Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mandolins, Marimbas, and Bulgarian Folk Music

Today's cross-cultural adventure explores Bulgarian folk music played on instruments from Italy and Central America.

The first piece is by Diko Iliev, who composed music based on folk dances from northwestern Bulgaria. This dance is a  Daichovo Horo titled Bilka.  Daichovo has an odd rhythm: quick-quick-quick-slow. The accent is on the first beat, but the fourth is the longest. For you music theorists out there the top number in the time signature is a nine.  Balkan music is well-known for its irregular rhythms with a combination of quick-slow beats. 

Here's the traditional orchestration for brass band to use as a frame of reference:

The next video is the same piece played by the group Prima Visione, and arranged for mandolin orchestra.  The mandolin is an instrument most commonly associated with Italian music; this is quite an unusual combination.  This version of Bilka has a quieter, gentler sound than the brass band.

The marimba is a a percussion instrument related to the xylophone.  It is commonly associated with the folk music of the indigenous Maya people of the Yucatan in Mexico and the country of Guatemala.

Now things really start to get interesting. This video is of the Via Nova Percussion Group playing Bulgarian horo on several marimbas. Horo is a generic name for a folk dance from Bulgaria, in this case this one is a Pravo Horo.

The second set features three Bulgarian folk dances: LesnotoKopanitsa, and Pravo. The first two have odd time signatures; Lesnoto is in 7/8 (pineapple-apple-apple) and Kopanitsa in 11/8 (quick-quick-slow-quick quick).  The Pravo can either be in 2/4 or 6/8, this version is in 6/8.  If you look off to the side, you'll see the tupan player.  The tupan is a double-headed drum used throughout the Balkans.  He is the all-important rhythm section and keeps everyone else in line :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Having a Blast With Diko Iliev: a short biography of the composer with lots of music!

Daichovo, Plain or Fancy: Take Your Pick (Several versions of a Bulgarian folk dance)

Variations on a Theme by Petko Stainov (a contemporary of Diko Iliev who also used folk motifs in his music). In this post, you'll hear different versions of his piece, Rachenitsa, along with some folk music from Guatemala.

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  1. All parts of the same whole... seems a simple thing to say but the first thought that popped into my mind; honestly I have never seen a live orchestra concert.

  2. Marquis, I have been to many live concerts. It is an experience not to be missed; you are totally drawn into the music. My favorite events are when we have dances with live music and the band plays in the center of the circle of dancers, there is an energy field given off that is totally amazing.

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