Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Alien Diaries Presents: Odds, Ends, Bits, Pieces, and Even More Cool Stuff (from the Universe of YouTube)

The things that stand out are often the oddities.
Pierre Salinger

Today's post features more odds and ends from the Universe of You Tube. I hope you enjoy them.

There are some amazing Romanian folk musicians in the first video.  Anyone who can play a tune on a bottle of booze deserves my respect! Afterwards, he drinks the contents, a distilled spirit called tuica.

The second part of this video is a tune called Ciocarlia (The Lark) and the music coming out of that panpipe is definitely for the birds :)  Check out the interaction between the panpipe player and the violinist.

For more information on Romanian distilled spirits (according to the article it's related to slivovitz) check out this link.

One of my dance buddies forwarded this to me via e-mail. This is the Sirtaki from Zorba the Greek, conducted by Andre Rieu. He and his orchestra have an unconventional approach approach to concerts: dancing and audience involvement are allowed and encouraged. There is no stuffiness at these events, this group is dancing in the aisles. Andre Rieu's concerts usually feature music from the Viennese composers of the Hapsburg era: Strauss, Lehar and Kalman. (Actually the last two composers were Hungarians.)

You can read more about Andre Rieu here:

The final video is a very energetic approach to Bulgarian rachenitsa. Do not try this at home :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like: Bits, Pieces, and Other Cool Stuff. (crazy videos collected from the Universe of YouTube).

More Odds and Ends from the Universe of You Tube

Check out the Muppets dancing to Never on Sunday, among other things.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Post #150: The Inspiration Behind The Alien Diaries

When I got started with this blog back in 2010, I had no idea that this project would last over 2 1/2 years with a total of 150 posts so far, and that people from all over the world would read it.

The genesis of The Alien Diaries began in 2008 when when I started a private journal about my experiences with Balkan and Bulgarian folk music.  Two years years later I decided to go public since I saw very little in the Blogosphere (in English) about a topic I was so passionate about and I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge. So I decided to create a blog with a humorous and informative approach to things Balkan.

Much of my research comes from various websites. One of my favorites is BNR (Bulgarian National Radio). Many years ago they used to transmit via shortwave, nowadays you can only get their broadcasts via the Internet.  I discovered them online back in 2007, and learned much about Bulgaria and its folklore from them.  Thank you so much, BNR!

Here is the link to their English service:

A Facebook friend from Burgas, Bulgaria, who now lives in New York City was quite impressed by the research that goes into this after reading a few of my posts. He asked me if finding this information was time consuming.

Not at all, I told him, if you know where to find it.

When people tell me to "Google it" I do. Sometimes I find myself using Bulgarian Google, then going through the process of translation with the Google Translate tool. This especially works when I'm looking for information on Bulgarian musicians who are practically unknown here in the States.

There are also web sites with which I am familiar that post translations to many Balkan folk songs. Two of the best ones for song translations are Dunav in Israel and Songbook for Nearsighted People in Germany. You can find them here:

BNR has a Facebook page. I check it periodically to see if there is anything of interest that I might have missed. Their broadcast of November 11th featured the apple in Bulgarian folklore. Several months ago I had written a post about apples in Bulgarian folk songs, and sent them the link via the Facebook page. I was surprised to hear my name on their broadcast "Answering Your Letters. (You can hear it at minute 21.40)  

Inspiration for posts sometimes comes from unexpected sources. One was from a friend who had sent me a YouTube video with a Bulgarian folk song sung in Hungarian:

She had also tried to evict a family of raccoons living in her chimney with some Rhodope folk songs. This is an excerpt from the CD she played.

Her attempt was unfortunately, unsuccessful. She had to resort to calling pest control in the middle of the night to evict the little critters.

The Universe of YouTube has provided me with plenty of ideas; I found that there is some overlap between pop culture and folklore. One of my favorite videos involved an octopus, soccer players, and rachenitsa, a Bulgarian folk dance. The song was about Paul the Octopus. His claim to fame was predicting the winners of the 2010 World Cup soccer games. Unfortunately, Paul is no longer with us; he went to Pulpo Heaven in October, 2010.

If you have ideas for future posts, please mention them in the "comments" section!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

Forbidden Fruit and its Implications: The Apple in Bulgarian Folk Songs

One dance and its variations in four different countries.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

The Pirin Ensemble of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

Today's post features one of my favorite Bulgarian folk ensembles, the Pirin Ensemble of Blagoevgrad, from the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, which shares a border with Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.

The Pirin Ensemble has been around since 1954, and has been entertaining people ever since with beautiful singing and energetic dance routines. There are three groups within the ensemble: dancers, female chorus, and musicians. 

For some reason their official website isn't working. This is what National Geographic has to say about them:

Let's start with a very beautiful song titled Voice of Pirin (Glasat Na Pirina).

Music of the Pirin region is characterized by unusual harmonies and odd rhythms. The favored instruments are gaida (bagpipe), tupan (large double-headed drum), tambura (lute) and zurna. The zurna, originally from the Middle East, came to the Balkans via the Ottoman Turks. The musicians of the Pirin loved it and incorporated it into their folk music. It has a double reed like an oboe and it's loud enough to wake the dead!

The next video begins with a dance with drums.  It goes on for nearly five minutes and is hypnotic and fascinating to watch.  Before you get totally hypnotized, it's followed with a song and dance routine titled Na Megdana. If you listen closely you can hear the zurna!

In Bulgaria, this region is also known "Pirin Macedonia."  The name "Macedonia" has been a bone of contention among Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Greece (where there is also a province with that name).

This whole business as to what country Macedonia belongs to has been contested for ages and I don't understand why.  From what I can see the music of the Pirin has a lot in common with its neighbor the Republic of Macedonia, and there is overlap with some of the songs and dances; for example the next song, Dobra Nevesto.

A former soloist of the Pirin ensemble, Tatiana Sarbinska, wrote the lyrics and the music for Katerino Mome, a very popular folk song. (She's not the lady performing in this video, though).

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

The Tambura in Macedonian, Bulgarian and Croatian Folk Music

Tatiana Sarbinska and Desislava perform two totally different versions of Katerino Mome in Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Part 1.

Does Bulgarian folk music produce altered states?  See for yourself.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Here Comes the Brass Band! Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs with Daniel Spasov

Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors and several miles away.
Thomas Beecham

I guess Thomas Beechman wouldn't have liked the music in today's post. But then, he was one of those symphony orchestra conductors who turned up his nose at everything except classical music. I enjoy brass music, and I like it played loud, when it's accompanied by singing, its even better :)

While wandering through the Universe of YouTube, I found these excerpts on video from the album Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band).These are modern interpretations of Bulgarian folk songs from the Vidin region performed by Daniel Spasov.

Brass music is very popular in northwestern Bulgaria because of the influence of the composer Diko Iliev. He composed many dance pieces for brass ensembles, and incorporated folklore motifs from this region into his music.

The visuals in these videos are exceptionally well done and enjoyable to watch, and the music is a delight to listen to. Turn up your speakers and enjoy!

Those who regularly follow the this blog will recognize the first song, Kune Mome (and I bet they are asking me why I don't get tired of it?) This classic was performed by Kaicho Kamenov many years ago. The updated version, sung by Daniel Spasov includes a riverside sunset scene from Vidin along with a woman dressed in a long skirt and a big floppy hat, presumable the romantic interest :)

Na zdrave! Drink up...Don't ask why the person who posted this video translated it as "Alewife." According to Wikipedia, an alewife is a species of fish in the herring family. Actually it seems like the singer is involved in a flirtation with the barmaid, who's doing a good job of getting him drunk, not only with the wine but with those eyes....

The next song is a lively number about a young man and his wild escapades, which include fooling around on the mother of his child. Does he wake up on Sunday morning to regret them? Not if his dreams look like this with folk dancers and the fortress of Baba Vida as a backdrop. Of course the dreams wouldn't have all that text moving across the screen.

The last video in this post is something in a totally different mood. It's titled Dunave (Danube), a very mellow and dreamy song about the River of Many Names. Although it's not typical Bulgarian folk music I have included it here because of the beautiful and unusual videography. This is a riverboat excursion into surreality.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part 3: (hear a vintage recording of Kaicho Kamenov's Kune Mome along with a lively modern brass version)

The River of Many Names Part 4: The Danube in Bulgarian Folk Songs (includes a brass band number with dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes)

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev (composer of folk music and dances for brass ensembles, and includes his most well-known piece, Dunavsko Horo)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.