mixed with sunflower oil and vinegar. The colors in the Shopska salad are also the colors of the Bulgarian flag.

There is also a relish made from hot peppers, Lyutenitsa, which is usually spread on bread. It is a traditional Bulgarian staple; pepper concoctions similar to this are very popular all over the Balkans, and known under different names with slightly different recipes. There is Serbian ajvar, Romanian Zacuscă, and Turkish Biber salçası.

You can find the recipe for Lyutenitsa here:

http://www.bettycrocker.com/community/blogs/viewblog/andiblog/2009/2/17/lyutenitsa-a-delicioustomato-and-red-pepper-spread

Peppers, sweet and hot, are very important in Bulgarian culture, and also in their folk music. Here are some pepper songs from the Universe of YouTube. Although some people in the United States have never heard of Bulgaria (and probably think it's a planet in outer space), Bulgarian traditional music is quite popular among folk dancers in this country (and around the world).

The first song, Dilmano Dilbero, is a lighthearted ditty about a girl planting peppers.



There is a phenomenal group from the Washington, DC area who performs Bulgarian folk music. The name of the band is Lyuti Chushki, which translates to hot peppers in English and their music is quite spicy, kick it up a notch! At the end of the video you can hear their signature song, which is, of course, about hot peppers!



Here is some more music from Lyuti Chushki along with a link to their website.

http://www.lyutichushki.com/



If you enjoyed this you may also like Folklore, Food and Fun at Festivals:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/folklore-food-and-fun-at-festivals.html

A cross-cultural post on butchers' dances can be found here:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/03/what-butchers-did-for-fun-butchers.html

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dancing by the Numbers

Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting. ~Gottfried Leibniz

People in the Balkans seem to have an obsession with numbers. Which is probably why they're so good at math. They are good at dancing as well, after all it's just a matter of counting.

Today's post is about dances named after numbers. The first one, from Serbia, is the Five Figure Cacak. If you watch carefully, you'll notice a three-two-one pattern very common to Serbian dances. There are five different sequences (figures) and each one is repeated. Twice.



Chetvorno is a dance connected with the number four, which is четири,(chetiri) in Bulgarian. In Cyrillic, the "ch" resembles a 4.



If you are looking for the children's game "Connect Four", you'll find it here :)

http://host.exemplum.com/hasbro/connect-four/connect-four.html

Trite Puti, another dance from Bulgaria, translates to "three times." Three times what? Despite the fact that math was not my favorite subject, I like this dance very much. Three happens to be one of my lucky numbers. In numerology, three is the number of artistic talent, creativity, and a way with words. In astrology it corresponds to the sign Gemini. Yes, I know Gemini is the sign of the twins, but it's also the third sign of the zodiac. (I think the guy commenting in the next video must be a Gemini....he's a bit on the chatty side. Just ignore him and his running commentary...he's a distraction. Watch the dancers instead.)



The third time is a charm. Here is another dance with the number three, which must be a lucky number in the Balkan world. The dance Trei Pazesti is from Romania.  They are even dancing in groups of three!  The shouts are characteristic of Romanian dances, they are called strigaturi.



By the way, the most famous vampire in the world, Count Dracula, was based on an actual person, the Romanian nobleman, Vlad Tepes. I mention this bit of trivia because it's October, and Halloween falls on the very last day of the month. This holiday is a big deal in the States. After dark on Halloween, children (accompanied by adults) traipse from house to house, and some of them dress as vampires. Scary costumes are the norm on Halloween; it is the holiday of ghosts, ghouls, monsters and vampires. The purpose of this activity is to acquire as much free candy as possible. The adults come home exhausted after making the rounds of the neighborhood; the children get a burst of energy from a sugar overdose.

Dracula (Romanian for devil) was quite the character and his favorite method of putting people to death was impaling them on wooden stakes. According to some estimates, he may have killed up to 100,000 people in this manner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_tepes

You can see a more benign version of the Count on the children's show Sesame Street.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like Balkan Folk Dancing and its Relationship to... Math?

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/balkan-folk-dancing-and-its.html

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Monday, October 3, 2011

The River of Many Names Part 3: Folk Ensembles and Performing Groups with the name "Dunav"

Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go. ~Blaise Pascal

Today's post is a another Close Encounter of the Danubian Kind. You get to visit different countries by way of music, enjoy some beautiful scenery and watch some fantastic folk dancing from Bulgaria.

During my forays in the Universe of YouTube I have found several groups that play, sing or dance to Balkan music. They all have one thing in common, the name "Dunav," which is Bulgarian/Serbian for Danube.

This river has been an inspiration for many artists, musicians and poets, from Germany all the way to Romania, but the Bulgarians seem have been the most smitten by the river that forms their northern border with Romania.

The ensemble Dunav, from Vidin in Bulgaria, is an example of Bulgarian artistry inspired by the River of Many Names. The beginning of this video is especially worth watching. Notice that the man shakes his head from side to side after seeing the images in the water. Are they a figment of his imagination? The dancers are amazing, and so is the scenery, the ship in the background, however, is a distraction. But, then, that's minor.



If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you have seen these people before. Their teaching videos are all over YouTube, and their specialty is dances from the Balkans and the Middle East. Dunav, a group from Jerusalem, Israel, describes their website as "the sharing place for Balkan music and dance." Check out their link:

http://www.dunav.org.il/

Here they perform Talima, from Dobrudja, the northeast region of Bulgaria which just happens to be along the River of Many Names.



In the States, folklore and culture are often found at church festivals. These events are held during the summer at Eastern Orthodox churches located in large cities on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Many immigrants from Eastern Europe settled there because they were able to find work in the factories and in the steel mills. They wanted to keep the traditions alive for the next generation; the church had a hand in this by sponsoring classes in traditional music, dance, and the language of the old country. In turn, the festivals raised money for the church. The greater community benefits by being exposed to a foreign culture. I've been to Greek, Serbian, Albanian, Romanian, and Bulgarian festivals, to me it's like visiting another country without leaving my own.

The Dunav Orchestra performs at a Serbian festival in Indiana. This, to me, sounds like Croatian tamburitza music. The country doesn't matter, it's a pleasure to listen to.



The last "Dunav" group is from London. This performance, from their trip to Romania in 1993, is of a lively Romanian folk song.



If you enjoyed this post, you will also like The River of Many Names (parts one and two). Part one is a musical journey.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/10/river-of-many-names-musical-journey.html

Part two has songs and dances from Bulgaria related to the Danube:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/10/river-of-many-names-part-2-danube-in.html

For more on ethnic festivals, read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/folklore-food-and-fun-at-festivals.html

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Can't Believe They're Not Bulgarian :)

Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.
Herbie Hancock

Today's featured group on The Alien Diaries is the Yale Women's Slavic Chorus.

The Chorus has been in existence since 1969, and they perform a wide variety of songs from Eastern Europe. Here is a little background on them with links to their YouTube Channel and Facebook page.

http://yaleslavicchorus.com/about/

The Yale Slavic Chorus does a fantastic job with Bulgarian music, which sounds a little strange at first to those who haven't heard it before; the dissonant harmonies and uneven rhythms take some getting used to. What makes this music so beautiful is its uniqueness.

This video is an unusual performance of the folk song Ergen Dedo. If you watch it on YouTube, the description underneath reads "impromptu Bulgarian genius." The rhythm they're tapping and clapping so enthusiastically is 7/8 (apple-apple galloping), the meter for the rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria. You can feel the love when they sing.



If you had been on a Manhattan bound N train in Brooklyn at 3 a.m. the third weekend of January you may have seen the takeover of a subway car by the Yale Slavic Chorus. They happened to be on the way home from a really good party, and the subway was the logical place to continue. (Is that a werewolf I hear at the end of the song?)



The party was the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, held every year on the third weekend in January. The Golden Festival is a showcase of Balkan bands and musicians; people come from miles around to watch them perform and to dance the night away.

For more about the Golden Festival read:

http://www.goldenfest.org/about/

Finally, here they are singing Shto Mi E Milo. Bulgarian they're not, but you'd never know :)



If you enjoyed this you may also like Bulgarian Singing De-Mystified:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/bulgarian-singing-demystified.html

For more on Zlatne Uste, the band who started the Golden Festival back in 1985, read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/band-from-new-york-city-competes-at.html
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Those Who Can't Dance Say the Music is No Good" (Jamaican Proverb)

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
~Kurt Vonnegut

There are times I find myself dancing in the living room, usually when no one is home. My husband and daughters don't appreciate Bulgarian folk music, especially when it's played on loud "obnoxious" bagpipes and accordions. You couldn't pay them to dance to what I listen to which is why joined a group of like minded friends who dance on Friday (and sometimes Sunday) nights.

I enjoy dances from all over the Balkans, but am particularly partial to those from Bulgaria. Here a few of my favorites, complete with the aforementioned obnoxious musical instruments.

I originally learned Mitro from watching it on YouTube. I was delighted when one of the leaders of the Sunday night group introduced this dance, since I already knew it! Mitro is a modern version of Pravo Horo (the most popular dance in Bulgaria). It's from the Rhodope region, where they can get a little crazy with the bagpipes, the introduction will certainly get your attention. And the stamping is one way to get your frustations after a rough day.



Another of my favorite dances is Vlaško. This was originally a men's dance, complete with stamping and fast footwork (so the guys could show off their stuff), but nowadays, women get in the line (and even lead!) since the macho dances are much more fun. The name Vlaško comes from the Vlachs (Wallachian) people who were originally from southern Romania. They got around, and there are signficant numbers of them in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. There are many dances in the Balkans with the name Vlaško , this one is from Bulgaria.



The lesnoto, or pravoto is very popular, especially in the Pirin region of Bulgaria, which shares a border with Macedonia. The lesnoto is one of those dances in an odd rhythm (7/8 for your music theorists out there); "pineapple-apple-apple", and it's very easy. It's basically walking with a few step-lifts thrown in. Even little kids can do it.

This band does an excellent job with Idam ne Idam; the dance that goes with the song is a lesnoto variation. The gaida player is fantastic, and so is the singing, although I know some people who would disagree with that. Bulgarian folk music, especially when played on bagpipes, is something people either love or hate. A Jamaican proverb describes it best: "those who can't dance say the music is no good."



For more on lesnoto read:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesnoto

If you enjoyed this you may also like my series on the clarinet, the accordion and the bagpipe in Bulgarian folk music.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/01/clarinet-in-bulgarian-folk-music-third.html

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/10/accordion-in-bulgarian-folk-music.html

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/bagpipe-and-bulgarian-folk-music.html

If you're looking for a socially acceptable way to rid yourself of stress, read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-stamp-out-your-frustrations-and.html

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Glendi, A Greek Celebration (Dancing as a Spectator Sport, Part 2)

A yearly ritual of mine is to go to the Glendi (Greek Festival) held at the Greek Cultural Center in my area. This event draws crowds from miles around; there is authentic Greek food, music and dancing. It lasts for three days and is always held on the second weekend of September.

A band plays on Saturdays and Sundays, and Saturday night, especially is party night, with large groups of people dancing Syrtos, Hasapiko, and Tsamikos until the the band packs up shortly before 11 p.m. The Glendi is less crazy on Sundays, so there is much more room to dance; the party crowd from the evening before is just too tired, and perhaps a little hung over :)

Live music is what draws people to the festival, and the band performs in this video, along with my friends doing the Syrtos, the most popular Greek dance.



One of the highlights of the festival is the performance of the young dancers from St. George Greek Orthodox Church. They give several performances on Saturdays and Sundays and they are very good. Here are some videos I took of them on Sunday afternoon.

The first dance (Syrtos) done to some very modern music...notice the little kids at the end of the line.



This is Pentozali, a dance from the largest Greek island, Crete.



For some background on Pentozali, read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentozali

This dance looks and sounds (almost) Bulgarian, its name is Zonaradikos, the Bulgarian version is Pravo Horo. There is a Thrace in Greece, and a Thrace in Bulgaria, and those are the regions where this dance originated. Zonaradikos is usually done with the dancers holding on to each other's belts (Zonaria is the Greek word for belt), but these young people are using a "basket hold" instead.



For information on Zonaradikos read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zonaradiko

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing as a Spectator Sport: http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/09/dancing-as-spectator-sport.html

Bulgarian Dances and Their Greek Relatives:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/07/bulgarian-dances-and-their-greek.html

Folklore, Food and Fun at Festivals:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/folklore-food-and-fun-at-festivals.html

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dancing as a Spectator Sport

“Dancers are athletes of God.” Albert Einstein
- Albert Einstein

Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn't music. ~William Stafford

It's fun watching young people dance. They have more enthusiasm and less self-consciousness than we older folks. They have lots of energy, and some of them have plenty of talent, as you'll see here.

The irregular rhythms of Balkan music take some getting used to but it seems that the kids have the easiest time picking them up because they don't have preconceived notions about rhythm. And if you grow up listening to this stuff, dancing to it becomes second nature, anyway.

I have seen children and teens performing at festivals, and they never fail to amaze me. I took this video at a Greek festival last fall, the young men add some acrobatics to the mix, which was something I didn't expect.



These girls perform the Romanian folk dance Itele. At this age they're really cute, and even more important, they're having fun, which is what it's all about, right?



These talented young people at a festival in Orhid, Macedonia perform a medley of dances from Bulgaria. Those who are familiar with Bulgarian dances will recognize Elenino Horo (Eleno Mome), Pravo, and Petronino Horo, along with this group's specialty, the Rachenitsa (national dance of Bulgaria). Back in the old days, the village dances were venues for young people to meet and mingle, and the boys did the fancy footwork to attact the girls. There is a flirtatious element in rachenitsa and you can see it here (at 4.30, 8.15, and 13.30) The twirling of handkercheifs is also also worth noting...the Bulgarian word for handkercheif is "rŭčenik." Although the video is nearly 15 minutes long it's well worth watching.



For an in-depth look at the rachenitsa, read Dick Oakes' writeup in his Dance Descriptions:

http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/dances/rucenica.htm

If you enjoyed this, try some ethnic dance and exercise. In this post you will read why dance should be offered as an alternative to sports in physical education programs.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/12/on-ethnic-dance-and-exericise.html

For more on Bulgarian rachenitsa read: http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/07/flavors-of-bulgarian-rachenitsa.html

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Another Country Heard From: The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

Bagpipes are the missing link between music and noise. E. K. Kruger

The Eastern European gaida, or bagpipe, is an instrument that gets around the Balkans. It's extremely popular in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece. Believe it or not, the Romanians like it too.

Romanian music is usually associated with panpipes (also called panflutes), and with another unusual folk instrument, the cimbalom. A cimbalom is also known as a hammered dulcimer, and belongs to the percussion family of instruments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimbalom

You can read about the panpipes and Romanian folk music here.

http://www.eliznik.org.uk/RomaniaMusic/nai.htm

In this video is some traditional Romanian music played by a bunch of Dutch guys in Amsterdam on clarinet, accordion, violin, cimbalom and panpipes, and they are pretty damned good. This instrumentation is typical for folk ensembles in Romania.



I don't know if the Romanians got their liking for the bagpipe from their Bulgarian neighbors across the River of Many Names, but you'll find that the music of southern Romania is very big on the cimpoi (Romanian for bagpipe). Don't confuse it with the cimbalom, the cimpoi is a totally different animal. (Just so you know, the cimpoi is made from either goat or sheep hide). Both panpipes and bagpipes have been used as instruments of torture on susceptible people (but not on Bulgarians). I'm sure that the Bulgarians are flattered that their friends across the Danube have taken up the gaida.

Last year, I wrote about the bagpipe in Bulgarian folk music, you can read the post here:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/bagpipe-and-bulgarian-folk-music.html

Now it's time to hear those bagpipes in action, along with cimbalom and panpipes, the "unholy trinity" of instruments of torture :) This dance is Hora de Mina. Hora means "dance" in Romanian, and can be easily confused with horo, the Bulgarian name for the same thing.



Sârba pe Loc, a dance from the region of Muntenia in southern Romania, is another example of the gaida (oops, cimpoi) in action. Sârba is a generic name for energetic dances from Muntenia and Oltenia (another province in southern Romania) with lots of stamping. This dance is extremely popular among folk dance groups, probably because it's a socially acceptable way to get your frustrations out.



This hora from the Oltenia region of Romania is titled simply Cimpoi. You'll understand why when you hear it.



The dance notes for Cimpoi can be found here:

http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/dances/cimpoi.htm

If you're interested in more interesting and unusual Eastern European folk instruments, including the kaval, the gadulka, and the panpipes you may enjoy this post:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/04/more-interesting-and-unusual.html

If you've had a bad week, here are some socially acceptable ways to relieve stress:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-stamp-out-your-frustrations-and.html

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Some Different and Modern Arrangements of Bulgarian Folk Dances

Although I like traditional instrumentation in Bulgarian folk dances, once in a while something different catches my attention.

The first one is a very modern version of Pajduško Horo, played by the Bulgarian Police Band. (I think the combination of career in law enforcement and a career in music is little bit odd, although their musicianship is excellent). The Pajduško is a dance with an odd rhythm, like a heartbeat. The time signature is 5/8 (quick-slow). The Bulgarian Police Band has a varied repetoire, which includes American big band tunes, military marches, and Bulgarian folk dances, and there are many videos of them on The Universe of YouTube. Check them out.



Gankino Horo on an accordion and a gadulka is a more traditional version of this folk dance from northern Bulgaria. La Vieja Orkestina performs it in a bar in Barcelona, Spain. (Which makes you wonder, why does a band with a Spanish name play Bulgarian music? Bulgarians, I've noticed, are quite fond of music from Spain and especially Latin America, and one of the musicians in this duo is a Bulgarian). The musicians jazz it up in the middle, which makes it rather interesting. This is a very danceable piece in 11/16, the time signature for kopanitsa.



For an explanation of kopanitsa read:

http://www.dunav.org.il/dance_research/bulgaria_kopanica.html

This is a modern version of a rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, played by a Greek ensemble. The rachenitsa is another dance in an odd rhythm, 7/8 or 7/16, depending on how fast it is. The clarinet really stands out here, and so does the accordion. This is an excellent performance!



If you enjoyed this, you may also like Dancing to the Rhythm of a Different Drummer, everything you always wanted to know about rhythm in Balkan music (but were afraid to ask..)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/01/dancing-to-rhythm-of-different-drummer.html

For an in-depth look at the different "flavors" of Bulgarian rachenitsa read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/07/flavors-of-bulgarian-rachenitsa.html

You can also read about the Travels of Pajduško Horo:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/09/travels-of-pajdusko-horo.html

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Age is an Issue of Mind over Matter: Old People in Balkan Folk Songs


(picture from Wikipedia)

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~Mark Twain

If you live long enough aging is inevitable. You look in the mirror and wonder where those gray hairs and wrinkles came from. Your body hurts in places it hasn't hurt before, although in your heart and mind you feel the same as when you were twenty, only a lot wiser. The thought of your eventual demise becomes more a reality than an abstraction as you see friends and relatives make their way to the Great Beyond.

That is why you should have a blast while you last and enjoy life as much as you can.

The elderly are celebrated in Balkan folk songs, and sometimes become the butt of jokes. In this Bulgarian song, a young woman looking for a man should be careful where she tosses her apple. It lands on a man old enough to be her grandfather. The girl, Lenche, begs Mom to get rid of him. Mom sends him out to the forest to cut wood hoping that a falling tree will hit him or a bear will eat Mr. Pedophile for lunch.



This song, about grandparents and their love which lasts into their golden years is Dedo Mili Zlatni. It's also a popular folk dance from Macedonia.



A famous female vocal group from Bulgaria, the Bistritsi Babi (babi is plural for grandmothers) shows that fun doesn't stop after fifty. Age is just a number after all. Although they usually perform in traditional costumes, this is what they REALLY look like, and they dance as well as sing.



Here's more about them from the UNESCO World Heritage site:

http://www.unesco.org/culture/intangible-heritage/08eur_uk.htm

This is a crazy Croatian dance song, Sučacko Kolo, about a cook who was (supposedly jinxed) when the old man looked at her and the gibenitsa (cheese pie) burned. Most likely the evil eye was involved because the situation became a humorous recipe for a kitchen disaster. According to the song "the turkeys had gotten singed, the cook roasts a chicken and all the water comes out of it." (Aren't translations fun?) One of the couples in the video has done a role reversal which makes the dance even funnier :)



The refrain for the song (and the solution to the problem) was to throw some cold water from the Danube on the burnt food. Then "they danced the whole night, and ate a hen, feathers and all."

You can find the translation for this and many other folk songs in the Songbook for Nearsighted People.

http://www.hopp-zwei-drei.de/Texte/einzeln/Kurzsicht_Lieder_20110507_191.pdf

http://www.hopp-zwei-drei.de/Texte/Kurzsicht_Lieder_20110507.pdf

The woman who compiled it had difficulty reading small print in dark rooms when performing; and the Songbook was born. The Songbook For Nearsighted People is a excellent source if you're searching for lyrics to your favorite folk dances, with songs for more than ten different countries, translated into German and English.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Sometimes Lost In Translation, a humorous take on Bulgarian proverbs.

For more on the rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/07/flavors-of-bulgarian-rachenitsa.html

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/09/sometimes-lost-in-translation-bulgarian.html
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs (part 2)

Bulgarian folk music has a quality which transcends time and leaves lots of space for improvisation, much like jazz in the States. The songs featured here, in their modern incarnations, remind me a little of American jazz, while retaining their distinct Bulgarian sound.

In a previous post, I wrote about modern renditions of some well-known traditional Bulgarian folk songs. You can read about them here:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/06/modern-versions-of-traditional.html

Today's post features more Bulgarian folk songs, along with their modern incarnations performed by Diva Reka, a band which mixes traditional music with modern jazz. Here is a writeup on them from the Bulgarian National Radio along with some of their music.

http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Music/Pages/2605divareka.aspx

Diva Reka was also the featured band on a very popular Bulgarian TV reality series, Nadigrame, which finished its eight week run in July, 2011. The show featured dance competitions between rival cities from different regions of Bulgaria. It was very well done, and despite the fact that I understand very little Bulgarian, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The show can be found here (episodes are each about an hour except for the finale).

http://bnt.bg/bg/productions/133/edition/14530/nadigraj_me_22_maj_2011_varna_pobedi_burgas_v_pyrvoto_izdanie_na_folklornoto_tancovo_shou

The first song is a traditional interpretation of Nayden, performed by Pavlina Gorcheva.



This is the Diva Reka version, recognizable as a folk song and yet...different.



The Pirin Ensemble does some fantastic renditions of folk songs and dances from southwestern Bulgaria. Here they perform the traditional version of Dobra Nevesto. The rhythm is 7/8, the dance is a rachenitsa.



This is the modern interpretation of a group of songs from the Pirin region. Dobra Nevesto is somewhere in the middle, at about 2.40.



If you enjoyed this post you may also like An International Look at Reality TV Shows.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/07/international-look-at-reality-tv-shows.html

For more on Bulgarian rachenitsa (dance in 7/8 rhythm like the songs featured here) read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/07/flavors-of-bulgarian-rachenitsa.html

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys, Aliens, Pop Culture and Čoček

There is an interest in aliens out there, judging from the release of the recent movie Cowboys and Aliens. It's an unusual combination of shoot 'em up Western and Science Fiction. Although I haven't seen the movie yet, this short clip was enough to get my attention.



Unfortunately, the aliens are the bad boys in the film. Aliens, in general, have a bad reputation. They are seen as invaders and threats to society. I'd be willing to bet they are living among us and most people, except for the enlightened few, are not even aware of that.

Are you looking for proof that aliens exist and live among us? According to Bulgarian physicist Lachazar Filipov they do. Read on...

http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Lifestyle/Profiles/Pages/1403Bulgarianscientistamong10topbelieversinaliens.aspx

The Mothership must have landed in Bulgaria recently, and I found this video on the Universe of YouTube. By the way, these aliens are excellent dancers, although they can use a little fattening up. Perhaps aliens are supposed to be slender but they look a litle anorexic to me. A little food and wine should do the trick. They do a really great Čoček, a dance of Roma (Gypsy) origin, which is very popular in the Balkans. And if they take over the planet with music and dance, I'm all for it :)



If you want to see earthlings dancing Čoček, watch this video.



For more on movies about aliens read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/03/outer-space-bulgarian-connection-we-are.html

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Zlatne Uste Plays for Surprise Wedding :)



(photo 1, Sandy and Ken) (photo 2, Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band)

Have you ever been to one of those "cookie cutter" wedding receptions?

During the years when my friends were getting married, I went to plenty of them, and they were pretty much interchangeable, except for the couples. My husband and I had one. The format is familiar: appetizers followed by bland prime rib and then the wedding cake, all of it washed down with gallons of booze. The bride and groom entering, the first dance, the first kiss, the throw of the garter, the dance with Mom, the dance with Dad. The music, performed by a band or a DJ, is a mixture of sappy love songs, pop music, the Chicken Dance and Alley Cat.

In my next life I'd like to have a wedding reception like the one I went to recently. It was delightfully different.

The couple, Sandy and Ken, have been together a long time and surprised everyone when they announced their marriage during one of the band breaks. We all thought it was a party showcasing the Balkan brass band from New York City, Zlatne Uste.

Sandy and Ken are dancers and musicians, and play for Panharmonium, the Amherst International Folk Dance house band:

http://sward.smugmug.com/Music/Panharmonium/457985_vMuHR#494125227_vmFzA

Sandy also writes a monthly article for the Danvers Herald, and a blog about growing up in Danvers, Massachusetts:

http://rememberingdanvers.blogspot.com/

During the month of May, at one of the Friday night dances, they announced that Zlatne Uste was going to play locally, a rare event, since they usually do gigs in the New York City area (where I danced to their music at the very first Golden Festival in 1985). This was something I was not going to miss, and I marked it prominently on my calendar as soon as I knew.

It was an unforgettable experience, and the music was loud enough to wake the dead (believe it or not a few people wore earplugs).

Here's one of the videos I took during the party. This is a dance very popular in the Balkans, Devetorka.



Here's another, are we having fun yet?



I wish the happy couple the best, and I thank them for arranging one of the the most enjoyable events I have ever been to!

For more on Zlatne Uste read:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/08/band-from-new-york-city-competes-at.html

Their web site can be found here:

http://www.zlatneuste.org/

The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, which celebrated its 26th year, has been held the third weekend of January in New York City every year since 1985. It has gotten so big that they had to move to Brooklyn.

http://www.goldenfest.org/

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.