Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs: Dimitrija. Elerinka, and Jova

I think today women are very scared to celebrate themselves, because then they just get labeled.
Charlize Theron

In honor of International Women's Day, which falls every year on March 8, this post features  Bulgarian folk songs about three young women: Dimitrija, Elerinka, and Jova. There are links to the lyrics so you can sing along, if you want. 

The first song, Dimitrija, is from the Pirin region, and it's performed by the Goce Delchev folk ensemble from Sofia, Bulgaria. The closest translation I could get for this was from the Songbook for Nearsighted People, in German. According to the lyrics, Dimitrija sits on a chair, drinking wine and rakia (she certainly has a tolerance for alcohol!) Three falcons fly overhead, and cover the rakia with dust. This angers Dimitrija, and she whips out her gun! Don't mess with a female who's armed and dangerous, as well as drunk....

The lyrics can be found here:

The next group, from the Boston, Massachusetts area, is Rakiya; the footage is from an gig they did in Wethersfield, Connecticut a couple of years ago. The band's name comes from the fiery brandy indigenous to the Balkans. They play traditional music from Bulgaria, Macedonia and other Eastern European countries with a modern touch, and it is a joy to listen to them.

The song, Elerinka, describes a beautiful girl held captive by her evil stepmother; she's not allowed to go to the well to fetch water with the other young ladies, nor can she go to the village dances to find a husband. The sun, however, fell in love with Elerinka, he shone on her for three days and three nights. The question of the day is...did she get burned? 

This dance has one of the quirkiest rhythms I've ever heard.  According to the dance notes I found, it alternates between 11/8 and 7/8. Odd rhythms and rhythm changes are very common in Bulgarian folk music.

The lyrics (in German and English) can be found here:

The tune Jove Malaj Mome is well-known amongst folk dancers all over the world. This is another dance in compound meter, like the previous one, it alternates between two different rhythms, 7/16 and 11/16.

Jove Malaj Mome  is from the Shope region of Bulgaria, ;and the lyrics describe a young woman who goes to the village dances to look for men. She's a hot shot, thinks she's God's gift to the world, and leads the dancing.  She's a snob when it comes to her choice of men, no country guys for her, she wants a big-city dude in an embroidered vest. Jova is definitely a gold-digger.

By the way, the group performing this dance is Dunav from Jerusalem in Israel.  For more songs and videos, you can visit their website:

Click the link below for the lyrics.

If you enjoyed this you may also like my two previous International Women's Day posts

Songs From the Balkans About Women and Girls:

Dances from the Balkans About Women and Girls

For some background and history about International Women's Day read:

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