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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