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.

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  1. Hahahah "Sej sej bop"!
    Do you know this very famous song - it goes "Dilmano, Dilbero, kazhi mi kak se sadi pipero," which means "Dilmano, Dilbero, tell me how to plant the red peppers"
    Bulgarians sign about agriculture all the time:)!

  2. I know that song very well....and even found a Hungarian version of it on YouTube and wrote about it recently. See "Bulgarian Songs with a Hungarian Accent." You will find the Hungarian version along with the original "Dilmano Dilbero."

    I get the impression the Hungarians enjoy Bulgarian folk music very much, but prefer to sing it in Hungarian.