Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leb i Vino: Traditional Music from the Pirin Region of Bulgaria

Interested in some very unusual and primitive folk music? Look no further. If you like odd rhythms, hypnotic drumming, super-loud bagpipes, dissonant harmonies and musical instruments that you've never heard of, such as the kemene, zurna, and tarambuka, this stuff is for you.

The group Leb i Vino (Bread and Wine in English) specializes in authentic Bulgarian folklore, which includes singing, dancing, playing handcrafted musical instruments, and the creation of traditional artworks. In this video, the dancers are accompanied by a zurna (a double reed horn often used in Middle Eastern music) and a tupan (large double headed drum). These instruments are the legacy of the Ottoman occupation of Bulgaria, which lasted about 500 years.

Bulgaria has six folklore regions. The music of each has a distinct character. Leb i Vino specializes in music from the Pirin, the area of southwestern Bulgaria, which shares a border with the country of Macedonia. Music and dance often cross borders, and sometimes it's hard to distinguish between music from the Pirin and music from the Republic of Macedonia. This has been the subject of a lot of contention on YouTube. I personally don't care about ethnic rivalry, which has no place on this blog. The important thing is the creativity of the artists, and the beauty of the music, which transcends national borders. The little kids in folk dress are really cute, and the food pictures will make you hungry :)

Songs in the Pirin are often accompanied by a tambura. It's a member of the lute family and it's strummed with the fingers. The woman plays a tarambuka, a small drum that looks like a large goblet.

The kemene resembles another Bulgarian folk instrument, the gadulka. The gadulka is so named because it makes a buzzing sound, and is a string instrument played with a bow.

The tarambuka and the kemene create a very hypnotic combination in the next piece, and they are accompanied later by a kaval, which is an open-ended flute.

There are three distinct rhythm changes, which correspond to the following Bulgarian dances: lesnoto (pineapple-apple-apple), rachenitsa at 3:18 (apple-apple-pineapple) and devetorka at 5:10 (a kaval player joins in during the devetorka.) All three are in odd time signatures, 7/8 and 9/8 respectively, for you music theorists out there.

You can read about the group Leb i Vino on their website:

If you enjoyed this, you may also like How Bulgarian Music Induces Altered States:

For more on the different folklore regions of Bulgaria and some information on the country's national dance, the rachenitsa, read:

Since my last post was about food, and I've gotten a few requests for recipes, click the next link for some traditional Bulgarian bread recipes. You can enjoy them with some of your favorite wine while listening to Leb i Vino. Don't forget to spread some lyutenitsa on that bread. Delicious!

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  1. Thought you might like this. :)

  2. thanks for sharing that link, I enjoyed it very much!