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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Dance of Osman Taka

Today's song is about a rebel (haidouk) from Albania named Osman Taka. The haidouks were freedom fighters in the Balkans who waged guerrilla warfare against the Ottoman Turks.

Osman Taka was also fond of traditional Albanian dancing, and had a reputation as an excellent dancer. There isn't much information about him, and the little bit I found was on Wikipedia.

The Ottoman Turks sentenced Osman Taka to death, and his one last request was to dance before his execution. According to local tradition, he gave such a beautiful performance that his the Turks released him from jail.  Later on he was recaptured and killed. 

The dance is also named Osman Taka. The singer is Eli Fara, well known in Albania for her renditions of folk songs.

The leader really gives a good show with the acrobatics.



Osman Taka is also popular among recreational folk dance groups; in this case it's an equal opportunity dance in that women are allowed to join in. This version is much simpler than the one shown in the previous video, although a good sense of balance helps with the high leg lifts.

By the way, you can find the lyrics in the Songbook For Nearsighted People in German and in English.   I was hoping to find the story of Osman Taka and his experiences with the Turks.  No such luck, it's a love song, and I think there's lost something in translation.

What's funny in the video is that the announcer mentions that "we wouldn't want to shortchange Albania." Why is that?



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Two Variations on an Albanian Folk Dance: Valle Pogonishte

A Romanian Festival With an Albanian Accent

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary

Notice to readers: The Alien Diaries will take a break during the month of September, 2013.  Look for a new post in early to mid October!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Crazy Croatian Dance Songs

Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.
Anthony Burgess

Have you ever wondered about what some of those folk songs mean?  Before the Internet it was almost impossible to get translations of Balkan folk songs.  Now they are relatively easy to find if you know where to look.

Today's post features two songs from Croatia with humorous lyrics.  After I read the translations, I wondered if Croatia is a fantasyland full of crazy people and anthropomorphic creatures.  From what I've seen of it in pictures, it looks nothing like Disney World.  Croatia does, however, have some amazingly beautiful scenery, and it's a place I'd definitely like to visit. I've been to Disney World too many times, anyway.

The first song is Raca Plava, and the group in the video is a "bonding folk dance class" from China. They seem to take their dancing quite seriously; you can hear the teacher call the steps while the music plays.

Click this link for the lyrics in English translation. If you've ever seen a duck swimming with a basket on its head you have probably had a bit too much to drink or spent too much time in Alice's Wonderland. According to the lyrics, the man is in love with a woman who has a distinctive walk. Maybe she walks like a duck. The song as a whole is rather strange.



The next song Sukacica, (dance: Sukacko Kolo) is another excursion into surreality.  This time it's a kitchen disaster, complete with burnt food, poultry with singed feathers, and roasted chickens with water running out of them (somebody tried to put out the fire).  The cook and the rest of them danced all night despite the mishaps.  They had a jolly old time.  You can read the lyrics in Croatian, German and English here:

By the way, the Songbook For Nearsighted People is an excellent source of lyrics with songs from the Balkans and beyond.  Most of the songs are translated into German and English. It's definitely worth a look.

Sukacko Kolo can be done in a circle (kolo is Croatian for circle) or as a couple dance. This group is from Belgium, and they use the "double kolo" method: two circles.



If you enjoyed this you will also like:

Some Fun for April Fool's Day: Silly Songs, Strange Sayings, and Insults From the Balkans (includes a version of Sukacko Kolo with a male-female role reversal).

The River of Many Names, Part 6:  The Danube in Croatian Folk Songs

Sometimes Lost in Translation (Bulgarian proverbs translated into English, some of them are quite funny!)


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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Three Variations of the Romanian Folk Dance Trei Pazeste

Today's post features three variations of the Romanian folk dance Trei Pazeste.  I looked up the translation and it was rather odd.  It means "Three Times Beware."  In other words, you are being forewarned of sudden step and/or directional changes. This is a dangerous dance if you don't pay attention!

This group from Boulder, Colorado, does the generic Trei Pazeste, a dance native to southern Romania. It is especially popular in the Oltenia region, across the Danube from Bulgaria. I don't know which village this dance comes from but parts of it are very similar to the Bulgarian dance Vidinsko Horo.  It may have crossed the river from Calafat to Vidin. The shouts you hear are typical of Romanian dances, and they are called strigaturi.



The next Trei Pazeste is from a different village: this one is from Bistret.   Regular readers of this blog will recognize the dancers: the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel.  They have recently updated their YouTube videos and you can visit them on their website as well.  At 1:02  and at 1:28 you can hear the leader count in Romanian: unu, doi, trei!



The last Trei Pazeste is from Dolj, a county in southern Romania.  It starts slow and builds up speed, so you really have to pay attention! There are only two dancers here, so you know this one's tough. This one has plenty of stamping, sudden direction changes and arm swinging, but no shouting.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing by the Numbers

Bulgarian Dances Named After Cities and Towns (includes a very lively version of Vidinsko Horo)

How to Stamp Out Your Frustrations and Relieve Stress (dances from Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia)


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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Love Has a Dark Side: Nazad, Nazad, Mome Kalino

"Well," said she, after a pause, "if you despise my love, I must see what can be done with fear. You smile, but the day will come when you will come screaming to me for pardon."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

One of the leaders in my group introduced a new dance that he had learned at a workshop at Pinewoods, a dance camp in eastern Massachusetts. This one used the music to Nazad, Nazad, Mome Kalino. Some say this song is Bulgarian, others, Macedonian.  To me it's another example of a song with dual citizenship that's gone border-hopping.

I knew this poignant and beautiful song was about love gone wrong, so I went to several websites to search for lyrics, preferably in English translation. The Google Translate tool turned it into total gibberish (talk about lost in translation!) Fortunately I was able to find this Bulgarian YouTube video. There is a slideshow of pictures from Bulgaria along with the lyrics.

It is the tale of a married man telling a young woman to keep away from him. She persistently insists on stalking him in various ways; such as changing herself into a falcon or a barbel-fish.

She intends to bring death and destruction if she can't get her way.



This is the performance of the same song as video #1 by Slavi Trifonov and Nina Nikolina.  Slavi often features folk musicians on his  TV program, which is very popular in Bulgaria.  The closest thing we have to it in the States is the Tonight Show. I think Slavi is much more entertaining, and he's a very good singer.



The next video is the Macedonian version of Nazad, with lyrics. I couldn't find a translation into English that made sense so I don't know how much of a difference there is between the the two. If anyone out there has a translation, please post it in the "comments" section.

If you read Macedonian, you can sing along :)



And finally, here's a group of young women from Bulgaria dancing to the song.  The choreography is somewhat different than what I was taught; this is a dance called Shirto. The meter here is 7/8 (pineapple-apple-apple), which is also known as lesnoto rhythm.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs (parts one, two, and three)

Modern Versions of Traditional Macedonian Folk Songs

The Falcon in Bulgarian and Macedonian Folk Songs

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Two Variations on a Romanian Folk Dance: Hora Fetelor

If you like to listen to panpipes and watch female dancers this post is for you.

Today's dance is Hora Fetelor from Romania.  It means Women's Dance (although in recreational folk dance men as well as women do it).  It is usually an equal opportunity dance, although during performances (like version #2), women are the preferred gender.

Version one is popular in the Western Hemisphere and with recreational folk dance groups. If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll recognize the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel. Here it's an equal opportunity dance.



This is Hora Fetelor distilled and refined, Romanian style; very beautifully done; danced slowly and gracefully by a female group with large white handkerchiefs.  The panpipe music accentuates the performance; it is the national instrument of Romania, where it is called the nai. This is a treat for the eyes and ears.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Women's Dances From the Balkans

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part 2 (a dance which can be masculine, feminine, or flirty!)

If you can't get enough of female performers, check out the Bulgarian singer Neli Andreeva and her two daughters in Nusha, a Family Music Project.

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