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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now that we've survived the end of the world...

Now that we've survived the end of the world and the craziness that is the Christmas holiday it's time to celebrate the New Year, Bulgarian style.  Today's post will feature party videos from different countries with Bulgarian folk dancing.

The first one takes place in Tampa, Florida in the United States, and this really exuberant group dances a rachenitsa, accompanied with lots of noise (presumably to drive away the evil spirits). Maybe they've had a little too much wine, the room seems to turn sideways :) I know it isn't me...



There are many versions of Dunavsko Horo around, and this dance always ushers in the New Year in Bulgaria; the one shown here is played on traditional folk instruments.  This group of young people is from Bulgaria.



The next group hails from Toronto, Canada. Check out the cute little girl in the center of the room (somehow they manage not to run over her).   The dance is Bachkovsko Horo, which looks very similar to Dunavsko, with a few more steps. It is a very energetic dance which should be done only by people in excellent physical condition :)



The music most often used for Dunavsko Horo on New Year's is by Diko Iliev; this father with his little boy are having fun with it.  They're pretending that they're shooting off fireworks while the little one blows the whistle and keeps time with the forks.  They're wishing everyone a Happy New Year all the way from California.



A very Happy New Year 2013 to all!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/01/bulgarian-folk-dance-around-world.html

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev: (everything you always wanted to know about the composer of Dunavsko Horo.)

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

All that gloom and doom predicted for 2012 is now just a memory.  Here is last year's New Year post.  You can look back on 2012 and be glad it's almost over.  What will 2013 bring? More of the same, I'm sure.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/12/happy-new-year-2012.html

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End of the World Doomsday Post

But it is a delightful challenge to try to depict interesting aliens.
David Brin

Is the end of the world at hand? Are UFO sightings connected with the end of the world and a possible takeover by aliens?  

According to the Doomsday Prophets and the Mayan Calendar, the world is supposed to end on December 21st. And no one knows exactly how it's going to happen. Fire, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters are some of the events being predicted for this day, as well as a possible alien takeover.

We have had enough natural disasters to last a lifetime, so I hope it won't be any of those. However, with the world in the state it is, an alien takeover wouldn't be a bad thing. According to the Bulgarian National Radio, they are already living among us.

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

Maybe it's those dancers in the elaborate embroidered costumes. Bring them on!



Bulgarians are not averse to the idea of alien visitors judging from what I've read on the BNR website. This translation was taken directly from the Vidin affiliate and dated July 24, 2012:

UFO over house meetings in Novo Selo

An unusual phenomenon witnessed residents of Novo Selo on the eve of the traditional council. Apparition lasted 6 minutes, was observed near the new museum of the village, called House of meetings. Witnessed the unusual phenomenon occurred ten women who had gathered outside their homes, every night during the summer. Object that was the size of a soccer ball, appeared in the East and had stopped over the house meetings. After several minutes, the field is headed for the Danube.

Another time in this region of Novo Selo have observed similar phenomena were strong witnesses of the phenomenon. Despite a great life experience, women have so far not witnessed such events. Some were quick to explain the unusual event with the opening of the meeting house as a sign that the acquisition is expected and will be useful for Novo Selo.

the link to the source can be found here:

http://radiovidin.bnr.bg/Shows/Magazin/cvetovete-na-denq/Pages/NLO-nad-Kyshtata-na-sreshtite-v-Novo-selo.aspx

Computerized translations can get a little weird...if there are any Bulgarian speakers fluent in English,  please let me know if this one was accurate.

The second is from a blog about UFO's (in English.) I couldn't verify it with any Bulgarian sources; this event supposedly took place in March of 2012 in Kozloduy (the actual post was dated April 1, 2012.)  Maybe it was an April Fool's joke.  Who knows?

http://www.ufosightingsdaily.com/2012/04/ufo-fleet-over-kozloduy-bulgaria-on.html

And finally, another sighting, dated November 25, 2012 in the town of Lom. There was interference with the TV transmissions and interruptions in the electricity  This was reported to Novinite, a news source from Sofia, Bulgaria.  As for this being an actual UFO, this remains to be proved; the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has to check it out first.

http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=145762

Judging from the frequency of UFO sightings in northwestern Bulgaria, extraterrestrials may be attracted to this area because of their folk music. There is an otherworldliness to this beautiful and poignant song, performed by Kaicho Kamenov; the UFO's have been seen flying over the Danube. Maybe the aliens are attracted to water.  And on foggy days, you can see all kinds of strange things :)



The world may not end on December 21st, and if it does I'll be at a folk dance.  The aliens will know where to find me.  The music will guide them :)  And if you do see any UFO's that day please let me know in the "comments" section. 

If you enjoyed this you may also like: Some Fun for April Fool's Day:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/03/some-fun-for-april-fools-day-silly.html

In case the Doomsday Prophecies don't come true, you can get into the spirit of Christmas with some Bulgarian folk songs:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-folk-songs-and-dances-from.html

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/12/bulgarian-christmas-songs-koledarski.html

For more on the Bulgarian connection with aliens and outer space read:

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


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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Bulgarian Christmas Songs (Koledarski Pesni)

Here are a couple of Bulgarian Christmas songs for your listening pleasure. The first is performed by Daniel Spasov and Milen Ivanov (if you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries there was a post on Daniel Spasov last month.)  You will find a link to it at the end.

The asymmetrical rhythms of Bulgarian music are evident even in the Christmas songs. You can actually dance to the second one (it's Pajduško Horo).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Christmas Folk Songs and Dances From Bulgaria

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-folk-songs-and-dances-from.html

The Travels of Pajduško Horo (that dance gets around, doesn't it?)

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


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Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Romani Potpourri #2:



Romani flag, from Wikipedia

I'm not certain, but I have a little gypsy blood in me. And my mother always told me that her grandma could give someone the evil eye, and I'd better not cross her because she had some of that blood in her. Mother always believed that she could predict the future, and she had dreams that came true.
Sam Raimi

One of the reasons I'm fascinated with Gypsies (the politically correct name for them is Roma) is that they live a lifestyle outside of mainstream society. Music making, fortune telling, and horse trading were their traditional occupations.  They were a wandering people who, unfortunately, experienced discrimination whereever they went.

The Roma were originally from India. They made their way westward, and a sizable population of them live in Eastern Europe. They found they could make a living as musicians, and they were very good at it. 

The first video is a really old black and white broadcast from Austrian television (do any of you remember the days when there was no color TV? If you are over 50, you probably do.)  This is Esma Redžepova early on in her career, she began performing at the age of 14. The song is Romano Horo from the album Songs of A Macedonian Gypsy: (yes, despite the political incorrectness of this word, she is very proud of her heritage, calls herself the Queen of the Gypsies, and has been very much involved in humanitarian work in her homeland, Macedonia).



The second video took place in 2002. Esma has an enormously powerful stage presence and a very big voice! Her co-star is Toše Proeski, who was a very popular Macedonian singer and a superstar in his own right. His repetoire consisted of love songs, folk songs and pop music. Unfortunately he died much too soon; in a car crash five years ago. Check him out on You Tube, he was quite the performer. He knew how to work his audience, and the two combined are pure energy.



for more on Toše Proeski and Esma Redžepova click:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esma_Red%C5%BEepova


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To%C5%A1e_Proeski

If you've been following this blog regularly you'll recognize Daniel Spasov, who was featured on The Alien Diaries about a month ago. The next two videos are from the album Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band). Brass music is very popular all over the Balkans, and many of the musicians who play in these ensembles are of Roma origin. The song, Ciganko, is about a man in love with a gypsy girl.



This video caught my attention because of the colorful costumes and how the well the symbol for the Roma people (an Indian chakra resembling a wagon wheel) was cleverly worked in here (check out the wagon wheels). They are having quite the party here along the Danube, River of Many Names. The song is Eh, Ti Druzhe. Unfortunately the very end of the song was cut off, but this is still worth a look.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

People Are Afraid of What They Know Little About (about the situation of the Roma in Eastern Europe, along with some music).

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

A Romani Potpourri

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/11/romani-potpourri.html

A special "Thank You" to Tracie Skarbo, friend and author from Canada who published an interview with me on her blog recently.  You can read it here:

http://tracieskarbo.blogspot.ca/2012/12/interview-with-katley-brown-woman-with.html


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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Alien Diaries Presents: Odds, Ends, Bits, Pieces, and Even More Cool Stuff (from the Universe of YouTube)


The things that stand out are often the oddities.
Pierre Salinger

Today's post features more odds and ends from the Universe of You Tube. I hope you enjoy them.

There are some amazing Romanian folk musicians in the first video.  Anyone who can play a tune on a bottle of booze deserves my respect! Afterwards, he drinks the contents, a distilled spirit called tuica.

The second part of this video is a tune called Ciocarlia (The Lark) and the music coming out of that panpipe is definitely for the birds :)  Check out the interaction between the panpipe player and the violinist.



For more information on Romanian distilled spirits (according to the article it's related to slivovitz) check out this link.

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

One of my dance buddies forwarded this to me via e-mail. This is the Sirtaki from Zorba the Greek, conducted by Andre Rieu. He and his orchestra have an unconventional approach approach to concerts: dancing and audience involvement are allowed and encouraged. There is no stuffiness at these events, this group is dancing in the aisles. Andre Rieu's concerts usually feature music from the Viennese composers of the Hapsburg era: Strauss, Lehar and Kalman. (Actually the last two composers were Hungarians.)



You can read more about Andre Rieu here:

http://www.andrerieu.com/en/andre-jso

The final video is a very energetic approach to Bulgarian rachenitsa. Do not try this at home :)



If you enjoyed this you may also like: Bits, Pieces, and Other Cool Stuff. (crazy videos collected from the Universe of YouTube).

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/01/bits-pieces-and-other-cool-stuff-stuff.html

More Odds and Ends from the Universe of You Tube

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-odds-and-ends-from-universe-of.html

Check out the Muppets dancing to Never on Sunday, among other things.

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


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Post #150: The Inspiration Behind The Alien Diaries

When I got started with this blog back in 2010, I had no idea that this project would last over 2 1/2 years with a total of 150 posts so far, and that people from all over the world would read it.

The genesis of The Alien Diaries began in 2008 when when I started a private journal about my experiences with Balkan and Bulgarian folk music.  Two years years later I decided to go public since I saw very little in the Blogosphere (in English) about a topic I was so passionate about and I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge. So I decided to create a blog with a humorous and informative approach to things Balkan.

Much of my research comes from various websites. One of my favorites is BNR (Bulgarian National Radio). Many years ago they used to transmit via shortwave, nowadays you can only get their broadcasts via the Internet.  I discovered them online back in 2007, and learned much about Bulgaria and its folklore from them.  Thank you so much, BNR!

Here is the link to their English service:

http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Pages/default.aspx

A Facebook friend from Burgas, Bulgaria, who now lives in New York City was quite impressed by the research that goes into this after reading a few of my posts. He asked me if finding this information was time consuming.

Not at all, I told him, if you know where to find it.

When people tell me to "Google it" I do. Sometimes I find myself using Bulgarian Google, then going through the process of translation with the Google Translate tool. This especially works when I'm looking for information on Bulgarian musicians who are practically unknown here in the States.

There are also web sites with which I am familiar that post translations to many Balkan folk songs. Two of the best ones for song translations are Dunav in Israel and Songbook for Nearsighted People in Germany. You can find them here:

http://dunav.org.il/balkan_song_lyrics.html#all

http://www.hopp-zwei-drei.de/texte_e.html

BNR has a Facebook page. I check it periodically to see if there is anything of interest that I might have missed. Their broadcast of November 11th featured the apple in Bulgarian folklore. Several months ago I had written a post about apples in Bulgarian folk songs, and sent them the link via the Facebook page. I was surprised to hear my name on their broadcast "Answering Your Letters. (You can hear it at minute 21.40)

http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Feedback/Mailbox/Pages/1711AnsweringYourLetters.aspx  

Inspiration for posts sometimes comes from unexpected sources. One was from a friend who had sent me a YouTube video with a Bulgarian folk song sung in Hungarian:



She had also tried to evict a family of raccoons living in her chimney with some Rhodope folk songs. This is an excerpt from the CD she played.



Her attempt was unfortunately, unsuccessful. She had to resort to calling pest control in the middle of the night to evict the little critters.

The Universe of YouTube has provided me with plenty of ideas; I found that there is some overlap between pop culture and folklore. One of my favorite videos involved an octopus, soccer players, and rachenitsa, a Bulgarian folk dance. The song was about Paul the Octopus. His claim to fame was predicting the winners of the 2010 World Cup soccer games. Unfortunately, Paul is no longer with us, he went to Pulpo Heaven in October, 2010.



If you have ideas for future posts, please mention them in the "comments" section!

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

Forbidden Fruit and its Implications: The Apple in Bulgarian Folk Songs

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/08/forbidden-fruit-and-its-implications.html

One dance and its variations in four different countries.

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


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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Pirin Ensemble of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

Today's post features one of my favorite Bulgarian folk ensembles, the Pirin Ensemble of Blagoevgrad, from the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, which shares a border with Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.

The Pirin Ensemble has been around since 1954, and has been entertaining people ever since with beautiful singing and energetic dance routines. There are three groups within the ensemble: dancers, female chorus, and musicians. 

For some reason their official website isn't working. This is what National Geographic has to say about them:

http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com/view/page.basic/artist/content.artist/the_pirin_folk_ensemble_49465/en_US

Let's start with a very beautiful song titled Voice of Pirin (Glasat Na Pirina).



Music of the Pirin region is characterized by unusual harmonies and odd rhythms. The favored instruments are gaida (bagpipe), tupan (large double-headed drum), tambura (lute) and zurna. The zurna, originally from the Middle East, came to the Balkans via the Ottoman Turks. The musicians of the Pirin loved it and incorporated it into their folk music. It has a double reed like an oboe and it's loud enough to wake the dead!

The next video begins with a dance with drums.  It goes on for nearly five minutes and is hypnotic and fascinating to watch.  Before you get totally hypnotized, it's followed with a song and dance routine titled Na Megdana. If you listen closely you can hear the zurna!



In Bulgaria, this region is also known "Pirin Macedonia."  The name "Macedonia" has been a bone of contention among Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece (where there is also a province with that name).

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

This whole business as to what country Macedonia belongs to has been contested for ages and I don't understand why.  From what I can see the music of the Pirin has a lot in common with its neighbor the Republic of Macedonia, and there is overlap with some of the songs and dances; for example the next song, Dobra Nevesto.



A former soloist of the Pirin ensemble, Tatiana Sarbinska, wrote the lyrics and the music for Katerino Mome, a very popular folk song. (She's not the lady performing in this video, though).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-zurna-in-bulgarian-folk-music.html

The Tambura in Macedonian, Bulgarian and Croatian Folk Music

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/05/tambura-in-macedonian-bulgarian-and.html

Tatiana Sarbinska and Desislava perform two totally different versions of Katerino Mome in Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Part 1.

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

Does Bulgarian folk music produce altered states?  See for yourself.

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


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Here Comes the Brass Band! Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs with Daniel Spasov

Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors and several miles away.
Thomas Beecham

I guess Thomas Beechman wouldn't have liked the music in today's post. But then, he was one of those symphony orchestra conductors who turned up his nose at everything except classical music. I enjoy brass music, and I like it played loud, when it's accompanied by singing, its even better :)

While wandering through the Universe of YouTube, I found these excerpts on video from the album Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band).These are modern interpretations of Bulgarian folk songs from the Vidin region performed by Daniel Spasov.

Brass music is very popular in northwestern Bulgaria because of the influence of the composer Diko Iliev. He composed many dance pieces for brass ensembles, and incorporated folklore motifs from this region into his music.

The visuals in these videos are exceptionally well done and enjoyable to watch, and the music is a delight to listen to. Turn up your speakers and enjoy!

Those who regularly follow the this blog will recognize the first song, Kune Mome (and I bet they are asking me why I don't get tired of it?) This classic was performed by Kaicho Kamenov many years ago. The updated version, sung by Daniel Spasov includes a riverside sunset scene from Vidin along with a woman dressed in a long skirt and a big floppy hat, presumable the romantic interest :)



Na zdrave! Drink up...Don't ask why the person who posted this video translated it as "Alewife." According to Wikipedia, an alewife is a species of fish in the herring family. Actually it seems like the singer is involved in a flirtation with the barmaid, who's doing a good job of getting him drunk, not only with the wine but with those eyes....



The next song is a lively number about a young man and his wild escapades, which include fooling around on the mother of his child. Does he wake up on Sunday morning to regret them? Not if his dreams look like this with folk dancers and the fortress of Baba Vida as a backdrop. Of course the dreams wouldn't have all that text moving across the screen.



The last video in this post is something in a totally different mood. It's titled Dunave (Danube), a very mellow and dreamy song about the River of Many Names. Although it's not typical Bulgarian folk music I have included it here because of the beautiful and unusual videography. This is a riverboat excursion into surreality.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part 3: (hear a vintage recording of Kaicho Kamenov's Kune Mome along with a lively modern brass version)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/03/modern-versions-of-traditional.html

The River of Many Names Part 4: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Songs (includes a brass band number with dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/03/river-of-many-names-part-4-danube-in.html

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev (composer of folk music and dances for brass ensembles, and includes his most well-known piece, Dunavsko Horo)

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

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crossing the River: Folk Music from the Romanian Region of Dobrogea

Today's post features some delightful Romanian folk music and dance from the region of Dobrogea (Dobrudja). It is the land between the Danube and the Black Sea and spans two countries; the northern portion is in Romania and the southern portion in Bulgaria.

Asymmetric rhythms are part of the Romanian musical fabric. This article explains the prevalance of this in Romanian folk dances, which share some characteristics with those of their neighbors across the Danube in Bulgaria.

http://www.eliznik.org.uk/RomaniaDance/uneven.htm

A group from Denmark performs a dance that I best describe as "rachenitsa with a Romanian accent." Just don't call it that in Romania; their name for it is Geampara. As for the music, it bears little resemblance to Bulgarian folk music except for the rhythm: apple-apple-pineapple. If you listen closely you can hear the cimbalom and the panpipes.


Ochesica Dobrogeană is a lively lilting song in 7/8 rhythm about a beautiful brown girl from Dobrogea. She probably spends lots of  time in the hot sun, working in the fields. The song conveys a sense of pride about being from Dobrogea.  According to the translation on the YouTube page, this is actually a love song.  To me it looked more like a mother singing about her daughter.  The attractive young woman is beautifully dressed in an embroidered outfit, no way would she actually use it for work :)



The next video is of a dance similar to Bulgarian Daichovo Horo, another dance in an uneaven rhythm (it's in 9: quick-quick-quick-slow). On this side of the river it's Cadâneasca. When things change nationalities, they often change names. The River of Many Names does that too, Bulgarian Dunav becomes Dunărea in Romania.



Joc Batrinesc is a dance that's very popular at our Friday night dances. This one is slow and graceful with beautiful music. Joc Batrinesc translates into "old dance", could it be a dance choreographed specifically for senior citizens?



If you enjoyed this you may also like The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

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

Some folk dances from Bulgarian Dobrudja. A good way to stamp out your frustations.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-stamping-it-out-reka-sborenka-and.html

More interesting and unusual instruments in Balkan folk music (check out the lady playing the panpipes).

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

New! Crossing the River Part 2:  The Stick Dancers:  Căluşari and their Bulgarian counterparts

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2013/01/crossing-river-part-2-stick-dancers.html

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

Today's post features a musical instrument that people either love or hate: the zurna. In that respect it is related to the bagpipe (gaida).

The zurna looks like a wooden horn with finger holes, and has a double reed like an oboe. According to this article it may have originated in Asia; it is a very popular instrument in Turkey and the Middle East.

http://www.belly-dance.org/mizmar.html

Shepherds played zurna to frighten the bears away. The Ottoman Turks, who ruled Eastern Europe for nearly 500 years brought the zurna to the Balkans. The zurna and the tupan (double-headed drum) were important instruments in Turkish military bands, and the purpose of the music was to intimidate enemies of the Ottoman empire.



The people of the Pirin region (southwest Bulgaria) incorporated the zurna as well as the tupan into their folk music. It's loud enough to wake up the dead and played during festive occasions. This one happens to be a New Year's Day celebration.



The zurna is usually accompanied by a tupan. In this video the purpose is not intimidation, but music for dancing.



The last video is from the festival "Pirin Sings." This is more like Pirin, get up and dance, or else :)



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music
http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/06/bagpipe-and-bulgarian-folk-music.html

If Drums Could Talk....
http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/09/if-drums-could-talk.html

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Transylvania: The Land of Count Dracula is a Multicultural Mishmosh

Today's post is about the music of the most well-known region in Romania, Transylvania.

Transylvania is Latin for "land beyond the forest." It is a place shrouded in mystery. Everyone recognizes the name and associates it with the infamous Count Dracula. Transylvania was immortalized in fiction by an Irish author, Bram Stoker, who had never set foot in Eastern Europe.

The character of Count Dracula was based on an actual person, Vlad Tepes, who claim to fame was putting his enemies to death while impaling them on stakes; it was a slow and tortuous death. He was certainly not a vampire, although, I'm sure, plenty of blood flowed from his victims when he impaled them. Vlad took most of his fury out on the Ottoman Turks, who ruled most of Eastern Europe for nearly 500 years.

The music of Transylvania is a mix of multicultural ethnic influences: Romanian, Hungarian, Saxon (German), and Roma (Gypsy). Most of the cities and towns in Transylvania have names in three different languages, Romanian, Hungarian, and German.

Here is a dance typical of the region.



The brass band music in the following video would not be out of place at a Bavarian beer fest. There was once a large German-speaking group living in Transylvania; most of them left after the Second World War. They had originally settled there nearly 1,000 years ago; today only a small fraction of them remain.



For more information on the German settlement of Transylvania, you may find this of interest:

http://www.alanier.at/Sachsen.html

The Balkans have always been a hotbed for conflict, and Romania was no exception. After the Second World War, the Communist government of Romania instituted a policy of assimilation. Ceaucescu especially had it in for the large Hungarian minority living in Transylvania (a territory which had once belonged to Hungary). He wasn't too fond of them and tried to force them to assimilate by discouraging the use of the Hungarian language and and treating them as second-class citizens; those who protested the regime were imprisoned or executed.

The Hungarian influence in Transylvanian folk music did not completely disappear, however.



The Roma (Gypsies) were another minority group that suffered discrimination, but they too, are part of the Transylvanian musical tapestry.



If you enjoyed this you may also like Folklore and Pop Culture Again: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Count Dracula......(or how a literary character became a pop culture icon)

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

Cultural cross-pollination: Bulgarian folk songs sung in Hungarian.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/06/bulgarian-folk-songs-with-hungarian.html

If you like Roma music A Romani Potpourri is for you.:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/11/romani-potpourri.html

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Folk Songs of Northern Bulgaria: Kaicho Kamenov

While wandering through the Universe of YouTube, I found some Bulgarian folk songs performed by Kaicho Kamenov. These vintage recordings were probably done during the 1950's and 60's.

He was born in 1923 in the village of Vinarovo, an area know for the cultivation of wine grapes, and lived until 1983.

I am not normally a fan of love songs but these two got my attention. The first, Kune Mome is a lively, flirtatious number in rachenitsa rhythm (7/8 for you music theorists out there). Rachenitsa is also the national dance of Bulgaria, to get a feel for it, say the words apple-apple pineapple.

My guess (judging from weird Google translation that I found) is that the man is trying to seduce Kune with some wine and rakia. Even without the booze, this guy is totally smitten.



This hauntingly beautiful, but sad song is in a totally different mood, which describes the pain of a young man who has lost the woman he loves to another man as he watches fog settle on the Danube. Fog can be romantic or depressing depending on your situation. It creates mysterious and beautiful landscapes, and you often find it near bodies of water, especially during spring and fall, when there is a big difference between the air and water temperatures.



Here is another song in an introspective mood, Dunave, beli Dunave (White Danube) performed by Kaicho Kamenov...the fog is just about gone here...



If you'd like to hear more songs performed by Kaicho Kamenov click this link (in Bulgarian).It will take you to the Bulgarian National Radio's website. The first four songs are by Kamenov. There are also some songs by Lyuben Zahariev, born nearly thirty years later, from the same region, who sings in a similar style.

http://bnr.bg/sites/radiobulgaria/Music/Folklore/Pages/Kaicho_kamenov_Luben_Zahariev_030912.aspx

If you enjoyed this you may also like Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs

Part 1

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

Part 2

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/08/modern-versions-of-traditional.html

Kaicho Kamenov also sang about the rebels (haidouks) who fought for the liberation of Bulgaria against the Ottomans. One of these songs can be found here, it is the last video on this post.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/04/rebels-haidouks-in-bulgarian-folk-songs.html


There are also some Bulgarian folk songs about the Danube, the River of Many Names. This post also features two songs protraying two completely different moods. You'll especially enjoy the dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes. They had to wait two hours for the fog to lift before they could perform.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/03/river-of-many-names-part-4-danube-in.html

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Deep, Dark Secrets (or things my daughters don't want their friends to know about)

There is a deep, dark, secret that my daughters don't want broadcast around their friends, and they don't want the neighbors to know, either.

They know I go to poetry workshops, and sometimes read at Open Mikes. At the end of this post you will find a link to one of my poems. There a number of poets I admire, like Langston Hughes, Hristo Botev (poet laureate of Bulgaria!) and Ogden Nash. Not to mention my daughters, who write some damned good stuff, and my poet friends on Facebook.

It's not the Zumba classes that I go to on Tuesday nights, although there have been a few times I've been tempted to ask the Zumba instructor to incoporate some Balkan music into our workouts. My youngest daughter, who goes to class with me, always manages to change the subject before I even say the "B" word...

Zumba keeps me in shape for Friday Night Rachenitsa. I danced this one last week and I was quite winded when the music ended, so obviously I need to exercise more, but then this is quite fast.



The big, bad secret is that I dance to folk music from Bulgaria. Only two of my daughters' friends know anything about Bulgaria.One is a musician, and the other an artist. The artist has an interest in folk costumes.

God forbid everyone else should know. Bulgarian folk dancing is too damned strange and the music we dance to is even weirder. The rhythms are downright crazy, who can move to this stuff? My girls think Bulgarians in folk costumes are aliens in disguise getting ready to take over the world. And that is what they fear most.

If you want to see some "aliens" singing and dancing check this out :) And they can take over the world anytime, IMHO. It would probably be a much better place.



Finally, there are a couple of poems about Bulgarian music and dance (yes, there are people who actually write about that stuff!)

The first one I wrote back in 2009. It's called The Sanctuary Within.
http://www.helium.com/items/1605744-my-santuary

The second is by Bill Holm, who passed on three years ago. He was a native of the state of Minnesota; he was a poet, essayist, and musician. I had never heard of him until this poem was sent to me by a friend who emails me periodically about dance events in the area.

Advice (by Bill Holm)

Someone dancing inside us
has learned only a few steps:
the "Do-Your-Work" in 4/4 time,
the "What-Do-You-Expect" Waltz.
He hasn't noticed yet the woman
standing away from the lamp.
the one with black eyes
who knows the rumba.
and strange steps in jumpy rhythms
from the mountains of Bulgaria.
If they dance together,
something unexpected will happen;
if they don't, the next world
will be a lot like this one.


If you want to see a performance of it on YouTube, check this out:



So, if you haven't tried Bulgarian folk dancing yet, maybe now is the time to give it a go. You need to get out and exercise, right?

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary (some amazing but very sad and graphic Bulgarian revolutionary poetry in English translation plus music!)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/05/hristo-botev-poet-and-revolutionary.html

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise (much more fun than the gym!)

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

What is rachenitsa? Find out here:

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

This is where an acronym will take you while doing Google searches (a post by a fellow blogger about Hristo Botev)

http://blogoftheeruptingvolcano.blogspot.com/2010/11/hristo-botev-our-poet-laureate.html

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

If Drums Could Talk......



Esma would have plenty to say. She has done quite a bit of traveling in Bulgaria and the United States.

Giving names to inanimate objects is not unusual. People give names to cars and boats. It gives them personality, and even power. If you speak or understand an language other than English, which ascribes genders to nouns, this naming thing starts to make sense. For example, Spanish has masculine and feminine nouns. Things get even more complex in languages like German and Bulgarian, which have masculine, feminine and neuter nouns.

But this post isn't about the complexities of grammar and language, it's about music.

In this case, Esma is a very important part of her band. She's very colorful and loves keeping time (with a little help from her friends). What's unusual is that although she belongs to a Bulgarian band, the writing on her is in the Roman, not Cyrillic, alphabet.

Esma belongs to Kabile, a band from the Thracian region of Bulgaria, which is making yet another tour of the United States (the previous ones were in 2008 and 2010). She is a tupan, a double-headed drum who likes odd rhythms like 7/8 and 11/16.

Esma especially likes rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, which is in 7/8 time. Check out the video here:



Several of us watched a demonstration of a Bulgarian gaida (bagpipe), by one of the musicians, Dzhenko Andreev. There were musical instruments and CD's for sale on the table. If I had the time and the money, I wouldn't mind taking up kaval (an open ended flute). I don't have the lung power for playing the gaida.



Later in the evening,we danced to a kaval solo performed by Nikolay Doktorov. This is a tropanka (stamping dance) from Dobrudja, northeastern Bulgaria.



Kabile will be performing all over the United States between August and November of this year, with Esma in tow. If you would like to find the venue nearest you, click the link below:

http://balkandance.net/kabile2012/index.html

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Dancing to the Rhythm of a Different Drummer (why Balkan folk music is cool)

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

An Unforgettable Evening with Kabile (complete with video from their previous U.S. tour in 2010)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/unforgettable-evening-with-kabile-at-mt.html

Check out some really great music played on gadulka, which includes a solo performance by Nicolai Kolev of Kabile.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/11/gadulka-in-bulgarian-folk-music-another.html

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Some Traditional (and not so traditional) Serbian Folk Instruments

You don't really need modernity in order to exist totally and fully. You need a mixture of modernity and tradition.
Theodore Bikel

Today's post features some traditional (and not so traditional) instruments in Serbian folk music.

The first group plays a kolo on an accordion (the national instrument of Serbia) accompanied by two men on frula (a high-pitched flute). What I find strange is that these guys are wearing business suits instead of traditional clothing. Kolo in Serbian means "circle dance" but you can dance kolo in a line as well. It depends on the whim of the leader.



The next video features some eye candy for the guys. Sandra Milosevic on accordion plays Stara Vlajna with some violinists as backup. I'm trying to figure out why at the beginning of the video there's a woman dancing in high heels...that is very bad for the feet, but I've seen women dancing in all sorts of uncomfortable shoes: high heels and flip-flops are the worst.



If you thought you were going to escape the bagpipes this time: you won't. Although the bagpipe (gaida) is more closely associated with Serbia's neighbors, Bulgaria and Macedonia, they like it in Serbia as well.

If you follow this blog regularly, you have seen this group before....this piper and his band play Serbian Vlach melodies on the gaida. This is an ad for the band complete with dancers as backup dressed in traditional folk costumes, and the Iron Gate Gorge as a backdrop. Give him a call next time you're in the neighborhood :) His phone number is on the video.



This tamburitza ensemble from the Vojvodina region of Serbia has not one, but three "instruments of torture", a gaida and two accordions. The gaida is the dominating sound here. If you want to read why some people consider bagpipes and accordions instruments of torture, check out the links at the end of this post.



At this party, the musicians play something called Gaida Kolo. Where is the gaida? The keyboard player actually does a pretty good imitation of a bagpipe, though. It certainly gets people up on the dance floor.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music (and why it's an instrument some people love to hate...)

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

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music (and why it's considered an "instrument of torture" by some)

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

The River of Many Names, Part 5: The Danube in Serbian Folk Music (some beautiful scenery, music and thoughts on dreams and the mutability of time here)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/05/river-of-many-names-part-5-danube-in.html

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bulgaria Meets Guatemala: A Cross-Cultural Adventure with The Trakia Percussion Group

Today's post features the Trakia Percussion Group from Bulgaria. They play classical music and Bulgarian folk dances on a Central American folk instrument, the marimba.

For some reason Bulgarians are fascinated by music from Latin America. One of the Bulgarian National Radio affiliates has a program titled Planeta Latino, and I have heard songs in the Puerto Rican style on this radio station (in Bulgarian)! Here's the link to program (if you're Cyrillically challenged, you may want to use Google Translate).

http://radiovidin.bnr.bg/Shows/Music/planeta-latino/Pages/default.aspx


The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala, and is also popular in southern Mexico, as well as in other Central American countries. Musicians and composers have been incorporating it into classical music as well because of its unique sound quality. It is a percussion instrument, like a xylophone, with resonators on the bottom. The traditional instruments from Guatemala and Mexico used gourds as resonators, and they were made from wood. The modern ones are made from metal and synthetic materials.

I grew up with Guatemalan folk music because my mom's best friend was from that country. I got to like it because they played it so much, and they had stacks of recordings featuring the marimba. When I first heard Bulgarian folk music played on marimba, I found it rather strange at first, but then I found I rather liked this cross-cultural mix.

Earlier this year I had written a post featuring Petko Stainov's Rachenitsa, of which one of the variations was played on a marimba. (You will see a link to it at the end of this post.) A member of the Trakia Percussion Group, Miroslav Dimov, saw a comment I had posted on YouTube and sent me the link to some of his videos.

The first video is a medley of Bulgarian folk dances played on marimba: a lesnoto, a pravo and a kopanitsa. The lesnoto is a dance in irregular rhythm (7/8 time signature); the pravo is in 6/8; the kopanitsa in 11/16. They blend almost seamlessly into each other.



The second is a dance titled Gornodikansko Horo, which to me sounds like a fast pravo. By the way, the group won a first prize in an international competition with this piece, and it's a delight to listen to. If you take a closer look you can see the musicians are wearing traditional Bulgarian embroidered shirts.



If you enjoyed this you may also like: Variations on a Theme by Petko Stainov (Rachenitsa Travels to Guatemala)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/04/variations-on-theme-by-petko-stainov.html

Why is music from Latin America so popular in Bulgaria? Read more here:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/bulgarians-and-latin-dance.html

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forbidden Fruit and its Implications: The Apple in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Adam was but human-this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. Mark Twain

There is something about the forbidden that people find attractive. Apples are featured prominently in the folklore and mythology of many cultures. They are laden with symbolism and power.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_(symbolism)

They grow in many places around the world, in many different varieties, and they are very tasty. They also appear in Bulgarian folk songs.

Rusi Kosi is a song about about a blonde who has no comb and no powder for her face. Her ambition is to find a man to marry, so he can buy her these things; the refrain is "Elena, bring the red wine and the two red apples." (Does she think she will get a man that way?) It's a very pretty song despite the not so feminist lyrics :)



The next song, Myatolo Lenche Jabuka is even more provocative: it describes a girl throwing an apple, saying "the man the apple falls on is the one I'll marry." It landed in front of an old man, much to her dismay. (Of course the old man was pleased). The girl, Lenche, and her mother plot to send the old man into the woods in the hope he will either get eaten by a bear or knocked down by a tree. To their surprise, he returns, leading a bear by the ear! Moral of the story: be careful where you throw those apples!



If you enjoyed this you may also like some songs about wine:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/05/days-of-wine-and-roses-balkan-style.html

If wine isn't your thing, try some peppers instead. This will really spice up your day.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/10/blog-action-day-look-at-peppers-in.html

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Folklore as Destiny: Yves Moreau and Bulgarian Folk Music

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper. ― Albert Einstein

In our little folk world, everyone seems to know everyone else. Most of us know each other by sight, if not by name, we are constantly meeting at dances and workshops. We know the names of the workshop leaders as well as their specialties.

One name well known in folk dance circles in North America and Europe is Yves Moreau. A French Canadian from Montreal, he got into folk dancing in the most unusual way; as a member of a boy scout troop. You can read a short bio of him here:

http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/teachers/moreau_y.htm

For Moreau, folklore became a destiny. He was especially bewitched by the music of Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government invited him to visit the country when he was still a college student.

During the Communist days of the 1960's and '70's Moreau did field work in Bulgaria with a tape recorder and a microphone. He visited villages all over the country (some of them quite remote, the government had discouraged him from going to some of these places, but he went anyway). His recordings featured folk songs and musicians from different regions. This collection became a series of CD's titled "Beyond the Mystery." It is Bulgarian folklore in its purest form; music unsullied by commercialism, simple and beautiful; much of what would have been lost without these recordings.

You can check out some samples, and order CD's and DVD's here:

http://www.bourque-moreau.com/YMBGVideo.html

Oftentimes he was in the middle of a wedding or a celebration when he captured musicians for posterity on his tape recorder; he didn't have the sophisticated equipment that we take for granted nowadays; nowdays people (like myself) record amateur videos on inexpensive digital cameras.

While doing fieldwork in Bulgaria, Moreau also learned the folk dances; he introduced many of them in workshops in North America and Europe.

The first one, from the Pirin region in southwestern Bulgaria (near the Macedonian border) is Bicak, performed by a group from the United States.



This lively dance from northwestern Bulgaria is Kulska Shira. Each set of steps gets progessively more difficult; they build on each other.



One of my favorites (and one that I sometimes lead) is Dospatsko Horo from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria. You can see it has travelled a long way; this "Bonding Folkdance Class" is from China.



This dance Varnenska Tropanka, from Dobrudja (northeastern Bulgaria) is extremely popular. Just about every group does it.



If you want to see Yves Moreau in action, check out this video of him teaching and leading Žensko Kapansko Horo during a workshop in Toronto, Canada. Although this is technically a women's dance The Alien Diaries is an Equal Opportunity Blog, so men are allowed to lead :)



If you didn't get enough Bulgarian folk music here, you can listen to this interview that Yves Moreau gave on KDHX in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in March of 2012. The music is wonderful, and the interview itself is quite interesting. The broadcast is almost two hours long, make sure you have plenty of time.

http://www.bourque-moreau.com/yves-kdhx.html

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

This is Your Brain; This is Your Brain on Bulgaria (or how Bulgarian folk music affects susceptible individuals)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/04/this-is-your-brain-this-is-your-brain.html

An even more provocative idea may be explored here in How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States:

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

If you like women's dances from the Balkans, here is a good place to start:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/03/in-honor-of-international-womens-day.html

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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

“A writer doesn't dream of riches and fame, though those things are nice. A true writer longs to leave behind a piece of themselves, something that withstands the test of time and is passed down for generations.”
― C.K. Webb

Writers as well as musicians want to be remembered after they die; although material success is important it won't follow you into the afterlife :)

If you came here looking for Boris Karloff, the actor who played Frankenstein's monster in vintage movies, you've just been hijacked to a blog about Balkan folk music. The Boris Karlov mentioned here is a musician, and even if that wasn't exactly what you were looking for, read on, you may enjoy this post.

Boris Karlov, the musician, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria on August 11, 1924 to a family of Roma (Gypsy) musicians. His passion was the accordion, and he and his music became famous well beyond his homeland. During his short 40 years on this earth, he created pieces for this instrument that are played at folk dances to this very day.

Here is an example of classic Karlov; the dance is Gankino Horo from the northwestern region of Bulgaria, the dancers are the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel. By the way Gankino Horo is a kopanitsa, a dance in 11/16 meter (11 beats to the measure; the 16th note gets the beat); odd rhythms are par for the course in the Balkans, but in Bulgaria especially.



Another Karlov rendition of a popular Bulgarian folk dance is Elenino Horo; most of us know it better as Eleno Mome. This is another dance in an uneven rhythm, try tapping your foot out to this one. It's in 13/16.



Here's the dance, the music was "borrowed" from Boris Karlov!



An accordionist from the United States, who goes by the YouTube handle, GrigPit, is an admirer of Karlov's music, this piece is Graovsko Horo. GrigPit has a number of Bulgarian folk dances as well as music scores linked to his YouTube site; if you're a musician, check him out.



Some see the accordion as an instrument of torture; it is not considered one in neither Bulgaria nor Serbia (where it is the national instrument of that country.) Karlov often performed on Yugoslav radio (yes, in those days there was a Yugoslavia!)The next piece is a Serbian kolo, Niska Banja, and if you listen carefully it's the same rhythm as the Bulgarian dance Daichovo Horo. Was that Karlov's intent?



For more on Boris Karlov, check out this link:

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

By the way if you're more interested in old movies than folklore, you can read about the actor, Boris Karloff, here:

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

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music (an import from a German speaking country that became a really big hit in Bulgaria!)

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

Read more about the Daichovo Horo, a popular Bulgarian folk dance and its different variations.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/04/daichovo-plain-or-fancy-take-your-pick.html

And check out another composer of Bulgarian folk music, Diko Iliev, whose works for brass orchestra are played during celebrations in his native country. By the way, this post was also written on the composer's birthday.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/02/birthday-celebration-and-source-of.html

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why We Like to Dance: Informal Folk Dance Groups from Around the World

I like to think dance is an international language that all people can appreciate. Paul Taylor

Today's post will feature popular Balkan folk dances performed by informal groups from around the world. Folk dancing is lots of fun and has numerous benefits: you make new friends, it activates new pathways in the brain and it provides plenty of aerobic exercise. Nothing like spending an evening of getting high on endorphins!

The first group is from the United States, KoloKoalition. They have many videos posted on the Universe of YouTube; their specialty is intermediate and advanced line dances from the Balkans. This cute little number is Prekid Kolo from Serbia accompanied by live music. Dancing to live music can be a little tricky, since the musicians will play something slightly different than the recordings.



You will recognize this "Bonding Folkdance Class" from China, especially if you read The Alien Diaries regularly. This dance is Berovka, from the Republic of Macedonia.



The Dunav group from Israel has been featured on this blog numerous times. Joc Batrinesc, a graceful dance from Romania, is popular with my dance group, as well. We do it almost every week.



Vienna may be the land of the waltz, but once in a while they'll try something different, like this dance from Bulgaria, Sadi Moma. The Tanzgruppe Bäckerstrasse also has a social networking site for dancers, Dancilla, which is bilingual (German/English). It features a wide variety of dances from all over the world. If you like folk dances from Germany and Austria, they're the place to visit.

http://dancilla.com/



Balkan music has its fans in Canada. The Burnaby International Folk Dancers of Burnaby, British Columbia do a dance from Albania, Valle e Dardhes.



The Always on Sunday Group dances in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and I go to their dances from time to time because I love their live music events. This video features Kabile, a band from the Thracian region of Bulgaria. I recorded a few numbers from that evening, the rest of the night I spent dancing.

I don't know the name of this piece, but the dance to it is a lesnoto, and it's some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard on this planet.



If you enjoyed this you may also like Folk Ensembles Named After Dances

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/01/folk-ensembles-named-after-dances.html

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/01/bulgarian-folk-dance-around-world.html

A One of a Kind Club for Folk Dancers:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/02/one-of-kind-club-for-folk-dancers.html

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise
(why it's good to get off the couch and away from that TV)

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

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Take a Ride on a Little Red Tractor :)

Today we're going to take a musical ride on a Little Red Tractor.

Cherven Traktor is a group from the United States who plays Bulgarian folk music. This group is a spinoff from two different bands: Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band and Kabile. Zlatne plays high-octane Serbian and Roma music with a mix from Macedonia and Bulgaria. The band originated in New York City and they have been playing since the 1980's.

http://www.zlatneuste.org/

Kabile is a band from the Thracian region of Bulgaria who play primarily at weddings in Bulgaria. They do reunion tours in the States every couple of years. Both bands are great to dance to; I have been to a number of events they've held in New York City and New England.

Michael Ginsburg and Belle Birchfeld are in the Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band and the other two musicians are Nikolai Kolev and his wife, Donka Koleva, from Bulgaria, who have also played for Kabile; the Kolevs have lived in the United States since 1993.

Here's the link to the Cherven Traktor website, with some information, and if you live in the New York City area, you can check out their schedule to see where they'll be playing.

http://www.reverbnation.com/ChervenTraktor

You can also visit their Facebook page, where you will find pictures of them riding on their namesake :)

http://www.facebook.com/ChervenTraktor

In the first video, they play a very popular folk dance from the Thracian region of Bulgaria, Trite Puti.



This is their debut at the 2010 Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, with additional singers, the Kolevs' two daughters.



If you enjoyed this you may also like Zlatne Uste Plays for Surprise Wedding

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/07/zlatne-uste-plays-for-surprise-wedding.html

And you can also spend an Unforgettable Evening with Kabile at Mt. Holyoke College.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/11/unforgettable-evening-with-kabile-at-mt.html

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Water Mill in Bulgarian Folk Songs



(water wheel, but where's the water? Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Bulgarians will create folk songs about almost everything and everything. Today's topic is songs about water wheels and millers.

The water mill, or wheel, was used to make power to grind the grain, back in the days before electricity. Harnessing the power of running water was a very clever thing to do, and it's a renewable, non-polluting energy source. The water wheel is the forerunner of today's hydroelectric plants.

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

In the first video, twins Iva and Eva Valentinova perform a lively song about a water wheel, called "vodenitsa" in Bulgarian. There is plenty of dancing as well, and you can actually see the water wheel in action at the very beginning of the video.



The second song is about a miller in love with a girl...but there's no water to grind the corn! Somehow the lyrics got lost in translation, when I checked them out using Google Translate, the English didn't translate well. It doesn't matter, really, the song is a delight to listen to. The best thing about Bulgarian folk songs is that you can dance to most of them. The dance done to this song is a Devetorka. (If you want to see a Devetorka, there is a link to it in one of my previous posts; check out the list further down.)



For more on water mills in Bulgarian folklore, check out this link from Bulgarian National Radio. (Notice that they mistakenly called them windmills). The stories about them are quite interesting, and the songs are great to listen to.


http://bnr.bg/sites/en/Lifestyle/Folklore/Pages/2701Vodenicharyu.aspx


If you enjoyed this you may also like The Bulgarian Fascination with Water:

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/03/bulgarian-fascination-with-water.html

A brass band and people in elaborate embroidered costumes dancing a Devetorka (in the first video) on the banks of the River of Many Names is one of the highlights of this post.

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2012/03/river-of-many-names-part-4-danube-in.html

If you like proverbs and sayings lost in translation this post is for you :)

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2010/09/sometimes-lost-in-translation-bulgarian.html

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Monday, July 9, 2012

More Odds and Ends: Misconceptions About the Cyrillic Alphabet, Bagpipes, and Bulgarian Geography



This old T-shirt, which reads "Koprishvitsa 2005" was one of the first items I received in the mail from Bulgaria, along with a CD of songs by Kostadine Gugov. (I have never been to the Koprishvitsa festival, which is one of the places on my bucket list.) I got it back in the days when the website, http://balkanfolk.com/ gave a monthly prize in a drawing that the site used to have. In order to enter it, you had to vote on your favorite Bulgarian folk song.

The Cyrillic lettering aroused my daughter's curiosity, since she had taken Russian in elementary school. So she asked me:

"Is that the Russian alphabet?"

I explained to her that it wasn't Russian but Bulgarian.

"It's Russian."

"It's the Cyrillic alphabet. It's used both in Bulgaria and Russia." (there are other countries that use it too, but I wasn't going to get into that.)

"Oh." She had a bemused and confused look on her face. She still didn't get it. So much for explaining азбука (azbuka) to my daughter.

From what I've seen Americans don't see much of the Cyrillic alphabet except in old spy movies which took place in the former Soviet Union, which is why they automatically associate Cyrillic with Russian.

People are often surprised when they first hear Bulgarian folk music played on the bagpipe. In the States, bagpipes are associated with Scotland, men wearing kilts, parades, and sometimes funerals.



In this commercial, men play a Bulgarian folk tune on Scottish bagpipes. This is a cleverly crafted ad for rakia (brandy).
,


The Bulgarian bagpipe (gaida) is a totally different species from the Scottish. It's made from the stomach of a goat or sheep which gives it a distinctive sound. Although Scots have been known to dance to bagpipe music, Bulgarians sing as well as dance along to it. In this case it's the entire village, and there's a surprising display of firepower near the end.



Another question I've been asked is if Bulgaria has a seacost. Americans, in general, know little of European geography unless they've actually traveled around the Continent.

I lived in Germany for four years, so ignorance of geography was not an option, especially when guiding my husband with the map (yes, we actually used those in the days before the GPS!) And we did sometimes get lost!

Bulgaria not only has a seacoast, it is a very popular vacation spot for Western Europeans, especially those from cooler, rainier climes like Germany and Holland. The North Sea is too cold (even in summer) and the main attraction of the Black Sea towns, so I've been told, is the endless party, especially for the under 30 crowd. Then of course, there's the beach.



Judging from the travel ads I've received in the mail, Bulgaria is not a very popular tourist destination in the United States (except for people involved in folk music, who see visiting this country as a pilgrimage of sorts.) Friends of mine who actually been there have told me their visit was religious experience of the musical kind, especially that aforementioned Koprishvitsa festival.

The problem with a tourist destination becoming popular is that it loses the local flavor. I'm for traveling off the beaten path, which I was able to do when I lived in Germany; living in a foreign country is a lot different than visiting during a short vacation.

Maybe it's a good thing Bulgaria isn't infested with tourists from the United States :) Otherwise the entire country would resemble Sunny Beach.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe and Bulgarian Folk Music (it's an instrument some people love to hate)

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

The Cyrillic Alphabet: Cracking the Code (have you ever wondered is there is such as thing as Cyrillic alphabet soup?

http://katleyplanetbg.blogspot.com/2011/05/cyrillic-alphabet-cracking-code-and.html

Listening to Bulgarian folk music can induce altered states in susceptible people.

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

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