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Friday, December 30, 2016

A Bulgarian New Year Celebration

First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.
F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Will 2017 be a better year than 2016?  I certainly hope so. There was the loss of Lyubka Rondova and Esma Redzepova in the world of Balkan music.  They will be missed.

Today's post features two Bulgarian New Year celebrations.  The first one has dancing and singing; the second, fireworks and music.

Video #1 features Nikolina Chakardakova, a Bulgarian folk singer from the Pirin region. Here she leads a New Year's celebration in 2014 with a medley of danceable folk songs.

The beauty of this is that she gets everyone up and dancing, even though it's cold outside (it is a good way to keep warm).

The event was broadcast on Bulgarian TV.



Video #2 is quite noisy because Bulgarians get a bit crazy with the pyrotechnics for Nova Godina. There are three pieces traditionally played at midnight: the Bulgarian National Anthem, Mila Rondino, (0:20),  Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo (1:44), and a Russian hymn sung by Boris Christoff (last name also spelled Hristov) Mnogaya Leta  Grant, O Lord, Many Years (6:27).

Boris Christoff was best known for his operatic performances, especially in  Boris Godenov.   He was born in Plovdiv. He left Bulgaria for Italy in 1945 and never went back for the rest of his life. When he died in 1993, his body was returned to Bulgaria and given a State funeral.

The Bulgarian National Anthem has undergone a number of changes over the years.  The version currently in use glorifies the beauty of the country. You can find the lyrics in the original language, transliteration and English translation here.

Notice: you won't find Auld Lang Syne anywhere in this video.  In my humble opinion it's a sappy song suitable only for those drunk enough to sing it.

Happy New Year 2017!



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Best of The Alien Diaries 2010-2015

Now That We've Survived The End of the World (next prediction is for August 2017)

Happy New Year 2014: Same Dance, Different Music: Dunavsko Horo

In memory of two great singers who passed on in 2016:

A Tribute to Esma Redzepova

A Tribute to Lyubka Rondova

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song: Ripni Kalinke

We have a secret project at Third Man where we want to have the first vinyl record played in outer space. We want to launch a balloon that carries a vinyl record player.
Jack White

Today's post is about one of my favorite Bulgarian songs, Ripni Kalinke from the Rhodope region. It is about a couple who try to get close at a dance while their parents are watching. The parents are opposed to them being together.

Video #1 is the original version by Nadezhda Hvoineva, who lived from 1936-2000. This recording is used at folk dances. She was born in village near the town of Smolyan and performed as a soloist in The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.

The dance for this is Pravo Horo.



Video #2 is Ripni Kalinke performed by Valya Balkanska, best known for the song Izlel e Delyu Haidutin. This was one of the songs on a golden record that NASA launched into outer space in 1977.

In this version, Valya Balkanska is accompanied by a kaba gaida, a traditional instrument from the Rhodope region.



Video #3 is the children's group Hopa Trop from Seattle singing and dancing to Ripni Kalinke.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Golden Record, Rhodope Folk Songs, and Valya Balkanska in Concert

Hopa Trop: Children's Ensemble from Seattle, Washington

Merry Christmas to all!  Enjoy some Bulgarian Christmas songs.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Tribute to Esma Redzepova

Čajorije, šukarije,
ma phir urde pala mande,
ma phir urde pala mande, čaje!

Esma Redzepova

Esma Redzepova passed away on December 11, 2016, after a short illness. She was 73.

One of my biggest regrets was that I never saw her live in concert. In April of this year she did a tour of the United States, which included performances in New York City and Washington, DC.

This week's post is a tribute to the great singer and humanitarian who was an advocate for the Romani people and women's rights.  She was the first performer to make Romani music popular with non-Romani people.  Everyone knows her by her first name.

Video #1 is Djelem, Djelem, the anthem of the Romani people. You can find the original lyrics and a translation here. It is the song of a people who have traveled all over the world.  It is the lament of those who have suffered persecution.



Video #2 is her best-known song, Chaje Shukarije, a love song about a beautiful girl.



Video #3 is a performance in the studio of  KEXP in Seattle, in April 2016. Here she appears at 8:23 after the Folk Masters play.  She talks about her music through a translator, and performs both Macedonian and Romani songs.

She made a trip to India to a festival in 1976 and was crowned by the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. (The Roma people originally came from India.)



If you have an hour to spare, here is a performance of Esma with her band Folk Masters which took place at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in April, 2016.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Romani Potpourri

A Romani Potpourri Part Two

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Dances from Oltenia

The saddest country I went to was Romania, years ago, during Ceausescu's rule.
Christopher Lee

Before the revolution of 1989, Romania was a totalitarian regime ruled by an autocrat who wouldn't let people leave the country. Food and clothing shortages were commonplace. There were also orphanages full of children whose parents couldn't afford to raise them, many who got AIDS from unsterilized needles. Birth control was forbidden in Ceausescu's Romania. The situation was so bad that people froze in the winter because the government exported heating oil for foreign currency. It was a terrible place to live until 1989, when on Christmas Day, Ceausescu and his family were assassinated.

Although the situation in Romania is much better than in the past, poverty and discrimination against the Roma population are still social issues. Despite the problems, the country has a rich folklore tradition that has survived World Wars and totalitarian rule.

Today's post features three southern Romanian dances from the province of Oltenia, on the northern side of the Danube from Bulgaria.

Video #1 is a dance very popular in one of my groups: Hora Lautareasca din Dolj. Dolj is a county in the province of Oltenia. The dance is named after the Lautari, the term for a band of Roma musicians.

There is a review of the dance at the beginning of the video.  The dance teacher is one of those "crazy" instructors and keeps a running monologue going throughout the dance. Her group consists entirely of senior citizens (old enough to remember Communist Romania).

Dancers tend to live longer and are less likely to suffer from dementia than non-dancers.



Video #2 is another dance from Dolj and one of the numerous variations of Trei Pazeste.  There is Trei Pazeste de la Goicea Mare,  Trei Pazeste Batrinesc, and others.  You can read about them in one of the posts below.



Video #3 is a Japanese group dancing Rustemul Oltenesc. This is a different variation with different music than the Rustemul we usually do (although some of the steps are similar). Notice that the young woman in the line wears a man's costume.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Variations on a Romanian Folk Dance Tune:  Hora Lautareasca

Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance: Trei Pazeste

Crazy Dance Instructors

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Some Comedy From the Universe of YouTube: Rum Dum Dum!

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.
David Ogilvy

Today's video is from the Republic of Macedonia. It features a slapstick routine with an elderly couple. The woman gets on the man's case because he's trying to impress the young girls with his mustache. The dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes are fun to watch as well.

The dance to this is rachenitsa, a dance in 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed. I don't know what the dance is called in Macedonia.  Rachenitsa has traveled beyond Bulgarian borders to Macedonia, as well as Serbia, where it is known as Bugarka.  The Romanian version is Geampara.

The song goes by two names: Zurli Trestat na Sred Selo or Rum Dum Dum. You can find the lyrics here, in transliterated Macedonian.

I was able to get a rough translation.  The song is about musicians (zurna and tupan) players coming to the village to play for the dancers.  The tupan is a double headed drum, and the zurna is a double reed instrument related to the oboe.  The Ottoman Turks brought these instruments to the Balkans (the zurna was originally used to intimidate enemies!)



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

The Best of The Alien Diaries 2010-2015 features some funny and/or satirical songs from the Balkans, and includes a slapstick routine from Bulgaria (Kraj Dunava).

You can find two other versions of Zurli Trestat Na Sred Selo here: Dancing in Sevens Part Two

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Hopa Trop: Children's Ensemble from Seattle, Washington

Young people need models, not critics.
John Wooden

The folk ensemble Bulgarika will be performing in New England this weekend. I did a search for them to see if anyone had posted recent videos of them on YouTube, and found this group of young dancers from Seattle. They are an energetic bunch of kids and great ambassadors for Bulgarian culture in the United States.

The name of this group is Hopa Trop, and they have a blog in Bulgarian and English.

Video #1 shows Donka Koleva of Bulgarika teaching the dance song Kukuvicka to the kids.  It reminds me of the Romanian dance Alunelul (also a children's song).



In video #2, Hopa Trop dances Dunavsko Horo to the music of Bulgarika.  This version is played on traditional folk instruments and is one of the most popular dances in Bulgaria. The young people range in age from five to fifteen.



Video #3 is a dance from Northern Bulgaria: Veselba.  I haven't seen it anywhere else on YouTube.

The emphasis with this group is easy dances that the youngest children can do, and it also channels their energy in a positive way.  From what I've seen on their blog, Hopa Trop is a good sized group. I counted 19 kids on the blog's home page.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

The Best of Bulgarika

For more on Bulgarian folklore groups in the United States:

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States: Ensemble Lyush from Dallas-Forth Worth

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States (features Ethnic Dance Chicago, Ludo Mlado from Boston, and Rosa from Atlanta

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Dancing in Sevens, Part Three: The Dance Group Rhythm 7/8 and Čekurjankino Horo

Determination is kind of like rhythm: you can't teach it.
Jaime Pressly

Bulgarian folk dances don't have a monopoly on the 7/8 or 7/16 rhythm, but it is so popular over there that there is a dance group named Ритъм 7/8 (Rhythm 7/8). People in Bulgaria are really into folk dance, and some groups also compete.

Ритъм 7/8, judging from the number of videos on YouTube, has participated in numerous competitions all over Bulgaria. This video took place in Varna, a seaside town; the competition is Na Megdena Kraj Moreto (at the town square by the sea).

I didn't catch the name of the dance, but it looks like a variation of Chetvorno Horo.  The rhythm is pineapple-apple-apple (7/8).

:

Video #2 is a dance in two parts: slow and fast.  This one is apple-apple pineapple.  The name is Čekurjankino Horo from northern Bulgaria.

Although this dance is not specifically named rachenitsa, it is in rachenitsa rhythm, which can be either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed.  It is the national dance of Bulgaria.

The group, Kolo Dragan, is from California.



If you enjoyed this, you may also like

Dancing in Sevens, Part One

Dancing in Sevens, Part Two

The Clones of Chetvorno Horo

The "Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa

Part One

Part Two

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Crazy Dance Instructors

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.
― Martha Graham

My favorite dance teachers have a little bit of "crazy" about them. Here are a few from the Universe of YouTube. I haven't danced with them personally, but this is the kind of instructor I like when I go to dance workshops. They display energy and passion.

Video #1 is a dance from Bulgaria, Boaliisko Horo. Check out the smile on the instructor's face, she is not only an excellent dancer but totally into what she's doing. Her enthusiasm is contagious.

This group, from Brno in the Czech Republic, does it with the arms swinging into the middle during the "grapevine" portion of the dance, which is different from the dance notes.  The notes mention a belt hold.



Video #2 is Bianca de Jong teaching Vlaski Sat from Serbia. What I find most impressive is her energy, in her movement and her voice. Don't forget to shout opsa!

This was taken during a workshop in Austria.



Video #3 is from a Romanian festival in Boulder, Colorado. The teacher here is a member of Hora Romaneasca.  The kids seem to enjoy it, and maybe some of them will take up dance after a session with The Crazy Guy with the Ponytail.

I think men who dance are cool, because in my culture males in general prefer sports over dance and are afraid of looking stupid on the dance floor.

The dance is De Strigat, from Romania



If you are a frequent reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize this Chinese guy, who teaches a "Bonding Folkdance Class" in Taiwan.  Although I don't understand a word of what he says, I'm sure I'll have no trouble learning from him. By the way, it's hard to call out the steps and do them at the same time. The mouth gets the feet confused.

The dance, from Macedonia, is Berovka.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Romanian Folk Dance in the United States

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Romania

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused Part Six: Chetvorno and Chetvorka

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
Henry Miller

Confusion reigns again in Balkan Dance World. This week's dances, from Bulgaria, are Chetvorno and Chetvorka.

Chetvorno, a dance from the Shope regionis the more popular of the two and there are several variations.  Video #1 is "Shopping Mall Chetvorno."



Video #2 is a more complicated version of Chetvorno with multiple figures. The group is Balkanitsa from Haifa, Israel.



Video #3 dance #1 is a Chetvorka from the town of Petrich, in southwestern Bulgaria.  The other two dances are Graovsko Horo (at 2:59) and Kystendilsko Horo  (at 4:02)  The person who posted the video mistakenly called the second dance Kyustendilska Rachenitsa.  It is essentially the same dance as Graovsko, but in 2/4.

Are you confused yet?

The singer is Nikolina Chakardakova, who performs modern folk songs from the Pirin region.



Video #4 is another example of Chetvorka. The group is Leb i Vino (Bread and Wine), who pride themselves on authentic folklore from the Pirin region. The musicians play two zurnas and a tupan.



The zurna is an instrument very popular in Turkish and Middle Eastern music.  The people of the Pirin region often use it in their folk music. It was introduced to Bulgaria via the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Bulgaria for nearly 500 years,.

Leb i Vino's web site is currently under construction, but you can read about them in one of the posts below.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

Three Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chetvorno Horo

The Clones of Chetorno Horo

Dances that are often confused:

Part One: Cacak and Cocek
Part Two: Lesnoto and Lesnoto Oro
Part Three: Vrapceto and Kopcheto
Part Four: Bavno and Ravno
Part Five: Djurdevka and Djurdevica

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Balkan Dances that Are Often Confused Part Five: Djurdjevka and Djurdevica

Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.
George Saunders

Today's post features two Serbian folk dances that have similar sounding names and are easily confused. This seems to be a very common thing in Balkan dance. We mix up the names, we mix up the steps.....

Video #1 is of Djurdjevka from the region of Sumadija.  The Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel has a website with videos, lyrics and notes. It is one of the best resources for Balkan dance on the Internet.

There are subtitles for the lyrics so you can sing along :)



It is also dance #3 in the Serbian Medley (see below): at 3:08, The dances in this medley are, in order: Poskok, Ti Momo, Djurdevka, Igrale Se Delije, and Cacak.



Video #3 is of Djurdjevica, a totally different dance, and a little faster than the previous one. It's the perfect party dance.  The IFDO (International Folk Dancers of Ottawa) is the group featured here, at their Christmas party in 2010.

The steps go perfectly with the music.  One of them reminds me of a stalking cat.



If you enjoyed this you may also like the previous posts about Balkan dances that are often confused.

Part One: Cacak and Cocek
Part Two: Lesnoto and Lesnoto Oro
Part Three: Vrapceto and Kopcheto
Part Four: Bavno and Ravno

If you have an interest in names that are confusing, check out some drug names on the Web. Medication errors can sometimes be fatal.

List of Confused Drug Names

It's even worse when you give similar sounding names to your kids and pets.

Don't Give Your Kids and Your Pets Similar Sounding Names

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Povlekana

I love those connections that make this big old world feel like a little village.
Gina Bellman

Every time I dance with a different group,  it feels like stepping into another village because they do some of their dances differently than my "home" group.  The "different village" concept is very common in the world of folk dancing.

Today's excursion into the world of Bulgarian folk dance features variations of Povlekana, a rachenitsa from the region of Dobrudja.

Rachenitsa has many variations and is the national dance of Bulgaria. It can be fast or slow and follows this rhythm: apple-apple-pineapple (7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed).

Video #1 is the version that is most popular. It's performed by dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes from the Dobrudja region: the women wear distinctive yellow headscarves. This was part of a dance competition and the ensemble received excellent marks, mostly 9's and one 10.



Video #2 shows a group from Bulgaria at another dance competition performing Povlekana to different music.  This is part of a medley with the dance Kutsata (starting at about 1:20).   Their black and orange uniforms remind me of Halloween.



Video #3 is another version of Povlekana, performed by an American group in California.  It has different music and different steps.  There is a short review of the dance at the beginning.of the video. This variation is similar to another dance from Dobrudja, Sej Bop (not to be confused with the more familiar Sej Sej Bop).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused


Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Opas

Bulgarian Folk Dances from the Region of Dobrudja

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Richmart Vintage: Promoting Fashion and Folklore

Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.
Anna Wintour

Today's post is about a unique project by the company Richmart Vintage, a company that manufactures made-to order men's suits. You can read about it here:

Last year they created a project to promote Bulgarian folk dances.  The resulting videos were quite creative.  These are a small sample of what was posted on YouTube.

The first one takes place at a wedding.  There are a number of wedding videos posted because that is where people dress in their best outfits.

If anyone out there knows the name of the dance, please post it in the "comments" section.



Now here is something really different:  a firefighter's dance that reminds me of Zumba. The song is in Spanish. How this is connected with Bulgarian folklore, I don't know, but I think it's really cool, since I like Latin music and go to Zumba class once a week.

These guys have rhythm and must be sweating like mad in their protective gear.



Continuing with the fitness theme, here's a group in bathing suits, dancing Graovsko Horo in a swimming pool.



Richmart's videos take place in cities around the world.  Here is one from Regensburg, Germany. This group dances a devetorka to the song Biala Roza. Although the notes mention that the dance is popular in Macedonia, it is popular in Bulgaria as well.   There are a few dancers in folk costumes, but the woman I really noticed wore red sneakers.



Here is another video taken at a wedding.  Red is the predominant color here and it has a lot of symbolism in Bulgarian folklore. It is the color of happiness. The dance is a Shopska Rachenitsa.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Quirky, Odd and Unusual Folklore Videos from the Universe of YouTube

The Colors of Bulgarian Folk Songs

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise


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Friday, September 2, 2016

Songs and Dances About Brides

Even the most understated ceremony involves a certain respect for ritual and pageantry. No one plays more of a significant role than the bride's attendants.
Vera Wang

Today's post features songs and dances from the Balkans about brides.

Video #1 is a bride's dance from Macedonia played by a Romani band.  The dance is a Čoček.



Video #2 features a duet by Vaska Ilieva and Aleksandar Sarievski.  The song, Nevesto Crven Trendafil  is about a man who returns home to see his beloved after working abroad.  I read translations for the song in both Bulgarian and Macedonian, and both versions are ambiguous as to what happened to the woman.  Either she married another man, or she was unfaithful to her husband.  There is a mention of the woman's children, and a strange man behind the door.

This version of the song is in Macedonian, and it is also popular in the Pirin region of Bulgaria. There is a dance to this as well.



Video #3 is from a wedding that took place in either the United States or Canada.   I have included it here because it is bilingual (Romanian/English) and features a Romanian wedding tradition: kidnapping the bride.

The groom pays a ransom with two bottles of whiskey. I'm surprised that the bride survives the bouncing while the wedding party brings her into the room.  The entire video is fun to watch!



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Romanian Wedding Videos from the Universe of YouTube

Wedding Dances and Bloopers from Romania and Bulgaria

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for a few weeks.  My daughter's wedding will take place in mid September.  Wish them luck!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song: Kaval Sviri


Gabrielle: Xena, this was our only frying pan! Why do you do that? You do have weapons, don't you?
Xena: I like to be creative in a fight. It gets my juices going.
Gabrielle: Can we cook with your juices?


from Xena, Warrior Princess, Episode: A Day in the Life

Today's post features variations of the Bulgarian folk song Kaval Sviri, which was used in the series Xena, Warrior Princess. It ran from 1995 - 2001 and was extremely popular. Despite its popularity, I never watched an entire episode, and never knew that the theme music was from Bulgaria.I found out entirely by accident while traveling through the Universe of YouTube.

Xena, Warrior Princess was a fantasy show based on Greek, German and Norse mythology. Xena attempts to redeem herself from the sins of her past by using her fighting skills to help the defenseless. Her sidekick and best friend, Gabrielle, is also a major character.

Kaval Sviri is a song about a young woman who falls in love with a young man who plays the kaval (also known as a shepherd's flute).  I found the lyrics (in Bulgarian) with transliteration.

Video #1 is the song as used in the program, played by the group Dashina from the Berklee College of Music. It is a very powerful piece and familiar to fans of the show. I really like this passionate, modern rendition of Kaval Sviri. There are no traditional Bulgarian folk instruments used here. Instead, there are a bass, violins, viola, a keyboard, drums, clarinet, and an electric guitar.



Video #2 is what Kaval Sviri sounds like with a large ensemble, a capella (no instrumental accompaniment)  with male and female performers.  The group is the London Bulgarian Choir.



Video #3 is performed by Ensemble Trakia. It was released in 1988 on the album Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. II.



Video #4 is the same song,  also a capella, with a small group this time.They have very powerful voices that harmonize well.

You can read about The Nightingale Trio here.  Surprise, none of the ladies is Bulgarian! They used to perform with the Yale Slavic Chorus, and started their own group after they graduated.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Parts One, Two and Three

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part Two

Unity Makes Strength
-motto on Bulgarian coat of arms

This week's post features the regions of Severnjasko (northern) and Pirin (southwest).

Video #1 is an example of music from northwestern Bulgaria .The name of the piece is Vlashki Igri (Vlach Dances).

This piece is a dance in two parts: the first part in 5/8 (quick-slow)  and the second in pravo rhythm. The instrumentation is in the Vlach style.  The dominant instrument in the first piece is the gadulka; in the second dance (at 1:23)  the dominant instrument is the kaval (at 2:27). 

The musicians are instrumentalists from the folk ensemble Dunav from Vidin. You can see the costumes of the northern region in the video. The predominant colors are red and white, the colors of the Martenitsa.

Here's another way to recognize music from northwestern Bulgaria.  If a song has Dunav in the title it is most likely from the northern region.  Dunav means Danube in Bulgarian: the ensemble is named after the river, which forms the border with Romania.



Brass music is also very popular in northern Bulgaria due to the influence of composer Diko Iliev (1898-1984).  His best known work is Dunavsko Horo, played at celebrations and especially during the New Year in Bulgaria..

Video #2 is an example of a rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, a dance in 7/8 rhythm (apple-apple-pineapple). It is Svatbarska Rachenitsa, composed by Diko Iliev (1898-1984), and played by a brass orchestra.  Diko Iliev created many pieces based on folk dances from the northern region: Daichovo, Elenino, and Gankino are some examples.

Svatba means "wedding" in Bulgarian. One of my daughters will be getting married next month..  Unfortunately, she won't allow any Bulgarian folk music at this gig.



Video #3 features the dissonant harmonies of the mountainous Pirin region in southwestern Bulgaria.  The Bisserov sisters perform a traditional song from the village of Pirin.  The two ladies on the left play tambourine and tarambuka, the one on the right plays a tambura, an instrument very popular in the Pirin region.

Here's another way to recognize music from the Pirin: many of their songs and dances are in 7/8 lesnoto rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple).

There is an introduction in English with a short description of the song.  It is dedicated to the people who died for the freedom of Bulgaria during the Ottoman occupation.

:

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part One

The River of Many Names Part Three: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav

The Best of the Bisserov Sisters and Family

There is a group, Leb i Vino that specializes in village music from southwestern Bulgaria.  You can listen to them here:

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

Variations on a Theme by Diko Iliev (three arrangements of Dunavsko Horo)

Author's note:  There is someone out there who has stolen material from this blog.  The link is http://traditionalmusicmostlyirish.blogspot.co.il/.  Please make note of that and mention it on his Facebook plug in.  Plagiarism will not be tolerated!

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part One

We don't need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables - the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers - to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.
Jane Elliot

The quote above could have been said about a regional dish in Bulgaria: the Shopska Salad, as well as about regional differences in Bulgarian folk music.

Today's post is about how to recognize regional differences in Bulgarian folk music. After many years of listening to and dancing to Bulgarian folk music, I've learned how to recognize subtle regional differences.

The first example is a song from the Rhodope region, often accompanied by a large bagpipe, the kaba gaida.  It has a distinctive sound.  The songs have an otherworldly quality about them.

The song, Bela Sum Bela Junace is about a shepherd who finds a blonde girl in the fog. He asks her to marry him.



Songs from the Shope region can be distinguished by the "whooping" sound.  The harmony in this is amazing. This song was featured on the Bulgarian National Radio's website in Musicbox Bulgaria for the month of July. It takes true musical ability to sing like these women do.

Chichovite Konje translates to Uncle's Horses.  Anyone know where I can find the lyrics and a translation?



The next folklore region is Dobrudja. The example in Video #3 is Tervelska Tropanka. You can hear the stamps in the music even without looking at the dancers. The main instruments in this piece are the accordion accompanied by a bagpipe.

There are a number of dances unique to Dobrudja: Tropanka, Sborenka and Opas (Dobrudjan Pravo Horo). All of them are punctuated with stamps.  Tropanka is accented with strong arm movements (see video below).. 

If you are a frequent reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Chinese "Bonding Folkdance Class."



The Bulgarian Thracians love clarinet music and the dance Pravo Horo. There are many variations of the Pravo; and many regional differences in style.  Bachkovsko Horo is an example of a Pravo from Thrace.

Notice that the music is played by a brass orchestra, which is more typical for northwestern Bulgaria than Thrace. The clarinet comes in loud and clear at about 2:14.

The dancers are from the city of Stara Zagora.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Singing Demystified

More Stamping it Out: Bulgarian Folk Dances from the Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

Part Two will be about the music of Northwestern Bulgaria and Pirin.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bulgarian Folk Dance in Texas: Ensemble Lyush from Dallas-Fort Worth

If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.
― Philip Henry Sheridan

Although Texas is best known for its hot, humid and long summers, there is a hardy group of Bulgarians who have made the Dallas-Forth Worth area their home. Today's post features Ensemble Lyush.

The group consists of members from the Bulgarian-American Cultural Center in Dallas. The ensemble came into existence before the cultural center was built in 2009.They have performed at festivals, state fairs and celebrations since 2008.

What is really cool is that the dancers are immigrants and first generation Bulgarian-Americans whose goal is to keep the culture alive in the United States. They are a joy to watch.  Their interpretations of some of the dances in their repertoire are a little different than the ones done in recreational groups and you can watch the variations in the videos below.  The "different village" comes into play here.

Video #1 is Svornato Horo from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria. This performance took place in March 2016. In March there are three holidays special to the Bulgarians: Baba Marta on March 1st, Liberation Day on the 3rd, and International Women's Day on the 8th.



Video #2 is also part of the March celebration.The dances are Chichovo Horo from northwestern Bulgaria and Kyustendilsko Horo from the Shope region. This is one of the most amazing renditions of Chichovo that I've seen: the man dances like someone possessed! He throws his hat at 0:57,  the cue for the women to begin dancing.

Kyustendilsko Horo is related to Graovsko Horo.  The choreography here is top notch. (Notice the man joining the line at 5:53.)



If you have a half hour to spare or  watch Video #3 from WorldFest 2011, held in Addison, Texas.  Lyush performs a group of dances from different regions of Bulgaria,  They are listed in the order played with notes (below the video).

The announcer has a charming Bulgarian accent.  She describes the dances, the regions where they originated, and she has a delightful sense of humor.  The entire video is worth watching.



1. Trite Puti - from Thrace region.  There are several choreographies for this dance, and this group prefers a relatively slow version. 

2. Daichovo - northern Bulgaria.  There are several variations of Daichovo,  the most well known is Zizaj Nane, a fancy version of this dance with music by Boris Karlov. 

3. Dunavsko - also from northern Bulgaria. This choreography is fancier than the standard version of Dunavsko  that people dance to celebrate the New Year, usually done to music by Diko Iliev. Lyush uses Severnjasko Pravo Horo.

4. Graovsko - Shope region. This version is played on the gaida (bagpipe). There are several versions of Graovsko, including an accordion tune arranged by Boris Karlov. This dance is very popular in Bulgaria.

5. Women's Dance (done before Easter)- from Shope region. Includes Pajduško and Kopanitsa. There is much waving of handkerchiefs and fancy footwork.

6. Varnensko - From the region of Dobrudja. Here it is a men's dance.

7. Bistriška Kopanitsa -A difficult dance from the Shope region

They finish with the music for Trite Puti.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Call and Response: Daichovo Horo

Happy New Year 2014: Same Dance, Different Music, Dunavsko Horo

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chichovo Horo 

Three Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Trite Puti

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vlach Dances from Bulgaria and Serbia

Vlachs have been called "the perfect Balkan citizens" because they are able to preserve their culture without resorting to war or politics, violence or dishonesty. (from article)

It would be nice if the entire world lived by the Vlach philosophy.  There would finally be peace on earth.

The Vlachs traditionally worked as shepherds, and wandered all over the Balkans to search for pastures for their sheep.  They speak a language related to Romanian, and wherever they traveled, they brought their language, music, and dance with them.

Today's post shows examples of Vlach dances from Bulgaria and Serbia.

Video #1 is a group of people in elaborate embroidered costumes.  They are the Severnjaski Ensemble from Pleven.

The dance is Shira Horo.  There are a number of variations of this; depending on the village where it originated.

Vlach dances have a number of steps in common: crossovers, stamps and arm swings.  Sways are also common (you will see those in many Romanian dances as well).



Video #2 is the version from Kula, a town in northwestern Bulgaria.



Video #3 is Kulsko Horo, another dance from the town of Kula. This one has arm swings and stamps. Each figure builds on the previous one.

The dancers are from Jerusalem in Israel. There are actually two Balkan dance groups in Israel: Dunav from  Jerusalem and Balkanitsa from Haifa.  Both have been featured regularly on this blog, and if you're looking for new dances to teach your group, their videos on YouTube are an excellent resource.



Video #4, Zenske Vlashke Igre is a women's dance from Serbia. Hang on to your belts, ladies, this one is going to be fast....

If you want to skip the introduction the dance starts at 1:30. Check out the jumps and the stamps (3:20 to 3:40).  It is thought that stamping drives away evil spirits; no evil can survive what these women do. There were no notes to be found, and the link to the group's web page, KUD Polet, was a dead end.  They do, however, have a Facebook page.



Video #5 is Vlaski Sat,a  popular dance in the Sunday night group in Wethersfield.  Several members of the group learned it at Pinewoods, a music and dance camp held every June in the Boston area.

This dance has both sways and stamps. 

The teacher here is the very energetic Bianca de Jong; this took place at a workshop in Austria in 2002.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on a Vlaško Theme 

Stamp it Out: Vlach Dances from Serbia

Two Variations on a Serbian Folk Dance: Stara Vlajna

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Dances to Music Arranged by Boris Karlov

I knew nothing of the real life of a musician, but I seemed to see myself standing in front of great crowds of people, playing my accordion.
Lawrence Welk

My mother used to watch the Lawrence Welk Show on TV. The show never interested me because Welk was not into Bulgarian folk music. He was more into polkas, waltzes and ballroom dances. Back in those days I thought an accordion was an instrument of torture.

Today's post features music and dances connected with the great Bulgarian accordionist: Boris Karlov, 1924-1964.

His music will live forever as long as there are people who like to dance Bulgarian horo played on the accordion. If you go on YouTube, there are numerous videos of his compositions.

Video #1 features George Terzieff leading Dudino Horo and Kyustendilsko Horo (not be be confused with Kyustendilska Rachenitsa,a totally different dance that Karlov also arranged). Both are from the Shope region of Bulgaria, and very fast.



I couldn't find any dance videos with Kyustendilska Rachenitsa. This tune is very popular at our dances, so here it is, played by Karlov himself:



Video #3 is another Karlov piece. The Bulgarians call it Pazardishka Rachenitsa; we know this dance as Gjuesevska Rachenitsa.  This is a particularly fast and difficult dance from the Shope region.You can always tell, with the Dunav group anyway, how difficult a dance is going to be by the number of people dancing.  Here there are only two: Yehuda and Mika.

The Dunav website is an excellent source for dances from the Balkans and the Middle East.



In Video #4 the dancers use Karlov's version of Eleno Mome, also known as Elenino Horo.  There are many different tunes for this dance, some for accordion, some for brass band (look up Diko Iliev on YouTube) and even vocal versions (see Songbook for Nearsighted People).  Although it's only 2 1/2 minutes long, it's very fast and requires aerobic endurance.

Remember what I said about the number of dancers?  This time there are five, so this dance is relatively easy.  It is also very popular.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dances Inspired by Elena

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune Gankino Horo

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Black Sea Folk Songs from Romania and Bulgaria

 "Seagull Flying in a Blue Sky"by Michael Haddad (from Wikipedia)

There comes a time in a man's life when he hears the call of the sea. If the man has a brain in his head, he will hang up the phone immediately.
Dave Barry

Today's post features folk songs about the Black Sea. Seagulls are part of the seaside experience, and people tend to romanticize them (especially those who have read the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They are obnoxious birds that are a big nuisance at the beach and they will eat just about anything.  Seagulls especially like to hang around while you're eating a sandwich; the smell of meat attracts them. A friend of mine used to feed them (bad idea!) and they never left us alone after that.  They got into the potato chips while we were in the water. My husband saw one eat a spare rib bone, whole!

The Black Sea coast is a big resort area, and there are places that have a reputation for being party towns overrun with human seagulls :) especially Sunny Beach (see Video #1).



Video #2 is a song from Romania in an uneven rhythm (9/8): Cantec de la Marea Neagra (song from the Black Sea). The Black Sea region of Romania, Dobrogea, is an area known for music in odd rhythms. The dance to this is cadeneasca, similar to Bulgarian daichovo.



Video #2 is of a Roma song from Bulgaria, Karavana Chajka. The lyrics (in Bulgarian) are about the group Edessa, who have been invited to play at the Café Seagull on the Black Sea coast. You can find the lyrics here, along with an English translation. You can sing and/or dance along to the music (the dance is a cocek).



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Quirky, Odd and Unusual Folklore Videos from the Universe of YouTube

More Songs from the Romanian Folklore Region of Dobrogea

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Best of Ensemble Lado from Croatia

I like surprises.
Christopher Hitchens

The Universe of You Tube never fails to surprise me.

Today's post features some goodies from Lado, the National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia. They are a group of over fifty dancers and musicians and their repertoire includes all the folklore regions of Croatia.

The ensemble was founded in Zagreb in 1949 and has been performing for 67 years. In this post you will see some samples of them in action. If you like tamburitza music and choral singing you will love Lado.

Croatians usually sing and dance at the same time.  The most popular dance is the kolo, which they do in circles and serpentine lines.  They are also big on call and response songs and tamburitza music.

The medley in Video #1 is from the region of Posavina.



Video #2 is from the town of Valpovo, in the region of Slavonia.  The women's costumes are colorful, ornate, and how many petticoats are they wearing?



Video #3 is of a dance called Drmes.  It is a kolo with a "shaking" motion. There are many versions of this dance in Croatia and you can read a description of one here.  



Video #4 is song/dance medley from the Baranja region of Croatia.  There is also a district in Hungary with the same name. Oftentimes, names cross borders, another example is Dobrudja in Bulgaria and Dobrogea in Romania.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

Crazy Croatian Dance Songs

What's in a Name: Part: Two: Croatian Confusion

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part Four: Bavno and Ravno

My father would take me to the playground, and put me on mood swings.
Jay London

I used a quote totally unrelated to today's post to get everyone's attention :)  Now that I have your attention, today's post features two dances from Macedonia that have names that sound very much alike.  Confusion reigns again!

Bavno Oro is the more popular of the two. Just about every folk dance group has it in their repertoire. There are different versions of the music for this dance; some with vocals and some without.

Bavno Oro translates into "slow dance" in English. It has five figures (four that go with the slow music and one with the fast). The slow part is in 7/8 and the fast part is in 7/16. It is a relatively easy dance that can be learned by watching.

Version #1 has vocals and you can find them here.



Version #2 is a tune arranged by Boris Karlov (1924-1964). He created and composed dance tunes for accordion and they are played at folk dances over fifty years after his death.



The next dance is the more difficult Ravno Oro. It is also an accordion tune that starts slow and speeds up as the music progresses. The dance has three distinct parts that go with the music.

The 7/8 rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple) is very popular in Macedonia and southwestern (Pirin) Bulgaria.  By the way, there are three different versions of 7/8 (the faster version is 7/16) and you can read about them in two of the posts below.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens, Part One

Dancing in Sevens, Part Two


The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part Three (this has the links to the previous posts in the series)

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Monday, June 13, 2016

The Alien Diaries Best of the "Worst": Earworms from the Balkans

There are, of course, inherent tendencies to repetition in music itself. Our poetry, our ballads, our songs are full of repetition; nursery rhymes and the little chants and songs we use to teach young children have choruses and refrains. We are attracted to repetition, even as adults; we want the stimulus and the reward again and again, and in music we get it. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be surprised, should not complain if the balance sometimes shifts too far and our musical sensitivity becomes a vulnerability.
― Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

In previous posts I have written about songs called "earworms." They take up residence in your head for hours and refuse to move out. Today's post features earworms from five Balkan countries.

Video #1 is Valle Kosovare/Shqiptare from Albania.  The group is Valle Tona from Worcester, Massachusetts. This song rang in my head for hours the first time I heard it.  You can find the lyrics here, in Albanian and in English translation if you'd like to sing along.



The song in Video #2 is by Maria Tanase, a Romanian singer who passed away in 1963 at age 49. During her relatively short life she gave performances around the world, and also had parts in movies and in a musical by Ralph Benatsky.  Her most famous song, Ciuliandra, is very popular at folk dances.

Ciuleandra  is not as much of an earworm as Bun ii vinu'ghiurhiulul.  You will definitely need more than a glass of wine to remove this song from your head.  You may even need an entire bottle!

Notice the 7/16 rhythm and repetitive refrain. It is the rhythm for the dance Geampara in Romania and Rachenitsa in Bulgaria.



Earworms tend to have an element of repetition; a distinct rhythm and catchy lyrics, which is why they tend to stay in memory for a long time.They can even drive you crazy as you find ways to purge them from your head.

There is a science to this which is explained in Musicophilia, Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sachs, M.D. I borrowed the book from the library to check out his take on music.  His research is primarily focused on neurology and experience with stroke, Parkinson's and dementia patients, musical savants, and classical composers.

There is an entire chapter devoted to rhythm and another devoted to what he calls "brainworms".  I saw nothing on Balkan music and its asymmetric rhythms, nor does he mention folk instruments like the gaida and zurna. (If you want to read about how the Ottoman Turks used the zurna to intimate their enemies, see the list at the end of this post).

The song in Video #3 is from Croatia. For some reason, Croatian songs tend to stay in the brain forever.  It's the repetitive lyrics and the tamburitza music that accompanies them.

U Selu Pokraj Dunava (In a village near the Danube.) is about a man in love with the young woman who lives in the village. You can find the lyrics here, but no English translation.



One of the best sites for folk song lyrics in the original language, English and German is the Songbook for Nearsighted People, so named because because the lady who compiled typed the lyrics in a large font so they could be seen in places with poor lighting. It is also good for those who are visually challenged.

You can find the lyrics and sing along to Oj Shope Shope in the Songbook. It has a German translation for the song which is about a young man from the Shope region of Bulgaria who thinks he's God's gift to the world. This is a song that refuses to be evicted from the brain. Last year it was part of a gala concert featuring several Bulgarian women's groups.  It  kept me awake that night.



Video #5 is a song from Macedonia, Dedo Mili Dedo,   It tells the story of a day in the life of an elderly couple who still love each other after all the years they've been together. This song has that earworm quality: repetitive lyrics and a catchy rhythm.  There is also a dance that goes with the music.



If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Some Famous and Not So Famous Folk Songs from Romania

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

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

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music 

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