Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Different "Flavors" of Macedonian Folk Music

I love Macedonian folk music.

The reason for that is that it's a blend of multiple cultures, and uses motifs from Greek, Turkish, Roma (Gypsy) and Bulgarian folk music to create a distinctly Macedonian sound, which is almost, but not quite, Middle Eastern. Macedonia was under Turkish rule from the 1400's until 1912.

One of my favorite folk ensembles is Tanec, from the Macedonian capital of Skopje. In this video, a musician plays the zurna (at 6.13) a double reed instrument which looks like a wooden horn with finger holes. It has a loud and piercing sound, and was used in Ottoman military bands (presumably for war dances and to intimidate enemies). Notice the "skirts" on the men (these are similar to the Greek folk costumes, and can be compared to the kilts worn by men in Scotland).

More information on male folk dress in the Balkans can be found here:

Some Macedonian folk music and dances are similar to Bulgarian and there is a bit of overlap in the border region of southwestern Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad Province, also known as Pirin Macedonia.

The languages of the two countries are very similar (much like the speakers of Spanish and Italian, they can understand each other), and both countries use the Cyrillic alphabet.

Here Tanec performs music from the Pirin region. The second song, Snoshti E Dobra, (at 1:45) is popular in Bulgaria, too.

Here is the same song performed by the Pirin Ensemble of Blagoevgrad.

In the next video, the Pirin Ensemble performs a very beautiful folk song: Glasat Na Pirina (Voice of Pirin). Pirin is a derivation of Perun, who is the Slavic god of thunder and lightning, and is also the name of the mountain range in this part of Bulgaria (remember, lightning always hits the tallest objects!)

There are several countries which include the name of Macedonia as part of their territory. Although I don't want to get too much into politics (and start World War III), there is a lot of contention regarding the use of the name "Macedonia". Back in the days before political borders, Macedonia included territory now in Bulgaria, Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. The area now in Greece is Aegean Macedonia, and the next video is a sample of the folk music of that region.

The Greek Macedonians and the Slavic Macedonians don't always get along, which is something I don't understand. But unfortunately the Balkans have always been a hotbed for ethnic tensions, even in modern times, and these disputes sometimes get played out on YouTube, which is why comments have been disabled on many Macedonian folk music videos.

As for me, I enjoy the music, and think that people should set aside their differences and get along.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Ten Reasons Why You Should Read My Blog

For a look at the Roma influence in Macedonian music read:

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