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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The River of Many Names Part 7: Music for Danube Day

Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.
M. Scott Peck

I like to start Alien Diaries posts with quotes, and this one is no exception. I especially like M. Scott Peck's quote because it is so true. 

What delights me the most about Balkan music is the asymmetrical rhythms, the sounds of unusual musical instruments such as the tambura, cimbalom, and kaval and the distinctness of each country's music.  What I have found, however, is despite the differences, music from different Balkan countries often crosses borders, with some interesting results. For example, the Bulgarian dance rachenitsa has a Romanian counterpart, geampara.

In honor of Danube Day 2013,  which takes place on June 29th, today's post features four songs from four different Balkan Danube countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia.  They share one thing in common: a river runs through them.

The first song is from Romania (we are working our way upstream here).  Balada Fetei Dunarene ("Ballad of the Danube Girl") is a poignant and beautiful song, with clarinet, violin and cimbalom accompaniment.  The video has some beautiful photos of the town of Cernavoda. Cernavoda is a Romanian town with a Bulgarian name, and it means "black water."

This song is from YouTube via the Cernavoda Blog, which you may find interesting if you can read Romanian.  I went there to find the lyrics for the song, but couldn't find them.

What I find disturbing is that the Cernavoda coat of arms has the symbol for nuclear energy. The town has a nuclear power plant, and those things don't have a very good reputation.  I would definitely sings the blues about something like that.  Do some of you readers remember Chernobyl? It wasn't all that long ago.....



More music, scenery, and this time dancers with elaborate embroidered costumes, from Bulgaria.  This song is Dunave, Beli Dunave which means "White Danube." The River of Many Names is also the River of Many Colors.  From what I've seen it can be white (during fog), gray, blue, gold, green and even brown.

This feel-good song conveys a completely different mood than previous one. It's lively and upbeat and accompanied by a loud brass band.  According to the Bulgarian notes, the performers had to wait two hours for the fog to lift .  Here is a translated excerpt which describes the making of the video.

Video for Dunave is realized in Oryahovo and it involved local dance group "Spring" community center "Hope 1871" and the brass band from Lovech - birthplace of the singer. Much fog proved an obstacle to the pictures, but the participants patiently waited for 2 hours. The picture completely meets the elevated mood of the song. The presence of different age participants passing ships, fishermen and boatmen, visually complement the song.......

If you are familiar with Bulgarian folk music, you will recognize the dance Devetorka. It is in an odd rhythm; the top number on the time signature is a nine. Devet means "nine" in Bulgarian.  By the way, Devetorka is popular in Macedonia and Serbia as well as Bulgaria.



In the next song from Serbia Oj Dunave Plavi, the Danube is blue!  Unfortunately you don't get to see it here, but you can hear Ranko Stojanić-Šoro singing about a lost love, according to the translation I found. If there is such a thing as blues music in Serbia, this is it.  Instead of guitars and saxophones, Serbs sing the blues accompanied by an accordion or two. Some people consider accordions instruments of torture, that is not the case in Serbia.



The last song is from Croatia, and the singer is accompanied by a tamburitza orchestra.  Tamburitza ensembles are extremely popular in Croatia and they have a unique and distinctive sound. When Croatians emigrated abroad, especially to the United States they brought tamburitza music with them, so they wouldn't be so homesick.

The song  U selu pokraj Dunava  is about the dark-eyed girl who lives in a village by the river. The singer is (supposedly) in love with her. She must be a damned good cook.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names Parts 1-6

Part 1: A Musical Journey

Part 2: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Music

Part 3: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav

Part 4: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Part 5: The Danube in Serbian Folk Music (lots of accordion music, this is also known as the "Strudel" post!)

Part 6:  The Danube in Croatian Folk Songs

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part 1  (two more versions of Dunave, Beli Dunave.  The Bulgarians must really like this song, I have found so many different versions of it on YouTube.)

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