Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter Y

Today's dance is a close relative of Jove (or Yove ) Malaj Mome, a very popular tune from the Shope region of Bulgaria.. The music sounds very similar, although the choreography is different. In Bulgarian transliteration the character Й transliteration can be either a "j" or a "y" (j in Bulgarian has a y sound).  The dance is Yovino Horo.

The rhythm is a combination of 7/16 and 11/16.  Compound rhythms are quite common in Bulgarian folk dances.

Jova is a female name in Bulgaria.

The next video is Jove Malaj Mome so you can compare the two dances. The rhythm is the same, the music and steps are slightly different, and there is singing.  There is something very charming about Bulgarian folk songs.  They can make the most commonplace events sound special.  The lyrics describe a stuck-up young woman at a dance looking for a rich man from Sofia. She's definitely looking for upward mobility.

If these guys look familiar, and you are a regular reader, you'll recognize them as the "Bonding Folkdance Class" from China.

The bonus video this week is a reading of the poem "Advice" by Bill Holm as interpreted by the magician Tom Verner. There is a little surprise at the end.

If you enjoyed this you may also like

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

The Women of Bulgarian Folk Songs

A Family Resemblance: Theme and Variations

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet Letter X:

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.
Edgar Winter

I couldn't find any Balkan dances for this week's post that begin with the letter "X" (although I did find a song from Albania with the totally unpronounceable name of  Xhimixhi) The name is a real tongue twister. 

Today's theme will be traditional and modern versions of a Bulgarian folk song from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria:  Sabrali sa se Sabrali.  Judging from what I've seen on the Universe of YouTube, it is quite popular.

Version one is the one we dance to, the beautiful traditional version performed by the Rhodopea Kaba Trio. The song is about three young women who fall asleep under a tree. They each wake up to find something missing: a necklace, a belt, and an apron. Someone has been engaging in petty theft under the stars.

Version two features a modern Sabrali performed by the singer Neli Andreeva and a group of dancers from the Bulgarian TV show Ide Nashenskata Muzika  (here comes our music). The Bulgarian National Television uploads a new show online each week, which features folk artists from past and present.

Version three is performed by Rositsa Peycheva, this time featuring dancers in traditional Bulgarian elaborate embroidered costumes with some beautiful scenery in the background. The large bagpipe is a kaba gaida, native to the Rhodope region.

The bonus video is of a band from Western Massachusetts whose specialty is music from the Balkans.  Their name begins with the letter "X" and they and their fans pronounce it zo-po. The group is Xopo and to make things even more confusing, "X" in Bulgarian is pronounced like our letter "H." Xopo is the Bulgarian word for "horo." 

The video was taken at a party in Wethersfield, Connecticut and the dance is a tropanka from the Bulgarian region of Dobrudja.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

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

Nusha, A Family Music Project With Neli Andreeva and her Daughters

Folk Ensembles Named Horo

Several years ago I wrote a post about Nestinari (fire dancers) who dance on hot coals for the feast day of Saints Constantine and Helen.  Their feast day falls on May 21. There is also a MythBusters video that explains the science of walking on hot coals.

Fire Walking: Myth or Magic?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet Letter W: A Waltz From Slovenia

Today's post is about a Balkan country that seldom seems to make the news: Slovenia. Slovenia used to be a part of the multi-ethnic, multicultural nation of Yugoslavia, which fell apart after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Before there was a Yugoslavia, Slovenia belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The folk music of Slovenia has been strongly influenced by its neighbor to the north, Austria.

The video features a waltz from Slovenia, played on an accordion,  which. according to some, is an instrument of torture. It was most likely invented in a German speaking country. Since accordions were easy for traveling musicians to carry around,  their popularity spread over Europe. 

Other Balkan countries have also included waltzes in their folk music, for example: Croatia and Bulgaria.  You can find them in one of the links below.

This piece sounds more Germanic than Slavic.

The bonus video features Cookie Monster and the Letter of the Day.  Guess what that is?

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Waltzing Through the Balkans

Classical Composers Inspired by Balkan Folk Dances

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dancing Through the Alphabet: Letter V

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
Mother Theresa

Albania was virtually isolated from the world until after the fall of Communism.  It was an oddity among the countries of Eastern Europe in that it deviated away from the Soviet Bloc (the Russians had a heavy hand in most of Eastern Europe until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). Albania allied itself with Communist China for a while and then went its own way.  It was a closed country that few outsiders were allowed to visit and even fewer were allowed to emigrate from until 1991. 

Albanian is totally unrelated to any other language spoken on the Balkan peninsula.  

Albanian folk dance borrows some elements from Greek and South Slavic music, and some of the dances that they do are similar to those of their neighbors in Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia.  An example is Valle Pogonishte, related to the Greek dance Pogonisios.

The dance shown in the video below is Valle E Burrave; in English it translates to "Men's Dance."  Originally only the men were allowed to perform this dance,  and they are the ones who do the fancy choreography.  The women get to participate, however, so this is an "equal opportunity" dance.

Today's bonus video features Mother Theresa, one of the greatest humanitarians in the world, who was of Albanian heritage.  She was born in Skopje in 1910.  At that time, Albania and Macedonia were still part of the Ottoman Empire.

She left home at the age of 18 to become a nun and spent the rest of her life in India, ministering to the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta.

The video shows her as a young woman in an Albanian folk costume, and you can hear her speak her native language.  Albania's Communist government was against any form of religious expression and Mother Theresa was not allowed to visit until the government relaxed its stance on religion. It was a very joyous occasion for her.

If anyone out there speaks Albanian, it would be much appreciated if you could post a translation of her speech in the "comments" section.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Two Variations on an Albanian Folk Dance: Valle Pogonishte

The Dance of Osman Taka

A Taste of Albania at Balkan Music Night 2013

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