Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Stamp Out Your Frustrations (and relieve stress)

One of the benefits of dancing is stress relief. And if you've had a particularly bad day these dances are for you, because they have lots of stamping. You can pretend you're two years old again and indulge your inner toddler, while having lots of fun at the same time.

One feature of Balkan dances, especially those from southern Romania and northern Bulgaria, is that they have lots of stamping in the footwork. This is most likely connected with the influence of the Vlachs. The Vlachs, also known as Wallachians, are an ethnic group of Roman origin most of who settled in what is now Romania. Wallachia is the southern region of Romania, across the Danube from Bulgaria.

Why Romanians stamp and shout when they dance, I don't know. Maybe life in their country is stressful, and taking your frustrations out this way is a lot better than getting into arguments with the neighbors. It's also possible that they believed that stamping drove out evil spirits. Back in the days when people were very superstitious, they needed all the help they could get. This is a very popular dance from the Oltenia region of southern Romania, Florecica (Little Flower). The music is unusual in that it's played on a drîmba. In English it's known as a Jew's Harp.

If you're interested in politically incorrectly named musical instruments, you will find them on Wikipedia.


This Chinese group performs another Romanian dance. Stamp Stamp Stamp. Maybe they had a rough week :)

There is actually a T-shirt you can buy that reads "Help Stamp Out Romanian Dances."


The people of Dobrudja, in northeast Bulgaria, incorporate a lot of stamping in their dances. Dances often cross borders, and although they take on different nationalities, those from neighboring regions often have something in common. This one is Sitna Zborenka.

Stamping dances are common to other parts of the Balkans, because the Vlachs got around, and wherever they settled they took the stamping dances with them. This one from Serbia is Vlashki Sat.

For more on how dances change from country to country read:


If you like northern Bulgarian dances with lots of stamping, this post is for you.


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bulgarian Folk Songs with a Hungarian Accent....

One of my longtime friends, a folklore fan born in Budapest, Hungary, visits the Universe of YouTube when she has a few minutes to spare. She is an avid dancer, like myself, and we have gone to dances and festivals together many times over the years.

She enjoys music from the Balkans and knows that I'm fond of unusual folklore videos. One of the signs of a good friendship is that she knows my taste in music, and she has emailed me some really good stuff. Judging by what she's sent, the Hungarians admire Bulgarian folk music.

The first song is Young Girl at the Spinning House, and the rhythm here is 7/8 (apple-apple-pineapple). This is the rhythm for rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria.

The performer is Szilvia Bognar, who sings this delightful and lively song in Hungarian. Note: Hungarians use the last name first.  This article on Wikidpedia explains why.


This high energy song Meggyujtom a Pipam (I light my pipe), is performed by the Hungarian group Besh O Drom. Those who are familiar with Bulgarian folk music will recognize it as the dance Graovsko Horo. It has English subtitles, so I didn't have to resort to Google Translate :)

Bulgarian folklore fans will also recognize the next song, the Hungarian version of Dilmano Dilbero. It has been renamed Falcon Song and it's based on a poem by László Nagy. Márta Sebestyén is a well known performer of Hungarian folk music, and here she's accompanied by Szilvia Bognár, Palya Beáta, and the Sebő Ensemble.

The original song, performed by the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices, is the one most people know.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Bulgarian Folkore Travels Abroad and Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs.



For more on Bulgarian rachenitsa read:


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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Some Balkan Dances with Very Strange Names

Today's post is about Balkan dances with strange sounding names.

When your native language is English, there are bound to be some foreign words that look and sound downright odd. Balkan dances, for the most part, have Slavic names (except for Romania, Albania, and Greece).

The Romanian language is based on Latin, although even with my background in Spanish, I can only understand a few words, most of them pertaining to dances. It has strayed that far from its original Latin roots.

The Albanian language is even stranger. It may have had Greek and Latin roots, but it incorporated other regional dialects. What is weird is their fondness for umlauts, (like the Germans). For example, this is the world for nose (hundë).

As for Greek, it's one of those languages I can't read because of the alphabet. Many English words have roots in Greek, so it's a language that is very useful, especially to scholars.

The first video is a fun and very macho dance from Serbia. Some people call it the "ooh-ahh" dance. The actual name for it is Sestorka. (pronounced shes-tur-ka). This dance is usually done with a belt hold, which makes it more difficult, but the Chinese group here uses a hand hold instead.

Macedonian words, when transliterated into English, become an alphabet soup full of consonants. Even though this dance is almost unpronounceable (by English speakers, anyway), it's energetic and fun to do. The name is Crnagorka.

This is a rachenitsa from Dobrudja, a region in Northeast Bulgaria, with a very odd name. A leader at one of the dances told me that this dance was connected with planting peas, and although it's slow compared to Sestorka, it's a lot tricker than it looks. Can you say "sej sej bop?"

For more on the rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, read


This is a very beautiful, slow and easy dance from Albania, Cobankat. The pronounciation is almost like Italian (cho-ban-kat). Albania is a part of the world that most people hear and know very little about. The music has a very haunting and beautiful sound. The song is about women weaving blankets for the men, who are off fighting in the mountains during the dead of winter.

If you enjoyed this, you may like:


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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs

The theme for today's post is modern versions of traditional Bulgarian folk songs.

Some of these modern interpretations are quite interesting, creative and unusual. The first song, Katerino Mome, sung by Tatiana Sarbinska, is familiar to those in the international folk dance community. The dance for this is Arap.

The lyrics and translation can be found here:

I first heard Katerino Mome performed by Desislava on the Bulgarian National Radio several years ago. I didn't care for this performance at first, because I was used to the traditional version. After listening to this a few times, I found that I liked Desislava's dynamic and passionate interpretation of Katerino Mome as much as the original.

The next song is Izgryala e Mesechinka, traditionally performed without background music (a capella) by a women's choral group. In this video, the ladies are accompanied by a drum, which does not detract at all from their beautiful voices. The dance for this song is a rachenitsa. I couldn't find a link to the lyrics, but it's essentially a song about the full moon rising, big, beautiful and orange, while a girl picks flowers in the garden.

Another version of Izgryala e Mesechinka, this time with one female singer accompanied by five men. Four of them play traditional folk instruments (gadulka, accordion, kaval, and tambura). One of them keeps time on what looks like a metal cup, and the other plays guitar. The non-traditional instruments and the solo female give this song a unique and modern intepretation that is delightful to listen to!

The next song is a traditional version of Dunave, Beli Dunave. It is a song about the Danube, River of Many Names. Despite its popularity on YouTube, I couldn't find the lyrics or a translation. The rhythm for this is 5/8, and the dance is Pajduško Horo.

This is the modern version which was probably played at clubs all over Bulgaria. What really makes it unusual the techno music accompanied by a gaida (bagpipe). This is definitely an unusual take on a traditional song and took some getting used to, although I like it a lot now. If you listen to it more than once or twice it will take up residence in your head and stay with you all day. It's a very catchy tune.

If you like variations on a theme, check out this post.


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