Saturday, March 31, 2012

Some Fun for April Fool's Day: Silly Songs, Strange Sayings, Proverbs, and Insults from the Balkans

The world lasts because it laughs (motto for the House of Humor and Satire, Gabrovo, Bulgaria)

Warning: The reading of this post may cause uncontrollable laughter. Reader discretion is advised.

Why is there a picture of a centipede on the top of this page? You'll find out later.

Today's April Fool's Day post contains humor, insults, silly songs and proverbs from the Balkans.

If you are looking for creative ways to insult your enemies, here are some really strange put-downs from the Balkans. The first two from Serbia sound like they date back to the NATO bombing of Belgrade back in the 1990's.

"May your house be live on CNN." (on fire for the world to see...)

May God give you to search for your children with a Geiger counter." (Maybe the Serbs thought those NATO bombs were radioactive?)

Another insult from Serbia: "May your wife give birth to a centipede so you have to work for shoes all your life." (Maybe she had sex with an arthropod. Centipedes are nasty ugly things, so she must have been pretty desperate.....)

If you want to insult a Bulgarian, compare him to a salad.

"You're as ugly as a salad." (Maybe the salad was left out in the sun too long.)

This is one of those Bulgarian "yo' momma" insults:

"Your mother sucks bears in the forest."

Hmmm...this one borders one the obscene. Bear sucking? The whole bear or just a part? Was a vacuum cleaner involved? And is this a male or female bear?

This Bulgarian proverb proves something that I've known all along about men:

"It is easier to fondle lassies, than to cut timbers." Cutting wood isn't much fun, anyway....

The Shope region of Bulgaria is known for humorous and satirical folk songs. Oi Shope Shope, about a young man who's full of himself as well as a know it all, is one of my favorites.

You can find the the song (in German and transliterated Bulgarian) on a page from the Songbook for Nearsighted People. You don't have to be nearsighted to read this book, but the large font is very helpful for those with vision difficulties (actually the book was created so that the musicians and singers could see the lyrics in semi-lit rooms). Rumor has it that some of them also needed reading glasses :)

The House of Humor and Satire in Gabrovo, Bulgaria celebrates its 40th year on April 1, 2012. The symbol of the Humor House is a cat with a part of its tail cut off (so less heat would escape from the house when the cat went out). This cat is also a symbol of the town. It is said that cats in Gabrovo are sent down chimneys to clean them, in order to save money on chimney sweeps.

The link for the House of Humor and Satire can be found here (along with jokes and sayings from the town of Gabrovo):

If you didn't get enough humor today, this Croatian dance will put a smile on your face. Burning dinner is par for the course at my place (my daughter says that the food is done when the smoke detector goes off). The premise of the song is basically this:

The cook burned up a delicious cheese pie
Because the old man gave her the evil eye.

Reminds me of something I wrote for Bad Poetry Night on Facebook :) What's even funnier is that this video involves a male-female role reversal.

For some reason the Songbook for Nearsighted People has the lyrics for Sukačko Kolo in English and German as well as the original Croatian. Read them, they're quite funny :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like A Cat Who Likes the Gaida and the Cat of Gabrovo. Have you ever wondered why critters like music made from the bodies of other animals? I've wondered about that, too.

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music goes into detail into the "bloodbath" that is Bulgarian folk music. On this post you will find a link to a funny story, written by a Bulgarian musician, on how folk instruments are made.

Sometimes Lost in Translation is a humorous take on Bulgarian proverbs.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part 3

It's interesting to hear how different people interpret the same song.

One of my favorite folk songs, Kune Mome has more than one interpretation. It is a song about a man smitten by a young woman (but why does he want her to drink wine and rakia?)

The first recording is the traditional version, which, from the sound of it, dates from the 1950's. The singer is Kaicho Kamenov, who lived from 1923-1983 (source Bulgarian Wikipedia); he was a native of the northwest region of Bulgaria. 

The second is a modern interpretation by brass band. By the way, the dance done to this is rachenitsa (apple-apple pineapple). For you music theorists out there, the top number on the time signature is a seven.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Part 1.

There is a sequel, Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Part 2, featuring the group Diva Reka (they were on the Bulgarian dance reality show Nadigrame.)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The River of Many Names, Part 4: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Songs

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
Loren Eiseley

To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?
Michael Jackson

World Water Day is tomorrow, so this post will be about Bulgarian folk songs related to a body of water, the Danube, the river which forms the boundary between Bulgaria and Romania.

For information on World Water Day, click on the following link:

There is definitely something a little bit magic about the Danube, the River of Many Names. Judging from the number of songs and instrumental pieces written about this river, it is an important source of inspiration for musicians (as well as artists in general).

Today's post features two Bulgarian folk songs that I found during one of my forays in the Universe of YouTube.

The first song (and dance) is a lively, feel-good piece from northern Bulgaria, accompanied by a brass ensemble, and sung by Ilian Mihov. Brass music is very popular in this part of Bulgaria (composer Diko Iliev was also a native of this region and he wrote some very well-known pieces for brass, the most well-known being Dunavsko Horo.)

According to a review I read (via translation) on, this performance took place in Oryahovo, a town where Diko Iliev lived for many years and where he found the inspiration for Dunavsko. Here's a excerpt from the website. A little is lost in translation, but not much.

Video for Dunave is realized in Oryahovo and it involved local dance group "Spring" community center "Hope 1871" and the brass band from Lovech - birthplace of the singer. Much fog proved an obstacle to the pictures, but the participants patiently waited for 2 hours. The picture completely meets the elevated mood of the song. The presence of different age participants passing ships, fishermen and boatmen, visually complement the song.......

Dunave is entirely a piece of copyright Ilian Mihov the rhythm of the White Rose. (note: the song White Rose бяла роза is a popular Bulgarian pop-folk song, in the rhythm of the dance Devetorka). Song is a typical sound of the Danube region. Idea of ​​text are pleasant feelings and childhood memories near the majestic river and its strong attraction. "I think the Danube is our river and we have to sing, like all peoples who live along it. tried to make contemporary Bulgarian song in the spirit of folk music that is respectful to the population of the Danube region, which I think the authors are obligors. I hope it becomes part of the celebrations of the people and the dance attracts young and old....."

The original Bulgarian writeup can be read here:

Anyway, this video is a delight to watch with the scenery, the music (the band is very good!), and the dancers in colorful folk costumes. By the way, the dance is a Devetorka, very popular in the Balkans, with an odd time signature, 9/8.

If you're interested in complex Balkan and Middle Eastern rhythms, check out this website.

The next song, Dunave, Beli Dunave caught my attention because it's also in an asymmetric rhythm, the Pajduško. By the way there are other Bulgarian folk songs with this title, and you will find them on this blog (see one of the links listed at the end of this post). Pajduško is a dance very popular in the Balkans and has an odd time signature, 5/16. (quick-slow).

I couldn't find a writeup or the lyrics of this song. The title means "White Danube" and from what I've seen on the Internet (as well as personal observations) the Danube is a river of many colors as well as many names. Go figure out this one. I can understand blue, green, gold or even gray, but white? If you have an answer for me, please post it in the "comments" section. Inquiring minds want to know :)

Since I understand only a few words of Bulgarian, from what I could gather, this is probably a love song and something in a completely different mood than the previous video. The slideshow is very well put together, and some of the photos look like they were taken during flood season, when Dunav goes wild, destroying everything in its path.

If you enjoyed this you may also like The Travels of Pajduško Horo:

More Danube music from Bulgaria in The River of Many Names Part 2, with lots of dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes and some beautiful scenery.

You can find a traditional as well as a modern version of Dunave beli Dunave here. One of them is a dance tune in the techno style...very catchy.

If you like brass music, read about Diko Iliev, whose compositions were based on folk dances from northern Bulgaria.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Music is the strongest form of magic" Balkan Music Night 2012

(folk dance group at Balkan Music Night, 2012 by KDB)

Music is the strongest form of magic.

This quote is attributed to Marilyn Manson, an artist whose music I find really weird. When I first heard of him, I thought he was a woman, after all, how many men do you know with the name Marilyn? (It's actually his stage name; he named himself after Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson.)

Anyway, this is a quote which perfectly describes Balkan Music Night.

Balkan Music Night, held every year on the third Saturday in March, is an extravaganza featuring music and dance from the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East. It takes place in the town of Concord, near Boston, Massachusetts.

It begins with a two-hour concert, then the chairs are put away and the hall becomes a venue for a five hour dance party. The upstairs area (which houses a ballet studio) becomes the "Kefana", a more intimate stage for performances by singers and musicians.

The concert this year, in my humble opinion, was a bit of a disappointment because quite a bit of time was devoted to music based on Macedonian folk idioms by the Music Progressive Quartet from Skopje. To me it sounded more like dissonant jazz, and I was hard pressed to find anything folkloric about it except for the rhythm. It just wasn't to my liking, however, it was quite popular with the audience and I'm sure this ensemble will be performing again next year. This video gives a sample of what they're about, the piece is called Dedo (grandfather).

I prefer traditional folk music and by and large, that was what I got during the dance party, with music and performances by the bands Gogofski, Rakiya, Zlatne Uste, and Xopo, just to name a few. Dance ensembles from the Boston area also performed, my favorite group was Ludo Mlado with the Bulgarian suite from the Pirin region, Na Megdena.

The dance party was lots of fun and I came home, very tired, a few hours before dawn.

Here are a few clips from some of the bands who have performed at Balkan Music Night at one time or another. The first one is of Zlatne Uste, a band who has been featured on The Alien Diaries a number of times and the only Balkan Brass Band from the United States to be invited to Serbia to play at the Guča Festival.

The group, Rakiya, with their special brand of electric Balkan music was also featured.

As for the magic in the music, check out this clip, which took place close to midnight. This is the Bulgarian folk dance Daichovo Horo. It is moments like these which make Balkan Music Night worth a visit.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

March Madness: Balkan Music Night 2011:

Band from New York City Competes at Serbian Festival:

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stamp it Out....Vlach Dances from Serbia

"Their way of Dancing, is nothing but a sort of stamping Motion, much like the treading upon Founders Bellows."
John Lawson

I don't know what kind of dancing John Lawson was referring to, but he could have been referring to the Vlachs.

The Vlachs also known as Wallachians, had wandering ways and settled all over the Balkans. They were most likely descendents of the Romans, a Latin-speaking ethnic group. The Roman influence lives on in the country of Romania, whose language is based primarily on Latin. The word "Vlach" is a Germanization of "Wallachian", from "Wlaha" which means foreigner or stranger. Wallachia is located in what is now southern Romania (the provinces of Oltenia and Muntenia).

Today's post will feature Vlach dances from Serbia. They are very lively and have lots of stamping, a good way to get out your frustrations on bad days. And the music will lift your spirits, too.

Speaking of spirits, stamping while dancing was supposed to drive away evil spirits.

The first group, Dunav, from Calgary in the province of Alberta, Canada performs a medley of Vlach dances.

Gaida (bagpipe) music is popular in Serbia, although they prefer the accordion. Instruments of torture seem to vary by country. The Macedonians and Bulgarians like the gaida, the Romanians the panpipe, and the Greeks the bouzouki.

This video looks like an promotion for a piper named Bulgjigič Tomaslav. He has dancers and musicians here as a backup to make sure you know his music is good. (By the way you can't dance if the music is no good!) If you want to call him, let's say to play for your next party, his phone number is on the video, although if you lived far away, let's say, in North America, it would get rather expensive to pay for him and his group to travel across the Pond :)

His speciality is Vlach melodies and circle dances (the plural of kolo is kola). The backdrop is the Iron Gate gorge, along the Danube, River of Many Names. Here we go with that Dunav thing again....

Now it's time for another Dunav group, this time from Israel. The dance is Vlaško Serbsko.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:
The River of Many Names Part 3: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav

The bagpipe (gaida) can be used as an instrument of torture. The same can also be said about the clarinet. Follow these links and find out why.

A Jamaican proverb takes on a life of its own in Those Who Can't Dance Say the Music is no Good.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

To Celebrate International Women's Day: Songs from the Balkans About Women and Girls

A man's work is from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done.
source unknown

One holiday that I particularly like is International Women's Day, March 8th. Although I knew of its existence, I didn't pay much attention to it until my daughters started elementary school. The school that they went to had a large population of Russian immigrants, and a number of their teachers had emigrated to the United States from Russia during the early 1990's.

The Russian faculty gave a celebration dinner at the school every year for International Women's Day and invited the entire student body and their parents. They gave carnations to the women and girls attending and after the dinner, the teachers spoke of the importance of this holiday and the achievements of famous women.

Although in the States March is Women's History Month, in general International Women's Day is unfortunately, not really observed here. Too bad, because we need a day of our own.

Today's post celebrates International Women's Day with some beautiful songs from the Balkans about women and girls, sung by women and girls (with the exception of Kune, Mome). After all, the Alien Diaries is an Equal Opportunity Blog :) You won't find any radical feminism in these folk songs, but that's the way things were back in the old days. You will find that out by reading the lyrics.

"There is no girl as beautiful as a girl from Macedonia" is the refrain of the song Makendonsko Devojce. The singer is Karolina Goceva, from Macedonia.

Lyrics for this song can be found here:

The group, Semya, from Holland performs Rusi Kosi, a folk song from Bulgaria. Two women sing accompanied by two men (on cello and drums) and a woman on an accordion. The song is about a blonde named Elena who needs a comb, powder for her face, and a man to love. Too bad she doesn't have loftier ambitions :)

You can find the lyrics here (in Bulgarian and German, but not in English)

The Alien Diaries is an Equal Opportunity Blog. Although the subject of the song is female (her name is Kune), the band is almost entirely male, although if you look closely you can find the single female flutist. This is a very modern and lively brass arrangement of a traditional Bulgarian folk song. I get the impression from the lyrics that the person singing to Kune is looking to seduce her with some wine and rakia. Hmmmm.....something a guy would do:) The gaida (bagpipe) solo in here is out of this world.

This little girl is a show stopper, and the voice on her is really amazing for someone so young. She sings the beautiful Macedonian folk song Jovano Jovanke about a woman named Jovana, who's washing some linens on the banks of the Vardar River. (Sounds like a woman's work is never done, and doing the laundry is all in a day's work). Her mom watches proudly from the sidelines.

According to the person who posted this video, it was taken in Semlitsa, Bulgaria, and if you look closely you can catch a glimpse of the Bulgarian flag. This song is popular in Bulgaria as well as Macedonia.

you can find the lyrics for Jovano Jovanke here:

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Women's Dances from the Balkans (last year's International Women's Day post)

If you like modern versions of traditional Bulgarian folk songs, this post is for you:

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