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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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