Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best of the Alien Diaries: 2010-2015

I would say happy new year but it's not happy; it's exactly the same as last year except colder.
Robert Clark

It is the end of 2015, and we have been very fortunate.  This time last year was a lot colder and snowier. Yesterday was the first winter precipitation, mostly in the form of freezing rain and slush, but there's no escaping cold weather where I live.

Back in 2010, I started The Alien Diaries because at the time there were very few blogs in English about Balkan music, folklore and dance. I had no idea that almost six years later that I can still create a new post almost every week, and that so many people look forward to reading them. My goal was to make Balkan folklore interesting, accessible, and entertaining. It is also a plot to get more people (especially the young ones) on the dance floor.

Since 2016 is almost upon us, this year end post will focus on the best video(s)  from each year (my choice). If you have a favorite, let me know in the "comments" section.

How do you mix folklore with pop culture?  Dress a woman up in a Bulgarian folk costume. Poke fun at the World Cup, soccer players, Germans, and a psychic octopus named Paul.

During the playoffs of the 2010 World Cup, Paul picked the winning teams with a surprising degree of accuracy. Unfortunately, Paul lived in an aquarium in Germany, and when he predicted Spain as the winner of the World Cup, the Germans posted octopus recipes on the Internet.  Fortunately he survived all the brouhaha and went to Pulpo Heaven later that year.

In Paul's honor, the Bulgarians created a satirical dance-song, the Octopod Rachenitsa.

One of the highlights of 2011 was Balkan Music Night.  It is an event that takes place in the Boston area every year right around mid-March and features numerous musicians and dance ensembles. Balkan Music night has two parts: the concert from 7-9 p.m., and afterwards, participatory dance to live music.

I took this video just before midnight when everyone was high on endorphins and finishing a medley of dances played by the tamburitza group Pajdashi. What's really cool is how the dancers flow around the room and end up in a circle, which is the definition of kolo.

The best video of 2012 is an excerpt from the Bulgarian TV program Ide Duhovata Muzika. It featured brass band music and songs performed by Daniel Spassov. The backdrop is the town of Vidin, Bulgaria.

You can usually recognize Daniel Spassov by his shades (they look like Transitions lenses).  In this video he looks different with a mustache minus his glasses. The group dresses like gypsies, and the woman wears a colorful outfit.  She is the only female in the video.

The song is Tsiganko. It sounds upbeat but is actually a lament about a man who's in love with a gypsy girl. According to the lyrics, he can't sleep and misses her badly because she's far away. You'd never know it from the music.

One of the best videos of 2013 took place at a dance workshop in Austria : "Schmitz mit Fritz." It was the most fun that I've seen during a dance teach.  Fritz called the steps, and the dancers hummed along with the music. They didn't sweat very hard because Pogonishte is a slow dance. You can find the lyrics here, in the original Albanian with German translation.

In 2014, Miss Piggy and her entourage of dancing pigs were a big hit on The Alien Diaries with Never on Sunday. The setting is right out of a Greek taverna, with bottles of ouzo on the table.The tradition of celebratory gunfire is part of the culture on the island of Crete and other regions of the Balkans, so the creators of this episode knew something about Greek celebrations. The characters also went crazy breaking plates.

The Muppet Show was broadcast from 1976-1981 and it was designed to appeal to both adults and kids.  I see things here that would never be allowed on a children's show today...though I have to admit this video was fun to watch and my kids, who were fans of the Muppet Show, suffered no ill effects.

Another Muppet who made an appearance on The Alien Diaries in 2014 was the Count from an early episode of Sesame Street (1973). He is the only Muppet with a Romanian accent, and the coolest vampire on the planet.

During the summer of 2015, there was a series of posts on Danube songs from Bulgaria.  Part Three featured modern folk songs.  My favorite was this plum from Plam.

The band takes its name from accordionist  Plamen Dimitrov.  It looks like the group added more members; there are five on the website, and nine in the video.

The song is Kray Dunava, or how people amuse themselves along the Danube, River of Many Names. There's a man shaking a bottle of sparkling wine, another man with a broom, attractive women, and the Bulgarian version of aerobic exercise, with the river as a backdrop.

Another fun video from the blog in 2015 was the Romanian dance Hora Veche, also known as Horror from Veche. A group of young people took this dance and made it fun.  It was a stellar performance. "We did it!"

Since the New Year is upon us, let's have a blast with Diko Iliev.  Somebody paired an excerpt from a war movie with Iliev's Dunavsko Horo. The explosions are timed perfectly with the music, and, yes, you can dance to it. It is a tradition to dance to this music at midnight on New Year's Day in Bulgaria.

Happy New Year 2016! A big "Thank You" to Alien Diaries readers and followers. May the New Year bring peace and joy (not war).

You can find the posts where these videos originally appeared below, except the Diko Iliev link.  Enjoy!  See you next year.

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

Balkan Music Night 2011

Two Variations on the Albanian Folk DanceValle Pogonishte

Dancing Through the Alphabet Letter P (bonus video)

Beli Dunav, Part Three: Modern Bulgarian Danube Songs

Having a Blast With Diko Iliev

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  1. Great blog, I do look forward to your posts.
    One of my favorite videos is of a updated Gypsy dance, similar to Ciganytanc from 2012.

    1. Randy, thanks so much for your comment. Will have a look at that Gypsy dance in a little while. Happy New Year

    2. BTW that was a very good video, thanks for the link!

  2. Thank you so much for all you do! I look forward to your posts and love them!

    1. sjz, thanks so much for your comment and feedback. Happy New Year!