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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