Friday, August 10, 2012

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

“A writer doesn't dream of riches and fame, though those things are nice. A true writer longs to leave behind a piece of themselves, something that withstands the test of time and is passed down for generations.”
― C.K. Webb

Writers as well as musicians want to be remembered after they die; although material success is important it won't follow you into the afterlife :)

If you came here looking for Boris Karloff, the actor who played Frankenstein's monster in vintage movies, you've just been hijacked to a blog about Balkan folk music. The Boris Karlov mentioned here is a musician, and even if that wasn't exactly what you were looking for, read on, you may enjoy this post.

Boris Karlov, the musician, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria on August 11, 1924 to a family of Roma (Gypsy) musicians. His passion was the accordion, and he and his music became famous well beyond his homeland. During his short 40 years on this earth, he created pieces for this instrument that are played at folk dances to this very day.

Here is an example of classic Karlov; the dance is Gankino Horo from the northwestern region of Bulgaria, the dancers are the Dunav group from Jerusalem in Israel. By the way Gankino Horo is a kopanitsa, a dance in 11/16 meter (11 beats to the measure; the 16th note gets the beat); odd rhythms are par for the course in the Balkans, but in Bulgaria especially.

Another Karlov rendition of a popular Bulgarian folk dance is Elenino Horo; most of us know it better as Eleno Mome. This is another dance in an uneven rhythm, try tapping your foot out to this one. It's in 13/16.

Here's the dance, the music was "borrowed" from Boris Karlov!

An accordionist from the United States, who goes by the YouTube handle, GrigPit, is an admirer of Karlov's music, this piece is Graovsko Horo. GrigPit has a number of Bulgarian folk dances as well as music scores linked to his YouTube site; if you're a musician, check him out.

Some see the accordion as an instrument of torture; it is not considered one in neither Bulgaria nor Serbia (where it is the national instrument of that country.) Karlov often performed on Yugoslav radio (yes, in those days there was a Yugoslavia!) The next piece is a Serbian kolo, Niska Banja, and if you listen carefully it's the same rhythm as the Bulgarian dance Daichovo Horo. Was that Karlov's intent?

For more on Boris Karlov, check out this link:

By the way if you're more interested in old movies than folklore, you can read about the actor, Boris Karloff, here:

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music (an import from a German speaking country that became a really big hit in Bulgaria!)

Read more about the Daichovo Horo, a popular Bulgarian folk dance and its different variations.

And check out another composer of Bulgarian folk music, Diko Iliev, whose works for brass orchestra are played during celebrations in his native country. By the way, this post was also written on the composer's birthday.

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