Friday, August 12, 2011

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

(picture from Wikipedia)

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~Mark Twain

If you live long enough aging is inevitable. You look in the mirror and wonder where those gray hairs and wrinkles came from. Your body hurts in places it hasn't hurt before, although in your heart and mind you feel the same as when you were twenty, only a lot wiser. The thought of your eventual demise becomes more a reality than an abstraction as you see friends and relatives make their way to the Great Beyond.

That is why you should have a blast while you last and enjoy life as much as you can.

The elderly are celebrated in Balkan folk songs, and sometimes become the butt of jokes. In this Bulgarian song, a young woman looking for a man should be careful where she tosses her apple. It lands on a man old enough to be her grandfather. The girl, Lenche, begs Mom to get rid of him. Mom sends him out to the forest to cut wood hoping that a falling tree will hit him or a bear will eat Mr. Pedophile for lunch.

This song, about grandparents and their love which lasts into their golden years is Dedo Mili Zlatni. It's also a popular folk dance from Macedonia.

A famous female vocal group from Bulgaria, the Bistritsi Babi (babi is plural for grandmothers) shows that fun doesn't stop after fifty. Age is just a number after all. Although they usually perform in traditional costumes, this is what they REALLY look like, and they dance as well as sing.

Here's more about them from the UNESCO World Heritage site:

This is a crazy Croatian dance song, Sučacko Kolo, about a cook who was (supposedly jinxed) when the old man looked at her and the gibenitsa (cheese pie) burned. Most likely the evil eye was involved because the situation became a humorous recipe for a kitchen disaster. According to the song "the turkeys had gotten singed, the cook roasts a chicken and all the water comes out of it." (Aren't translations fun?) One of the couples in the video has done a role reversal which makes the dance even funnier :)

The refrain for the song (and the solution to the problem) was to throw some cold water from the Danube on the burnt food. Then "they danced the whole night, and ate a hen, feathers and all."

You can find the translation for this and many other folk songs in the Songbook for Nearsighted People.

The woman who compiled it had difficulty reading small print in dark rooms when performing; and the Songbook was born. The Songbook For Nearsighted People is a excellent source if you're searching for lyrics to your favorite folk dances, with songs for more than ten different countries, translated into German and English.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Sometimes Lost In Translation, a humorous take on Bulgarian proverbs.

For more on the rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, read:
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  1. As if I need any more jokes and I'm only twenty-six but these stories are kinda cute

  2. Ha wonderful stories indeed... that quote at the beginning is one of my favorites! :) I love the costumes all the way through too...

  3. glad you enjoyed, Will and Tracie. Mark Twain happens to be one of my favorite authors and and I love that particular quote.

  4. marquis de j, you obviously do need a few more jokes in your long future...write them and let someone else deliver them, you may not have the necessary tempo for humor...ratchet up a rachenitsa for yourself..right there in your room, giggle like the young, chuckle like the bold and watch Huckle, the movie..Hukkel?