Sunday, February 28, 2016

Martisor: A Romanian Spring Celebration

photo: Snowdrop Martisor, from Wikipedia

She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.

A. A. Milne

Spring will be here soon! Today's post features songs and dances about Martisor, celebrated on March 1 in Romania.

Martisor is also a red and white decoration such as a bracelet or brooch worn during the month of March, to celebrate the arrival of spring. There is a similar holiday in Bulgaria on March 1, Baba Marta Day. The main difference is that the Romanian holiday was originally a New Year celebration (the ancient Romans celebrated the New Year on March 1).  The Bulgarian celebration honors a mythical figure, Baba Marta, and people wear adornments called Martenitsa in order to please Baba Marta so that spring will come early. These are given to friends and relatives for good luck and health.

The first video is of a children's group, who perform two songs and a dance in honor of Martisor. The dance is called Hora Martisorului. Notice the stigaturi (shouts), these are typical of Romanian folk dances.

Video #2 is a pop-folk song with all the ladies dressed in red and white, titled Martisor, which is another one of those earworms that will take up residence in your head for hours. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you have listened to lots of them.  The song is lively and cheerful, and although I couldn't find the lyrics or a translation it's well worth a listen. From what I can gather it's about the arrival of spring (primavara in Romanian).

Not only are they dressed for the holiday, they're carrying bunches of flowers as well.  The costumes are a bit on the sexy side...eye candy for the guys?

Video is a group of  young dancers from Calarasi, in southern Romania, dancing a sirba in honor of spring, followed by a medley of other traditional dances. The "embroidery" on the screen behind the dancers will get your attention.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Crossing the River Part Three: The Bulgarian Martenitsa and the Romanian Martisor

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Martenitsa (but were afraid to ask)

The "Flavors" of Romanian Sirba

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Clones of Chetvorno Horo

If you are successful, you will be cloned. That's life. In fact, it's a sign that you've made it when clones of your website, mobile app, and business start cropping up.
Fred Wilson

The Bulgarian folk dance Chetvorno Horo is very popular, judging from the number of variations I've seen on YouTube.  There are also clones of this dance that go by different names.  Today you will see two examples.

The first is Denjovo Horo from north-central Bulgaria, near Gabrovo, a town whose symbol is the cat with the cut-off tail.  There is a museum called the House of Humor and Satire, which is a big tourist attraction.

Denjovo Horo is named after a man named Denjo, who was probably the best dancer in the village. Bulgarian folk dances are usually named after cities, towns, districts and people.

The dance has four distinct figures and the rhythm is 7/16 (pineapple-apple-apple).  The leader can either call the steps or do them in a specific sequence.

Another Chetvorno-type dance is Ripna Maca (the cat leaped)It starts with the basic Chetvorno step and follows with three other variations. Like the previous dance, the leader can call the steps, either in order or random.

The name Chetvorno most likely originated from the Bulgarian word for four: "chetiri" in Bulgarian.  In Cyrillic it looks like this: четири. If you look closely, the first letter resembles the number 4.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Three Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Chetvorno Horo

Dancing in Sevens (part one)

Bulgarian Folk Dances Named After Cities and Towns

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Romani Potpourri Part Three

As the mother teaches her children how to express themselves in their language, so one Gypsy musician teaches the other. They have never shown any need for notation.
Franz Liszt

The Roma people have made a big contribution to the music and dance of Eastern Europe.  They are also known by the politically incorrect term "gypsies." (If you click on the link to the Voice of Roma site, you'll see that Esma  has a U.S. tour planned for Spring 2016. She is a fantastic singer from the Republic of Macedonia and you can read about her in the first post below).

Today's post features two Romani dances from Serbia and Romania.

Video #1 features the dance Opa Cupa  from Serbia.  The lyrics describe a man who's very popular with the women, except for one who refuses to dance with him.

Opa Cupa is very popular with brass bands.  This version, with live music, is slightly different.

Video#2 is Ca la Mahala  from Romania. I couldn't find the lyrics to this song, which is one I would file under the category "earworm."

Unfortunately, the word "mahala" in Romanian has a negative connotations and describes a slum or ghetto, what we would call "the hood" in the United States. In Romania, the Roma live in the rough areas of town under horrible conditions, often without proper sanitation. There is a problem with drug use and crime, the by-products of poverty and discrimination.

Roma people originally came from India and migrated west towards Europe. To this day they have no country to call their own.

If you enjoyed this you make also like

A Romani Potpourri (part one)

Balkan Dances that are Often Confused

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Albania

They were always Albanians. You know what that means. Some Catholics, some Orthodox. And some, in time, were Muslims, too. But the first religion of the Albanian, as they say, is Albania.
Jason Goodwin

If the first religion of the Albanians is Albania, the second one is dance. Today's post features some easy and fun dances from that country.

Video #1 is Sa Gjijile.  It is similar in structure to čoček and has a very catchy tune.  For some reason many tunes from the Balkans are earworms and can take up residence in your head for hours, even days.

Albania used to be one of the most isolated countries in the world during communist rule, which lasted from 1944-1990. Travel and tourism were very rigidly controlled, and few Westerners were allowed to visit.   Although the current  government promotes tourism, it is still seen as an out of the way and exotic country that doesn't attract too many travelers from the Western Hemisphere.

From what I've read about Albania it sounds like a place I'd like to visit.

More Albanians live outside Albania than in it. Many left after the fall of communism to find economic opportunities in Europe and North America. They keep their traditions alive at folk festivals.

Video #2 is Koritsa, an Albanian dance with a Greek name. It translates to girl in English. The music is more modern than traditional and very mellow.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:.

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Serbia

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Romania

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Bulgaria

Fun and Easy Folk Dances from Macedonia

You can read about a local Albanian dance group here.

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