Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Interesting and Unusual Instruments in Balkan Folk Music (part 4 of a series)

This is part 4 in a series about musical instruments in Balkan and Bulgarian folk music. Today's featured instruments are the panpipes, the gadulka, and the kaval.

Some people regard them as instruments of torture, and they are entitled to their opinion. They should also avoid The Alien Diaries like the plague, because the music here may give them a splitting headache, or worse, make them want to jump off the nearest bridge :) You can read about some of my favorite "instruments of torture" and their use in Bulgarian folk music here:

These are not the musical instruments that you'll find in your local band or symphony orchestra; although they may have some distant cousins there. You can learn to play them if you can make it to a Balkan Music and Dance Camp (if you're lucky enough to have one nearby), and you can maybe find a gadulka teacher in a large city, let's say, New York. Otherwise you'll have to do some traveling.

The first video is a that of a young woman playing a Romanian folk dance on the panpipes. The panpipes, also know as the panflute, are a multiculturally friendly instrument, like the accordion and the clarinet (both of which I've covered in previous posts). The panpipes has been around the world, but are most often associated with the music of South America (especially music of the indigenous people in Peru and Bolivia), and with Romania.

The gadulka is a string instrument, similar to the the fiddle, used in Bulgarian folk music. Nikolay Kolev, who plays solo gadulka in this video, is one of musicians of Kabile, a wedding orchestra from the Thracian region of Bulgaria. This piece is a rachenitsa, a Bulgarian dance in 7/8 rhythm (think apple-apple-pineapple).

The kaval, also known a shepherd's flute, is an instrument used in Bulgarian, Romanian and Macedonian folk music. In this performance, a kaval player, accompanied by two drummers plays a piece from Macedonia. It's in the odd time signature of 9/8.

Music in odd time signatures is typical of the Balkans, especially in Bulgaria and Macedonia. For more on this read :

The next video was taken during a performance of the Bulgarian band Lyuti Chushki at Mt. Holyoke College last year. The musicians play a very popular Bulgarian folk dance, Dunavsko Horo, on tambura, gadulka and kaval. For some reason you can't see the kaval player, but you can hear him loud and clear.

The tambura is an instrument used throughout the Balkans, where it's also known as a tamburitza. The strings are plucked with the fingers.

The tambura/tamburitza will have its own writeup in a future edition of The Alien Diaries., since it's played widely throughout the Balkans and is especially popular in Croatian folk music.

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  1. There are something to be said for that as well as just getting things done and not whining about it. I did finish it and am happy for that so now we can all move on it.

  2. such a rich source of infotainment you offer katley.
    i like to dip my toes in foreign waters and come to refresh myself in your warm pool of traditional cultures..something stirs ancient chords..i seek the thread of ancestors, who must have once rested for a few centuries in those regions before pushing west to my native France, where the ocean slowed them down--then i came to the other west, called far-west. and lost the original intent..
    toes still tapping.

  3. Nadine, welcome back! Haven't heard from you in ages, missed you! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment, hope to see you more in the future.