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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  1. Again the music and costumes are amazing! Makes me wonder who the seamstresses are and how long it takes to make an outfit like that!

  2. Glad you enjoyed, Tracie! sells these costumes, from what I read on their website an entire woman's costume takes 60 calendar days to make. Considering the labor involved, they're not that expensive, anywhere from 150 to 300 euros depending on the complexity. Each region has its own distinct style. I don't know who makes them, probably some old ladies in the villages :)

  3. In 1986 my dance teacher gave me some of the music of Pirin. I have loved them ever since then. Thank you for this post. I'm on Wordpress too, feel free to write to me or post on my blog anytime.

  4. I have always loved Pirin. My dance teacher gave me some of their music in 1986, loved them ever since then.

  5. Jonedae, thanks for reading and commenting. I love Pirin music like you do; there is a great ensemble who plays in the Boston area who specializes in music from that region. I have danced to them a number of times, they are wonderful! The group's name is Zdravets and here is a link to their web page:

    I'll be dropping by your blog in a day or two to check it out! Feel free to contact me as well.