Friday, June 12, 2015

A Bulgarian Weekend With Cherven Traktor

I'll refer to my music in color, like "This song needs to be bright red."
Janelle Monae

In Bulgarian folklore, red is considered a lucky color. Bulgarian folk costumes often have red in them, especially those from the northern region. It is also the color of wine, and with white, one of the colors of the Martenitsa, a good luck amulet worn to hasten the coming of spring.

During the last weekend of May I had the pleasure of dancing to the group Cherven Traktor from New York City.  The name of the group is Bulgarian for "Red Tractor."

The performers are Michael Ginsburg (tupan), Belle Birchfeld (tambura), Nikolai Kolev (gadulka) and Donka Koleva (vocals).

Michael Ginsburg teaches Balkan dance. He is one of the original members of Zlatne Uste, a band very popular in the New York City area.  They play high octane Balkan brass music from Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria. His wife, Belle Birchfeld, also plays in the band.

Nikolai Kolev and his wife Donka were born in Bulgaria (Thracian region) and were members of the band Kabile, which played at weddings and festivals in Bulgaria for 17 years before the Kolevs emigrated to the United States in 1995.

Kabile also toured the United States in  2008, 2010, and 2012.

The Kolevs have also performed with as Bulgarika with musicians Vasil Bebelekov, gaida and Dragni Dragnev who plays gaida, keyboard and tupan (just not all at the same time!) and that ensemble toured the United States in 2014.

What was really cool was that Nikolai Kolev, master of the gadulka, gave us a demonstration of his instrument and explained how he plays it. Unfortunately, I didn't get that on video, but in one of the links below you can see him in action playing a solo on the gadulka.  He really makes it sing :)

Today's music is a medley of tunes from northeastern Bulgaria; the dance is Dobrudjanska Rŭka, named after the hand and arm movements. 

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Best of Bulgarika

An Unforgettable Evening with Kabile at Mt. Holyoke College

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

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