Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dancing Though the Alphabet: Letter C

C is for Cookie
Cookie Monster, Sesame Street

Since this week's dance has two c's instead of one, here's the Cookie Monster to tell you what the letter C is all about.  Eating too many cookies results in weight gain, which is why Cookie Monster should take up Balkan dancing.

The featured dance is from the Sumadija region of Central Serbia, Cicino Kolo.  Translated into English it means "Grandfather's Kolo"  At first it looks like something your grandfather can easily do until it starts to speed up.. Cicino Kolo is not recommended for those who have arthritis in the knees or other mobility problems.  No disrespect meant to grandfathers, some are very fit and active people.

Kolo means "circle"and it can also mean wheel. Not all kolos are danced in a circle, as you will see in the here, since there are only two people, not enough to form a circle. Circles and lines, by the way, are geometric figures, which are very prominent in folk dances from Eastern Europe.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll recognize the dancers.  They are members of the Dunav group, from Jerusalem, Israel.  By the way, Dunav means Danube in Serbian and Bulgarian.

Although I'm  not quite ready to move to letter D I thought I'd include, as an added bonus, the Bulgarian New Year Dance:  Diko Iliev's Dunavsko Horo.  He composed it in honor of the Danube, River of Many Names.  It was a big part of his life because he spent many years in the town of Oryahovo, along the river. The music and the dance are associated with Diko Iliev, even though he wrote many other compositions.

Play it at midnight and turn the volume loud enough to wake the dead. Get all your friends to line up behind you and dance around the living room instead of having a drunken Auld Lang Syne singalong.  If you want to learn the dance, the first post on the list below will help.

Happy New Year 2015!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Same Dance, Different Music: Dunavkso Horo

The Flavors of Serbian Kolo

The Flavors of Serbian Cacak

Having a Blast with Diko Iliev

Age is an Issue of Mind Over Matter: Old People in Balkan Folk Songs

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter B

BIG B, Little b, what begins with B?
Barber baby bubbles and a bumblebee.

Dr. Seuss

Today's dance begins with B and comes from the Pirin region of southwestern Bulgaria.  The name is Bičak (pronounced bee-chak).  The dance has four figures that build on each other, and the sequence in which they are done is at the leader's discretion. The fourth is the only one that goes right and left (line of direction and reverse line of direction).

This is a moderately difficult dance because it's in a compound rhythm 9/16 + 5/16 (14/16).  If you listen closely you can hear the clarinet,accordion, brass instruments and a tambura.

I couldn't finish this post without adding something appropriate for the holidays, after all it's Christmas.  This is the Ensemble Goce Delchev  from Sofia, Bulgaria performing Christmas songs and dances.  Vesela Koleda, and Merry Christmas to all!

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Balkan Buy One Get One Free Special:  Dances in Compound Rhythms

The Tambura in Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Croatian Folk Music 

Bulgarian Christmas Songs (Koledarski Pesni)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter A

This week's post is part of a new series called "Dancing Through the Alphabet." Today's Alien Diaries has been brought to you by the letter A.  Where have you heard a similar saying before?  Hint: It is a popular children's TV show. Trivia fans should know the answer.  You have 30 seconds to write it down and don't forget to phrase it in the form of a question :)

The Alphabet Series, will, for the most part, spotlight lesser-known Balkan dances. Most of the popular ones have been featured on this blog at one time or another. 

Today's dance is from Bulgaria, a daichovo variation called Abdala. In the notes it's described as a Vlach version of daichovo. It has stamping (a requirement for Vlach dances) and it's fast. 

The dancers are members of the International Folk Dancers of Ottawa.

By the way, the answer to today's trivia question was Sesame Street.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

Daichovo, Plain or Fancy, Take Your Pick

Bits and Pieces: More Folklore and Pop Culture from the Universe of You Tube (features Miss Piggy on the Muppet Show singing Never on Sunday)

Folklore and Pop Culture Again! (features the Count from Sesame Street)

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Women's Dances from Macedonia Led by Men

Heterosexual men HATE dancing. We HATE it. We do it because there's a chance it might lead to sex. I mean, let's face it- if we LIKED dancing, we'd do it with other guys! (found in Psychology Today comment section in response to "65 Quotes on Dance."  The remark was attributed to an anonymous standup comic.)

“A man does what he can; a woman does what a man cannot.”
Isabel Allende, Inés of My Soul 

Sure, there are  men out there who dance primarily to meet women. And there are some who actually like to dance.  They like dancing so much that gender roles don't bother them.  In today's post there are men leading what are traditionally known as women's dances.

The gender line has been crossed, at least with these two dances from Macedonia.

The first dance is Zensko za Raka, led by the teacher Sasko Atanasov.  .  This is an fairly easy dance but it requires a lot of concentration for the leader because the music doesn't exactly tell you what to do. I find it amazing that this guy can beat a drum and lead a dance at the same time.  He is really good.

Staro Zensko Krsteno means "old women's crossing dance. The crossover steps are similar to Zensko Za Raka, although the rhythm is a little more complicated and there are more embellishments.

 I don't see a time signature on the sheet music. Does anyone know what it is? Inquiring minds want to know :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Some Equal Opportunity Folk Dances

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa Part Two: Masculine, Feminine, and Flirty

More Quirky, Odd Rhythms in Balkan Dance

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Bulgarian Folk Songs Reincarnated

"Reincarnation is making a comeback."
British Slogan

Reincarnation is a fascinating concept.  Many people believe that they have lived more than one life. It is the same with songs.

Today's post features two popular Bulgarian folk songs that were reincarnated:  the older version (sung by a male) and the newer one (sung by a female).

Chia e Tova Mominche was originally performed by Kaicho Kamenov, who lived from 1923-1983.  I've heard a number of his recordings on the Bulgarian National Radio. He was from the town of Vinarovo (near Vidin) in northwestern Bulgaria and his specialty was songs from the northern folklore region.

The video is an excerpt from the Bulgarian TV program Ide Nashenskata Muzika, hosted by Daniel Spasov (the guy at the end of the video with the microphone) and Milen Ivanov.  The hosts of the show are also folk singers.

They devote a part of the show to artists from the past. It's broadcast most Saturdays and uploaded onto the Bulgarian National Television website by early afternoon, and features music from every folklore region of the country.  I don't understand what the melting ice has to do with the song, but it sure looks wintry out there!

This is the same song by Lyuti Chushki, a group of folk musicians from the Washington DC area. They paid a visit to Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley some years ago. During the day, they gave tupan and singing lessons, an intro to Bulgarian ethnomusicology, and in the evening a concert and a dance party. I enjoyed it very much.

The next song is Myatalo Lenche Jabuka, performed by two great artists of the mid-20th century, Boris Mashalov (vocals) and Boris Karlov (accordion).

Nikolina Chakardakova's version of Myatalo Lenche  is the one we play at dances. The link goes to her website (in Bulgarian), and you can find videos of her songs there.

Unfortunately, you won't see the artist in the video, although her recording was used for the performance.  The song is about a girl, Lenche, who throws an apple in the hope of finding a man to marry.  An old man catches it instead.  The plot revolves around the girl's mother sending the old man into the woods hoping that a bear will eat him.(In the stage performance the "bear" removes his "head", revealing a handsome young man.)

The dance is a rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

A Visit to Bulgaria by way of Mt. Holyoke College

Kaicho Kamenov and the Folk Songs of Northern Bulgaria

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

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

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Who Will Fill Their Shoes? The Aging of the Folk Dance Community

To live is to dance, to dance is to live.
--Charles Schulz [in Peanuts (Snoopy speaking)]

Why don't more young people go to folk dances?

That is something that has been plaguing folk dance groups in recent years. The dancers get grayer by the year.  When they die, who will fill their shoes?

According to what I've read on the Internet, and from speaking with veteran dancers, the peak years of international folk dance were during the 1960's and 1970's, when they were college students.

If this trend continues, the only place to find folk dance groups will be in retirement communities.

Part of the problem could be that the young are too busy doing other things.  Or maybe dancing with people their grandparents' age is just not for them.

Another issue was budget cuts: courses in folk dancing have been cut from school curriculums.  In my opinion, dance should be offered as a physical education class as an alternative to team sports.(See the link to my post below: "On Ethnic Dance and Exercise.")

A variety of reasons were mentioned and listed here.

There was a time, not so many years ago, when ballroom dancing was primarily an activity for seniors. Dancing With the Stars changed all that. Now people of all ages take classes and participate in ballroom dancing. 

Check out the video and you'll see what I'm talking about:  the majority of the dancers are 50+. This was taken during a live music event when attendance is higher than during regular dance nights.

This group from Canada is at a workshop taught by Yves Moreau.   Many of the participants are also seniors.

Fortunately, Balkan folk dancing has taken a foothold in communities with large ethnic populations, such as New York City and Boston. Balkan Music Night, held annually in Concord (a suburb) of Boston has a large turnout of young people. In 2010 I went to a Zlatne Uste event in New York city that had a very youthful crowd, so there is hope. These young people may well be the future of folk dancing as we know it.

And in Bulgaria, young people have taken up an interest in folk dance because of the TV show Nadigrai Me, a show which features dancers from folk dance clubs all over the country. This show has finished its fifth season. It is one of the most popular shows in Bulgaria.

In 2012, a folk dance club opened in Sofia,  Club na Horoto.  The idea behind it was to have a place for dancers to congregate any hour of the day or night. This concept might work in a city with a large Eastern European immigrant population like Boston or Toronto.

Club Na Horoto reminds me of a disco....one of those places I used to frequent years ago. I would love to see a venue like this open up in the United States. They look like they're having a great time!  From what I've read on their website, this venue is extremely popular. Right now they're taking reservations for their New Year's Eve party.

If you have been successful in attracting young dancers to your group, please post your ideas in the "comments" section.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World

Why Dancing Makes You Smart

On Ethnic Dance and Exercise 

A One of a Kind Club for Folk Dancers

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune: Dospatsko Horo

Today's music features different versions of the music for the Bulgarian folk dance Dospatsko Horo.  Like many Bulgarian dances, it's named after a town,  Dospat, in the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria.  Dospatsko was originally a men's dance.

The video below is from the Chinese "Bonding Folk Dance Class" and uses the music familiar to recreational folk dancers.

Here is the entire piece; the artist listed is the orchestra of Anastas Naumov.  The dominant instrument here is the gadulka, a Bulgarian version of a fiddle, with the gaida and kaval in the background. You get to watch some beautiful scenery at the same time.  You can even dance to it if you want.

Version two is a modern and mellow Dospatsko, from a Bulgarian dance music album.  The dominant instrument here is the kaval.

I have heard many different renditions of Dospatsko on YouTube. Some are good and some are just awful, like version #3, which sounds like elevator music.  I know art is subjective, but this album cover is ugly!

It took some time for me to warm up to version # 4, which is the most unusual Dospatsko I've heard. It was recorded in a synogogue in Poland with excellent acoustics, and played on a cello, accordion, organ and a kaval. The music alternates between being slow and fast, solemn and dramatic. This version isn't meant for dancing but it's definitely worth a listen.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Tune Gankino Horo

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs Part One and Part Two

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Golden Record, Rhodope Folk Songs, and Valya Balkanska in Concert

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
Carl Sagan

Today's post is about  Bulgarian folk singer Valya Balkanska and her connection with an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (I was in Washington, D.C. recently and had paid a visit to several of the Smithsonian museums).

The exhibit (see photo above) is a copy of the Golden Record sent up into space on the Voyager in 1977 for the purpose of contacting intelligent life somewhere in the universe.

The hauntingly beautiful song Izlel e Delio Haidutin was on on that record, along with many other sounds from Planet Earth.

The large bagpipe is a kaba gaida, used as accompaniment for folk songs from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria.

Although Izlel e Delyu Haidutin is Valya Balkanska's  most popular song, there are many others in her repertoire. You can sample some of them in today's post.

The next two videos were part of a Bulgaria Liberation Day concert that took place in Toronto, Canada. It featured Valya Balkanska and Peter Yanev (on kaba gaida).

In the first video the audience dances a very long Pravo Horo. Afterwards the song Izlel e Delio Haidutin starts at 10:22 and goes into the next video. The person who recorded this performance had to do it in installments, which is a bit of a distraction.

Video #2  is a continuation of the first (on YouTube they are listed as 8 and 9).  After a short speech in Bulgarian, there is more singing and dancing at 2:55. The video concludes with the song  Tih bjal Dunav se valnuva, (also known as the Botev March) which commemorates Hristo Botev's historic crossing of the Danube from Romania to Bulgaria during the April Uprising of 1876. The lyrics are based on a poem by Ivan Vazov.

The other installments from this concert are on You Tube, for your watching and listening pleasure.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

Outer Space: The Bulgarian Connection

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

Hristo Botev, Poet and Revolutionary

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Serbian Folk Dance Around the World

The world's most famous and popular language is music.

What I like about the Universe of YouTube is that you can travel around the world without leaving your home. This is especially good during the fall and winter when it is sometimes too cold to venture outside.

Today's post features Serbian folk dance videos from the following countries: the United States, Canada, Israel, China and of course, Serbia!

Video #1 is from the United States. It took place at a festival in Sacramento, California and includes four dances: Groznica, Prekid, Treskavac, and Cicino from central Serbia.  The performers are the Asna Kolo Ensemble.

Their version of Prekid Kolo is different from the one done by recreational folk dancers, also known as "Kolo Interruptus."

Many Serbs emigrated to Canada, which is even colder than New England :) Folk dancing generates heat and is an excellent remedy for winter depression.  (Have you ever been to a dance in the middle of winter and watch people turn on the fans and open the windows?)

The group, Kolo, from Hamilton, Ontario performs at halftime during a basketball game. One of my daughters played basketball in high school, and the most annoying thing was that damned buzzer at the end of every quarter.

This is one of the best halftime shows I've seen. 

The dancers perform Vransko Polje, from the region of Vranje. Vranje is in southern Serbia near the borders of the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria.

If you are a regular reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize this group, Dunav from Jerusalem in Israel. The lady on the right, Mika, has a kolo named after her. It was created from two Serbian dances:  Liljano Kolo and  Kolo iz Dubrave.  It must be really cool to be named after a dance :)

This Chinese "Bonding Folk Dance Class" has been featured on this blog many times. Here they perform the very popular Popovicanka.

The final video in this post is a performance from the group Akud Branko Krsmanovic.  They are from the capital of  Serbia, Belgrade, and do a medley of dances from the region of Šumadija. I recognized Moravac (at 2:49) and Cacak  (at 4:32). If anyone out there can tell me the names of the other dances in this medley it would be very much appreciated.

If you can ignore the chatter in the background, this is a very good video. 

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

The "Flavors of Serbian Cacak"

Folk Ensembles Named After Dances

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break next week; look for the next post sometime in early November.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Tribute to Georgi Petrov

When I'm dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance.
― Freddie Mercury

Today's post features several memorable performances of Georgi Petrov, a musician who played the gadulka, the Bulgarian version of a fiddle. He died of a brain tumor in February 2014 at the age of 52. Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about this musician or his music until shortly after he had passed on, when I found this article (in Bulgarian) on the Vidin affiliate of the Bulgarian National Radio.

I read the article (via Google Translate)and listened to the audio file.

Georgi Petrov was from Northwestern Bulgaria, Vidin region, and he is best known for playing music from that area. On video #1 you'll hear  Sinagovsko Horo, named after the village, Sinagovtsi, where Petrov lived. It is also known as Dunavsko Horo, the dance done to this music.

Video #2 is a performance of Georgi Petrov from 2003. Here he's accompanied by a group of folk musicians on tambura, kaval, and tupan.  The piece is Dzanguritsa, a tune from the Pirin region.

Video #3 is from a Bulgarian TV show back in 1995 (can you believe that was almost 20 years ago?) of Georgi Petrov playing Kraĭdunavska prikazka; the English translation is A Danubean Tale. It is a beautiful piece and one for which he is best known. Here, he's accompanied by the folk music orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio.The radio station celebrates its 80th anniversary in January 2015.

Video #4  is from a concert in Morocco.. It's a half hour long but worth a listen  It starts with Petrov playing a solo on gadulka, to be accompanied by musicians on  kaval  and tambura. Two vocalists join in at 19:00.  You'll also hear the music from video #1 (at 14:54) and video #2 (21:45)  If you watch closely, you'll also see an artist painting Bulgarian musical instruments. The eye candy is there if you know where to look :)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

Same Dance, Different Music, Dunavkso Horo

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Romanian Folk Dance in the United States

When you're dancing, you're dancing for people to see.
Pharrell Williams

Today's post features a costumed folk dance group, Hora Romaneasca, from Boulder, Colorado, USA.  I found them totally by accident, during a search for the dance Hora de Mina on YouTube.

I found several of their videos posted in the sidebar, and I had to share them, they were so good.  These were taken during a festival in 2011.

Video #1 is the graceful Hora Spoitorilor.

Video #2 is something a bit more animated;  Alunelul de Briu, accented by shouts (strigaturi). Strigaturi are a feature of many Romanian folk dances, along with stamps. Should Romanian dancing be stamped out?  I don't think so.

Video #3 is of a dance some find intimidating because it's fast and has sudden changes of direction.  The name is Cimpoi. It means "bagpipe" in Romanian.

Video #4 is Trei Pazeste. It translates into "three times beware"; something about the sudden changes of direction and speed. There is a family of dances with the name Trei Pazeste, with different music and choreography, from other towns in Romania. You can read about them in one of the posts on the bottom of the page.

Notice how how the group uses different formations; first the men, then the women, then the entire group in a circle. (Check out the cute little girl in costume, running in front of them! I think she wanted to join the dancers.)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Trei Pazeste

Two Variations on the Romanian Folk Dance Hora de Mina

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance Alunelul

Another Country Heard From:  The Bagpipe in Romanian Folk Music

This month's post on Light and Shadow is about the autumn season.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best of Bulgarika

Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.
Herbie Hancock

Although I understand very little Bulgarian, their folk music speaks to me, and to many other fans of it as well.  When a Bulgarian folk ensemble comes to play, few people sit down (except perhaps to rest for the next dance).  The rhythms are compelling and sometimes hypnotic; it is easy to get into a trance while dancing.

Bulgarika is a folk ensemble that played last month in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I was at their dance party in early September. Right now they are on tour in the United States.If you do a Google search on them, you can find a performance somewhere near you.

Nikolai Kolev and his wife Donka, originally from Bulgaria, now reside in New York City, and a number of years ago played in the Kabile Bulgarian Band.

The Bulgarika ensemble on tour this year consists of four musicians:  Nikolai Kolev, gadulka, Donka Koleva, vocals, Vasil Bebelekov, gaida and Dragni Dragnev, who plays several instruments: gaida, keyboard, kaval and tupan.  He just doesn't play them all at the same time :)

Although it was very hot and humid, and the hall had no air conditioning (for cooling we had the windows wide open and fans running at full blast) everyone had a great time dancing and sweating to Bulgarian folk tunes. I felt bad for the musicians who wore long pants and long sleeve embroidered shirts because performing in the heat is hard work. They absolutely love what they do, and played for us (with a short break) for about three hours.

Here is a sample from that evening that I captured in video: the dance is a slow pravo.

This was another dance event with Bulgarika which took place recently in Pennsylvania.  The music is a medley of songs from the Rhodope region of southern Bulgaria; the dance is Pravo Rhodopsko Horo.

And finally, an older video of Bulgarika from 2011 with Ivan Milev on accordion, and Donka Koleva's daughter Maria (vocals). It took place at an outdoor festival in Indiana. The dances are Pravo Trakiisko Horo, Devetorka, and Trite Puti.  

 It also happened to be Donka Koleva's birthday.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

An Unforgettable Evening With Kabile at Mt. Holyoke College

A Multi-Ethnic Weekend and Some Bulgarian "Free Software"

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

Don't forget to visit my other blog Light and Shadow.  The post this month is "Some Thoughts on the Autumn Equinox."

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dances Inspired by Dimitrija

A woman is more dangerous than a loaded gun. – Ryann Bosetti .

In a previous post I mentioned how many Bulgarian folk dances got their names. They are usually named after people, places or regions.  Dimitrija is the name of the day.

The first song is from the Pirin region, in southwestern Bulgaria.  Dimitrija sits on a stool, a gun next to her, drinking wine and rakia.  If you're searching for a woman with attitude, look no further. She is definitely "more dangerous than a loaded gun."

Here's the dance, performed by the group Leb i Vino. They specialize in authentic folklore from the Pirin region. It sounds quite a bit different from the previous video; with three zurnas and a tupan (drum). 

The Ottoman Turks used the zurna to intimidate enemies.  The people of the Pirin region liked it so much they incorporated it into their folk music.

One of my favorite dances is Mitro, one of the many variations of Pravo Horo. This is a favorite with the Sunday night group, and I often lead it. Mitro is the short form of Dimitrija. The song is from the Rhodope region (southern Bulgaria) and the gaida (bagpipe) introduction is loud enough to wake the dead.

I learned the dance Oj, Dimitrole at a Yves Moreau workshop, although I have since forgotten most of it. Maybe this video will give me incentive to review it. The dance is from northwestern Bulgaria, where brass bands are popular.

The singer is Daniel Spasov, whose specialty is music from the Northern and Shopluk folklore regions.  He also hosts a weekly folk music show on Bulgarian National Televsion: Ide Nashenskata Muzika.

There is also a half hour video with songs performed by Daniel Spasov, not shown here, but I have provided the link: Ide Duhovata Muzika (Here Comes the Brass Band), which is on YouTube. You can also find the post with songs from that video on the bottom of the page.

The first figure in this dance looks like a penguin walk. The rhythm is 6/8, often used in pravo dances and their variations.

If you enjoyed this you may also like

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

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

Dances Inspired by Elena

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music

The Bagpipe in Bulgarian Folk Music

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Multi-Ethnic Weekend and Some Bulgarian "Free Software"

I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.
T.D. Jakes

This week's post will be short, as there were two great ethnic events in the area this past weekend.  The first was the Springfield Massachusetts Glendi, a three-day festival of Greek music, dance, and food.  Too bad I forgot to take a picture of the moussaka before I ate it.  It was delicious.

Once my hunger was sated, I took a video of the dancers.  I was traveling light and used my phone instead of the camera to take the video, so the sound quality wasn't great.  You can hear it if you turn up the speakers to the highest setting.

Last year's video was much better because I used the camera. I was able to zoom in on the dancers performing a Pentozali and here you can REALLY hear the music.

There was also a Bulgarian event that I went to last Friday, and I remembered to bring the camera. Everyone got up and danced to Bulgarika, despite the fact that the Masonic Hall was very hot and sticky, and the only cooling devices were two large fans (no air conditioning.) Summer decided to come to New England in September.  It was running late this year.

I will write more on Bulgarika in a future post.  Bulgarika is currently on tour in the United States. They are a four person ensemble; two live in New York City and two traveled here from Bulgaria.

The dance is Sadi Moma, with vocals by Donka Koleva.

In another incarnation, Sadi Moma became the Free Software Song.  By the way, the time signature is 7/8, very common in Bulgarian folk music, and in this song the rhythm is pineapple-apple-apple.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

To Greece and Bulgaria and Back (in one weekend!)

Folklore, Food and Fun at Festivals

The "Flavors" of Greek Syrtos

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quirky, Odd and Unusual Folklore Videos From the Universe of YouTube

Could you, would you,
with a goat?

I would not,
could not.
with a goat!

Dr. Seuss, from Green Eggs and Ham

You could, if the bagpipe is made from an entire goat, including the head.  Read on, you'll find this week's post very entertaining.

I'm not a fan of Sports Illustrated, especially the Swimsuit Edition. The magazine version comes out every February, mainly because people are bored of winter and dream of escaping to tropical beaches where beautiful women abound.  Real women don't look anything like the ones in Sports Illustrated, that's for sure.

Here is something much more fun to watch: the Accent Swimsuit Video. It features the ladies from the Bulgarian folk dance club Accent on vacation in Lake Orhid, Macedonia. You can find their website here (in Bulgarian). Here they ham it up for the camera with Opas, sans elaborate embroidered costumes.

As soon as I saw this video, I thought of a Facebook friend  who regularly reads my blog.  He likes the belly dancers and the sexy female folk singers.  Will, this one's for you :)

A group from China dances Geampara, a dance from Romania. It's amazing how Balkan folk music has traveled around the world. This particular group focuses on Balkan and Israeli dance and they have many videos on YouTube. They have been featured on this blog numerous times and describe themselves as a "bonding folk dance class." The teacher reminds me of a drill instructor; according to the notes on the video, he is a guest teacher from Taiwan. His choice of music suits his personality; it is a very macho piece.

The rhythm for geampara is the same as Bulgarian rachenitsa: apple-apple-pineapple. Just don't call it that in Romania.

Video #3 features a group of Roma musicians, also known by the politically incorrect term Gypsies.

Unfortunately I've read too many disparaging comments on YouTube about the Roma. They have been targets of discrimination for centuries.

Their ancestors originally came from India and migrated west into Europe. Some of the best artists in the world of Balkan music are Roma; famous examples include the singer Esma from the Republic of Macedonia, and the accordionist Boris Karlov from Bulgaria.

These guys are fun to watch, although I think they had a little too much whiskey at the Christmas party :) What is really odd is that there's no audience here, nor are there people dancing.  The rhythm for this piece is a čoček, a dance popularized by Roma people in the Balkans.

Finally here's one of the most unusual videos I've ever seen.  Risto Todoroski, a Macedonian living in Sydney, Australia, makes, sells and plays bagpipes made from an entire goat, including the head.  If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for your favorite musician, you can contact him via e-mail at sirulsko@gmail.com.

If you enjoyed this you may also like

A Romani Potpourri One and Two

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Opas

The Bagpipe in Macedonian Folk Music

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms

The reason that you dance and sing is to make the audience feel like they're dancing and singing. As long as you're having fun with it and giving it 100 percent, they're gonna feel that.
Heath Ledger 

Today's post features music performed by Orchestra Horo from Ruse (Rousse), Bulgaria.   Their specialty is modern renditions of folk songs and dances from the northern region of the country. The ensemble celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. What I like most about them is how their repertoire displays the varied rhythms of Bulgarian folk music.  This band compels you to get up and dance. The songs are upbeat, catchy, and take up residence inside your head. Earworms!

Horo means "dance" in Bulgarian, and as you will see in video #1, there was a large crowd dancing Pravo, Daichovo and Devetorka  at the 50th anniversary party.

Video #2 shows a close-up of the musicians and their instruments: three accordions, a small kaval (shepherd's flute), a keyboard, tupan (double headed drum) and a vocalist. (The voice is also a musical instrument.)

Some people consider accordions  instruments of torture and use them for that purpose. I am the only one who likes accordion music at my house. My husband would rather hear the smoke detector go off  than listen to the accordion. Says it gives him a headache.

The accordion, which was invented in a German-speaking country,  was originally not part of the traditional Bulgarian folk ensemble. Boris Karlov, who arranged many folk dances for accordion, was partly responsible for its popularity in Bulgaria.

The song, Tri Vecheri Na Dunava, translates into English as Three Evenings on The Danube, which explains why there is so much blue in the video :) The rhythm for this song is rachenitsa, (apple-apple-pineapple).  It is the national dance of Bulgaria and the time signature for it is 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed. The larger the number on the bottom of the time signature, the faster the music.

The city of Ruse is situated on the banks of the Danube, River of Many Names, and for over fifty years had the only bridge that connected Bulgaria and Romania until the Vidin-Calafat bridge was completed in 2013.

Video #3 is the song, Moma Draganka, (girl named Draganka) also in rachenitsa rhythm.  Notice the dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes, eye candy for those who love Bulgarian folklore. If you look closely, you can see a small red cloth on the tupan.  I own a cloth similar to the one in the video.  Mine has an evil eye pattern in several colors, but mostly red. Red is a lucky color in Bulgaria. The evil eye keeps the bad forces away from the person who wears it.

Next is Shirokata, with more eye candy :) The rhythm is 9/16 (devetorka).

Stari Dedo (Old Grandpa) is a folk song in 11/16 (kopanitsa) rhythm. Another dance from Northern Bulgaria, Gankino Horo, has the same rhythm. There are many tunes associated with Gankino Horo, the most famous being the version played by accordionist Boris Karlov.

If anyone out there can locate an English translation for the songs posted here this week, it would be very much appreciated!

If you enjoyed this you may also like

Folk Ensembles Named Horo

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa Part One and Part Two

The Colors of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Crossing the River Part Four: Celebrating a New Bridge 

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dances Inspired by Elena

/ Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /
/ (Ah) Eleno, mome Eleno, /
/ Ne gazi sino zeleno! /

Bulgarian folk song

Today's post features two very well-known dances from Bulgaria.  Both are inspired by a woman named Elena. She must be quite popular.

The first is Elenino Horo, better known to to those in the folk dance community as Eleno Mome.  Bulgarian dances tend to be named after the following things: people  (Gankino Horo or Ganka's Dance), cities or towns (Varnenska Tropanka from the city of Varna),  holidays (Koledarska Rachenitsa or Christmas Rachenitsa) or events like weddings (Svatbarska Rachenitsa). 

This version is from a teaching video; part of a series "Teach Yourself Bulgarian Horo." The dance is from Northwestern Bulgaria. Swinging of the arms in time with the steps is typical of dances from this region, and you will notice that their feet.barely touch the ground. The rhythm is 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speed (2+2+1+2). There are versions of this dance that are really fast; the one shown here is a moderate tempo.

Eleno Mome is also a folk song.  The instrumental version seems to be more popular than the vocal one.

You can find the lyrics here as well as the sheet music so you can sing along with Rumiana Popova. If you listen carefully you'll hear a bit of the Macedonian dance Toska Memede mixed in at the very beginning. You get two for the price of one.

Elenska Rachenitsa is another Elena dance, introduced and taught by Yves Moreau, and very popular in the international folk dance community.

Rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, in 7/8 or 7/16 rhythm (depending on the speed, the lower the number on the time signature, the faster the music). Think of the words apple-apple-pineapple and you have rachenitsa.  Notice the arm movements; they are an intregal part of the dance.

This is a slow and graceful dance from the Thracian region of Bulgaria, performed by the Tanzgruppe Bäckerstraße from Vienna, Austria. They have many videos posted on YouTube and also on the Dancilla website.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Folk Dances From Cities and Towns

The "Flavors" of Bulgarian Rachenitsa Part One and Part Two

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bulgarian Folk Dance in and Around Vienna, Austria

Vienna is the gate to Eastern Europe.
Niki Lauda

Today's post was inspired by a lady named Monika from Vienna, Austria. On YouTube, she goes by the name Monivienna, and she has a little bit of everything on her channel:  folk dances and workshops, Lipizzaner horses, music events  and even her cat (he's so cute!). I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I have!

One of the pleasures of living in a large city is all the dance events. During the summer, some of them take place outside, and many years ago one of my favorite venues during the spring, summer and early fall was in Central Park in New York.

The Central Park Folk Dancers have been meeting  for many years near the King Jagiello Statue and Turtle Pond.  The entrance to the park is near the Metropolitan Museum of Art  on 5th Avenue and West 81st Street.

There is also an outdoor dance venue in Vienna.  Dances take place at the Donauinsel (Danube Island, by the lighthouse) on Tuesday evenings between 7:00-9:30 p.m.
The  Reichsbrücke can be seen in the background of video #1. It dates from 1980; the previous bridge had collapsed early on a Sunday morning in August 1976 due to a structural defect. I was living in Germany when the bridge fell; it was a major story on the news.

Nearly a year later I visited Vienna and saw what remained of the old bridge; construction had not yet started on the new one. At the time of the accident there were four vehicles and five people on the bridge; one life was lost. This would have been a bigger catastrophe if it happened during rush hour on a weekday.

The dance shown here is a slow and easy one from the Pirin region, choreographed by Yves Moreau to the song Idam ne Idam. The lyrics describe a shopkeeper who's in love with a woman named Felidza.  It's a very lovely song, perfect for a balmy summer evening.

Video #2 is from a dance seminar with Mitko and Antonia. Trunska, the dance seen here, is very high energy. It looks like a fancy variation of the pravo.

Video #3 is from another workshop, Schwitz mit Fritz. You will definitely sweat and have lots of fun at one of these.  Last year a Schwitz mit Fritz video was featured on The Alien Diaries of the Albanian dance Valle Pogonishte.  The link can be found at the bottom of this page.

Here Fritz leads a lively and energetic Daichovo Horo, a dance from northwestern Bulgaria. This is almost three minutes of heavy-duty aerobic exercise. I wonder how many people have trouble keeping up with him?

Video# 4 is from a party with the ensemble Kitka, who are dressed up in those beautiful elaborate embroidered costumes. From what I see here I'd love to go to one of these parties; they really know how to have a great time.  I think people in the States sometimes take themselves and folk dancing too seriously.  At the local dances they know me as the comic relief. Comedy is my forte.

This group does Pravo Horo, one of those "getting to know your neighbor dances." Quite a few conversations are going on here....

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on the Albanian Folk Dance Valle Pogoniste  Fritz calls the steps for  Pogoniste while the dancers sing along.

Bulgarian Folk Dance in the United States

Bulgarian Folk Dance Around the World 

Dancing Along the Danube: Folklore Videos from the Tour International Danubien Features music and dance from folklore evenings in Serbia and Bulgaria.

If you have an interest in bridges you may enjoy this post celebrating the opening of a new bridge last year  between Vidin, Bulgaria, and Calafat, Romania (with plenty of music).

Crossing the River, Part Four

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Made in Romania

Many Europeans are confused by the terms Roma and Romania. They wonder if it is an ethnicity or a nation of 22 million citizens.
Traian Basescu

Today's post features a Roma (Gypsy) dance and a medley of dances from the region of Transylvania. 

The first video is the Roma dance, Made in Romania. You can do it freestyle or go by the "suggested" choreography here.  Included are the lyrics and the translation for the song.

I have been known to deviate from the choreography at times and like to create up my own steps. As long as it goes with the music, it's all good, but sometimes it drives people crazy.

The second "Made in Romania" is a folk ensemble who perform a medley of dances from Transylvania. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was the book that made Transylvania famous. It was based on an actual person, Vlad Tepes, (Vlad the Impaler), who ruled Wallachia from 1456 to 1462. He is best known for the way he killed his enemies.  He impaled them on stakes.

Stoker created a novel based on the folklore of Transylvania. Although he had never visited the country, he had read about it extensively, and he reincarnated Vlad Tepes into a vampire. Nowadays, everyone associates Transylvania with Count Dracula and vampires.

The name Transylvania means "land beyond the forest."  A number of ethnic groups have left their imprint in this region:  the Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons (Germans) and Roma.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like

A Romani Potpourri, Parts One and Two

Transylvania: The Land of Count Dracula is a Multi-Cultural Mishmosh

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Hybrid Dances From the Balkans

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Today's post features hybrid dances, so called because they have more than cultural influence.

The first video is of a Greek dance from Kastroria with lyrics in Ladino,  Alta es la Luna.  Ladino was the language spoken by the Jews of Spain, who were exiled from that country in 1492 (about the same time Columbus set sail for the New World).  The Spanish Jews, also known as Sephardim, settled in various European countries, including Greece.

You can find the lyrics with translations into English and German here.

By the way, "horon" is the Greek word for dance; "horo" is the Bulgarian cognate.

Momino Horo  is a  "Young Women's Dance" from Bulgaria that has two distinctly different moods. Part one is slow and graceful with step-lifts (the notes describe the styling as Greek Macedonian.).

All hell breaks loose after the musical transition at 2:08;  two stamps, then the "penguin step", followed by an in and out, and more stamps. The choreography in part two is as Vlach as it gets with the shouting and the stamping.

The Vlachs were descendants of Romans who lived in the Balkans.  They had wandering ways and in the old days, they worked as shepherds.

Momino Horo  is based on women's dances from the region of Lom in northwestern Bulgaria, an area with a sizable Vlach population.

Yves Moreau, the teacher in the video, gives workshops in Bulgarian folk dance all over the world. This workshop took place in Haifa, Israel.

Siriysko Horo is a dance that came to the Bulgarian community in Chicago by way of Syria. The music is really strange because it reminds me of rush hour traffic in Manhattan.  According to the notes, the dance teacher Yulian Yordanov saw it performed at a Bulgarian gathering in Chicago. In this video,the music has been slowed down for teaching.

The first time I heard the song for Siriykso, I thought it very weird, but I really like it now. I wonder if the singer, Hamid El Shaeri, a native of Benghazi, Libya, was ever in New York City?

You can find the lyrics here.  What's surprising is this happens to be a love song!

This is the same song, at normal speed, and performed by a group of belly dancers.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Travels of Pajdusko Horo

Allusions, Musically Speaking (how snippets from different cultures get mixed into Balkan folk music)

Bulgarian Folk Songs With A Hungarian Accent

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Balkan Buy One Get One Free Special: Dances With Compound Rhythms

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

Today's post features three dances from Bulgaria in compound meters, where the music has two different rhythms in the same piece. It's the folk dancers' Buy One Get One Free Special :)

In previous posts, I have featured dances in odd rhythms such as padjusko, rachenitsa, chetvorno, lesnoto, daichovo, and kopanitsa.  Since most western music is written in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 and 6/8, music in odd time signatures is challenging for dancers and musicians at first.  People in the Balkans have this stuff mastered before they can even walk.

There is an excellent website from the Ethnic Dance Network that explains Balkan rhythms and gives musical examples. You have to feel the rhythm in order to understand it. Hopefully the videos here will add to your understanding of Balkan (especially Bulgarian) folk music.

The first example is Jove Malaj Mome from the Shope Region. This dance is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and kopanitsa (11/16). The dancers are at the Balkanalia  festival in Dresden, Germany, which takes place annually in March. Their webpage describes this event as "a big meeting of international folk dance."

The hardest thing about  Sandansko Horo is the rhythm: 9/16 (daichovo) + 13/16 (krivo). It is best when dancing not to think too much; let the leader do it for you. .This dance is from the town of Sandanski, in the Pirin region of southwest Bulgaria, where they get a little crazy with odd rhythms.

If you want to see an example of Krivo Horo click here .By the way, krivo means "crooked" in Bulgarian, the opposite of "pravo" straight.  The meaning has to do with the rhythm; pravo is in the even meter of 2/4 or 6/8 and Krivo is in 13/16. Thirteen is not only odd, it is a prime number as well.  Many folk dancers are into math; this is a good way to get a conversation going.

Sedi Donka is a party dance in our group. It is a combination of chetvorno (7/16) and  kopanitsa (11/16). By the way, this is the slow version; the Ethnic Dance Network has a much faster one.. Sedi Donka means "Donka is sitting", which makes me wonder how the dance got its name.

Hang on to your belts, folks.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How Bulgarian Folk Music Induces Altered States (one of the videos features the group Leb i Vino performing in the town square of Sandanski).

Dancing to the Music of a Different Drummer

Dancing in Sevens Part One and Part Two

Balkan Music and Its Relationship to...Math?

This website is rather technical and geared towards musicians, but some readers may find it of interest:

Mastering Odd and Complex Time Signatures and Rhythms

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Monday, July 7, 2014

What's in a Name? Two Bulgarian Folk Dances: Dobrujdanksa Pandela and Pandelaš

Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

Today's dances have similar names but different meanings, tempos and choreographies.  One thing they have in common is that both are from the folklore region of Dobrudja.

These dances have stampy steps which are characteristic of this region of Bulgaria.  The first, Dobrujanska Pandela, is in the time signature of 2/4. "Pandela" translates to "ribbon" in English.

The second dance, Pandelaš, (pronounced pandelash) means "fleeting thought or idea." (Funny how that little diacritical mark under the "s" changes not just the meaning, but the pronunciation.

 Pandelaš  is a rachenitsa, a dance very popular in Bulgaria.  The tempo is either 7/8 or 7/16 depending on the speedthis particular dance is in 7/8.  The beats are accented like this: apple-apple-pineapple.

The rachenitsa is the national dance of Bulgaria, and in different regions it takes on different characteristics. For example: the Shopska Rachenitsa is fast, with small steps, and the Thracian Rachenitsa is slower and smoother).  The Dobrudjanska Rachenitsa is relatively slow, punctuated with stamps and often accented with strong arm movements.

Click the links to see two more examples of rachenitsa from Dobrudja:  Sej Sej Bop and Povlekana.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Flavors of Bulgarian Rachenitsa, Part One and Part Two

Stamping It Out: Dances From the Bulgarian Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Two Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance Rachenitsa Na Horo (two dances with the same name, different music and choreography)

Looking for some thing fun to read this summer?  Check out my new blog Light and Shadow.  It has been online since January.  It will make you think, and may even make you laugh. 

The Alien Diaries will be taking a break for the next two weeks. See you later this summer!

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