Monday, August 22, 2016

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Song: Kaval Sviri

Gabrielle: Xena, this was our only frying pan! Why do you do that? You do have weapons, don't you?
Xena: I like to be creative in a fight. It gets my juices going.
Gabrielle: Can we cook with your juices?

from Xena, Warrior Princess, Episode: A Day in the Life

Today's post features variations of the Bulgarian folk song Kaval Sviri, which was used in the series Xena, Warrior Princess. It ran from 1995 - 2001 and was extremely popular. Despite its popularity, I never watched an entire episode, and never knew that the theme music was from Bulgaria.I found out entirely by accident while traveling through the Universe of YouTube.

Xena, Warrior Princess was a fantasy show based on Greek, German and Norse mythology. Xena attempts to redeem herself from the sins of her past by using her fighting skills to help the defenseless. Her sidekick and best friend, Gabrielle, is also a major character.

Kaval Sviri is a song about a young woman who falls in love with a young man who plays the kaval (also known as a shepherd's flute).  I found the lyrics (in Bulgarian) with transliteration.

Video #1 is the song as used in the program, played by the group Dashina from the Berklee College of Music. It is a very powerful piece and familiar to fans of the show. I really like this passionate, modern rendition of Kaval Sviri. There are no traditional Bulgarian folk instruments used here. Instead, there are a bass, violins, viola, a keyboard, drums, clarinet, and an electric guitar.

Video #2 is what Kaval Sviri sounds like with a large ensemble, a capella (no instrumental accompaniment)  with male and female performers.  The group is the London Bulgarian Choir.

Video #3 is performed by Ensemble Trakia. It was released in 1988 on the album Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. II.

Video #4 is the same song,  also a capella, with a small group this time.They have very powerful voices that harmonize well.

You can read about The Nightingale Trio here.  Surprise, none of the ladies is Bulgarian! They used to perform with the Yale Slavic Chorus, and started their own group after they graduated.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Modern Versions of Traditional Bulgarian Folk Songs, Parts One, Two and Three

Bulgarian Folklore and Pop Culture

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part Two

Unity Makes Strength
-motto on Bulgarian coat of arms

This week's post features the regions of Severnjasko (northern) and Pirin (southwest).

Video #1 is an example of music from northwestern Bulgaria .The name of the piece is Vlashki Igri (Vlach Dances).

This piece is a dance in two parts: the first part in 5/8 (quick-slow)  and the second in pravo rhythm. The instrumentation is in the Vlach style.  The dominant instrument in the first piece is the gadulka; in the second dance (at 1:23)  the dominant instrument is the kaval (at 2:27). 

The musicians are instrumentalists from the folk ensemble Dunav from Vidin. You can see the costumes of the northern region in the video. The predominant colors are red and white, the colors of the Martenitsa.

Here's another way to recognize music from northwestern Bulgaria.  If a song has Dunav in the title it is most likely from the northern region.  Dunav means Danube in Bulgarian: the ensemble is named after the river, which forms the border with Romania.

Brass music is also very popular in northern Bulgaria due to the influence of composer Diko Iliev (1898-1984).  His best known work is Dunavsko Horo, played at celebrations and especially during the New Year in Bulgaria.

Video #2 is an example of a rachenitsa, the national dance of Bulgaria, a dance in 7/8 rhythm (apple-apple-pineapple). It is Svatbarska Rachenitsa, composed by Diko Iliev (1898-1984), and played by a brass orchestra.  Diko Iliev created many pieces based on folk dances from the northern region: Daichovo, Elenino, and Gankino are some examples.

Svatba means "wedding" in Bulgarian. One of my daughters will be getting married next month..  Unfortunately, she won't allow any Bulgarian folk music at this gig.

Video #3 features the dissonant harmonies of the mountainous Pirin region in southwestern Bulgaria.  The Bisserov sisters perform a traditional song from the village of Pirin.  The two ladies on the left play tambourine and tarambuka, the one on the right plays a tambura, an instrument very popular in the Pirin region.

Here's another way to recognize music from the Pirin: many of their songs and dances are in 7/8 lesnoto rhythm (pineapple-apple-apple).

There is an introduction in English with a short description of the song.  It is dedicated to the people who died for the freedom of Bulgaria during the Ottoman Occupation.


If you enjoyed this you may also like:

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part One

The River of Many Names Part Three: Folk Ensembles Named Dunav

The Best of the Bisserov Sisters and Family

There is a group, Leb i Vino that specializes in village music from southwestern Bulgaria.  You can listen to them here:

Leb i Vino: Traditional Music from the Pirin Region of Bulgaria

Variations on a Theme by Diko Iliev (three arrangements of Dunavsko Horo)

Author's note:  There is someone out there who has stolen material from this blog.  The link is  Please make note of that and mention it on his Facebook plug in.  Plagiarism will not be tolerated!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to Recognize Regional Differences in Bulgarian Folk Music: Part One

We don't need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables - the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers - to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.
Jane Elliot

The quote above could have been said about a regional dish in Bulgaria: the Shopska Salad, as well as about regional differences in Bulgarian folk music.

Today's post is about how to recognize regional differences in Bulgarian folk music. After many years of listening to and dancing to Bulgarian folk music, I've learned how to recognize subtle regional differences.

The first example is a song from the Rhodope region, often accompanied by a large bagpipe, the kaba gaida.  It has a distinctive sound.  The songs have an otherworldly quality about them.

The song, Bela Sum Bela Junace is about a shepherd who finds a blonde girl in the fog. He asks her to marry him.

Songs from the Shope region can be distinguished by the "whooping" sound.  The harmony in this is amazing. This song was featured on the Bulgarian National Radio's website in Musicbox Bulgaria for the month of July. It takes true musical ability to sing like these women do.

Chichovite Konje translates to Uncle's Horses.  Anyone know where I can find the lyrics and a translation?

The next folklore region is Dobrudja. The example in Video #3 is Tervelska Tropanka. You can hear the stamps in the music even without looking at the dancers. The main instruments in this piece are the accordion accompanied by a bagpipe.

There are a number of dances unique to Dobrudja: Tropanka, Sborenka and Opas (Dobrudjan Pravo Horo). All of them are punctuated with stamps.  Tropanka is accented with strong arm movements (see video below).. 

If you are a frequent reader of The Alien Diaries, you will recognize the Chinese "Bonding Folkdance Class."

The Bulgarian Thracians love clarinet music and the dance Pravo Horo. There are many variations of the Pravo; and many regional differences in style.  Bachkovsko Horo is an example of a Pravo from Thrace.

Notice that the music is played by a brass orchestra, which is more typical for northwestern Bulgaria than Thrace. The clarinet comes in loud and clear at about 2:14.

The dancers are from the city of Stara Zagora.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Bulgarian Singing Demystified

More Stamping it Out: Bulgarian Folk Dances from the Folklore Region of Dobrudja

Dancing Across Bulgaria: The Pravo and Regional Folk Dance Styles

Part Two will be about the music of Northwestern Bulgaria and Pirin.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.