Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Dancing Hat

Hats have power.  Hats can change you into something else. 
Catherynne M. Valente

Today's post is about an ethno-pop dance band from Romania. The name of the group: Ro-mania. The song is about a magic hat (beret) that has a mind of its own. It belongs to the violinist, who takes it off when he plays the violin. The hat makes its way through town and lands on the ground.

 A curious young woman picks it up and puts it on her head; she can't stop dancing until she takes it off. The hat finds its way to a street artist (it lands on his head) and he dances as well. After he takes it off, the hat makes its way to a street sweeper, who also can't stop dancing until she tosses the hat. The hat ends up back where it started, and the music stops.

The video is fun to watch.  While the hat makes its journey the guys go crazy singing and tapping on the table. Make sure to watch it all.  It's 3 1/2 minutes of fun.

The rhythm of this song is geampara (apple-apple-pineapple). It is similar to Bulgarian rachenitsa. Geampara is a dance native to the Romanian folklore region of Dobrogea.

   Video #2 is a geampara  performed by a group from Taiwan. The instructor does a great job (he can really shake that body as well!) Unfortunately, I have not seen any groups in North America or Europe do this dance.  I wonder if the hat is in there somewhere....

We are going to let 2020 go out with a bang and hope 2021 won't be a repeat of 2020. Regulars have probably seen this before: Dunavsko Horo with a war movie as a soundtrack. It's time to kill 2020! 

Notice that the explosions are in time with the music. Hopefully by the end of 2021 things will get back to normal and people will be dancing together again.

If you enjoyed this you may also like: The Best of the Alien Diaries 2010-2015.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom: Part Five

Pop music is a difficult term to define. I think about good music and bad music. Good music is good music whatever origin it comes from.

Nina Persson

This month's post is fifth in a series based on Balkan dances popular on Zoom. I'm not too crazy about the first two, modern choreographies done to pop songs, however, in the interest of research and open mindedness, have featured them here. So many people like this stuff, so there must be a reason why it's so popular.  I prefer to dance to more traditional music.

Video #1 is Cine are Noroc are, a Roma dance from Romania.  The singer is Nicolae Guță, who, according to Wikipedia, has had quite a wild life. The music style is manele, a pop folk style widespread in Romania, created primarily for dancing.  According to the article many of the lyrics of these songs are "questionable" and not family friendly.  The music takes up residence in your head without paying rent.

I found the lyrics for the song.  It's about a man born to be lucky.  Some of it did not make sense (lost in translation, maybe?)  Maybe it's popular these days because there's a pandemic going on and staying well (until we get vaccinated) is part being careful and part luck.  There are some elderly people, despite the odds, who have recovered from the virus.
Video #2 is Mashala, a modern pop tune from the Pirin region of Bulgaria. It was described on YouTube as a "Pirin Style Dance."  Ira Weisbund is the choreographer.

The singer's is Rayna (she goes by her first name), and she was born in Sandanski, Bulgaria in 1981. She does both pop and traditional folk songs. (She does a really good job with the more traditional music.  I have seen several of her videos and they are actually quite good.)

From what I was able to garner from listening to the lyrics the song is about a wedding celebration. The original YouTube video shows people dancing horo.
Pop-folk in Bulgaria is also known as chalga.  It's one of those things people either love or hate. Chalga, like its Romanian counterpart, manele, features songs of questionable quality, sometimes with nonsense lyrics and sexual content.  These songs also tend to be earworms and live on in your head for hours, if not days. 

Here is a suggestion on how to get rid of an earworm.

I could not find the lyrics nor the dance notes for Mashala. From what I found "mashala" is a word derived from Arabic that has made its way into the Bulgarian language.

Video #3 is the dance Tervelska Raka from the Bulgarian folklore region of Dobrudja.  There is a song that goes along with it about a girl, Marinka, who captivates the young men in the neighborhood with her beautiful voice.
This is a traditional song and melody. It's a pleasure to listen to, and the dance is often requested on Zoom.  (Fortunately there are some traditionalists out there).

If you enjoyed this you may also like the series Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom (parts 1-4).  Somebody remarked at a Zoom dance the other day that Zek Zek Dadumle was one of the most popular dances in 2020.  It's in Part One.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused: Part 22: Sedi Donka and Serbez Donka

Music is the fastest motivator in the world.
Amit Kalantri

Today's post features more confusion from the world of Balkan dance!  They are both about a woman named Donka.

Serbez Donka is a dance from North Macedonia that has been very popular on Zoom during the spring and summer of 2020.  The dance has been around a while because the video below was created in 2011. I never knew it existed until this year. 

It has a catchy melody that will earworm itself into your brain and never move out. The music is in 7/8 (galloping-apple-apple).


People have been dancing Sedi Donka for a long time. This was the way we did it B.C. (Before Covid) with two lines facing each other. Notice the squeaking of dancers' shoes.  It must have been humid that day.

Sedi Donka has an interesting rhythm combination: 7/16 and 11/16.  See the notes for the details.


If you really want to impress your friends, do Sedi Donka at warp speed like Henry in the video below. I have heard there are even faster versions of this music somewhere on YouTube. Since this is a small space (like some of our living rooms) his style is impressive. 

Fast music is very motivating!

If you enjoyed this you may also like the rest of the series: Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused (the previous post published last month links to all of them. They will give you enough material to last until next year.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused Part 21: Hora Mare Bukovina and Hora Mare Bukovineana

What's the difference between rain and grain? Only a g, though they both grow in the land, and they don't land but fall. What a difference a g makes!
 Ana Claudia Antunes

Time for more confusion in the world of Balkan dance. This time it's two dances from Romania. The names are so similar that it is easy to mix up one with the other. But like rain and grain they have something in common. Both are dances from Bukovina.

 Bukovina is a region located in two countries: southern Ukraine and northern Romania.

Video #1 is Hora Mare din Bukovina (large hora from Bukovina).  The Friday Greenbelt, Maryland group does this one. I was totally confused when I heard the music and expected something different. I couldn't find any notes for this dance.


Video #2 is a dance we used to do in our Sunday group B.C. (Before Covid).  I used to lead it when we had in-person dances.  My laptop is wired to a printer, scanner, and external hard drive, so to disconnect it in order for people to see my feet at a Zoom meeting would be difficult.  In the Zoom gallery, people can see my upper body and the hand motions which are also part of the dance.  

The dance in Video #2 has a similar name: Hora Mare Bukovineana. This is the music that is familiar to most folk dancers. 

Kudos to the dancers who have set up Zoom meetings and share them with us. It sounds rather complicated.  If you're interested, here is a series of articles on how to host meetings:


If you enjoyed this you will also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 20 (links to the other posts in the series)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Songs about Kate from North Macedonia and Bulgaria

Kate, Kate, kaleš Kate, ajde Kate da begame!
Dorde v gora šuma ima, em po pole komuniga. 
Bulgarian folk song

The name Kate (pronounced Ka-te) is the shortened form of Katerina. Judging from the number of songs on YouTube, this is a popular name in North Macedonia and Bulgaria. 

Video #1,  Tri Godini Kate, is a dance song from North Macedonia. You can find the old, typewritten notes here. The rhythm is lesnoto 7/8 (galloping-apple-apple).

This is also a popular folk dance on Zoom.


Video #2 is another 7/8 lesnoto dance from Bulgaria: Kate Lichno Devojche.  It is from the southwest (Pirin) region of Bulgaria.  Notice how common the 7/8 lesnoto rhythm is in both North Macedonia and Pirin Bulgaria

Video #3 is Kate Katerino, from the Pirin region of Bulgaria. This is a modern version of a traditional song and it is not the entire song (maybe half of it). This is a fancy version done at a party with a lot of embellishments.

Video #4 is the traditional music with the dance. The instructor is Dimitar (Mitko) Petrov.


Video #5 is another Kate song from the Pirin region, Kate Kate Kalesh Kate.  The group is Cubrica from the Netherlands.  Although there is no dancing in this video, the music is a strong 9/16 (devetorka) rhythm popular in Pirin Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

The quote at the very top of this page is the first stanza of the song.  You can find the translation here:

My daughter has a variant of the name Katerina, her name is Katrina (like the hurricane) and she and her husband recently celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary.  She can run like the wind on an autumn day.

By the way, she didn't marry the teacher (like Kate in the song in Video #3 and Video #4)

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Serbian Dances that Sound Croatian

I'm not confused, I'm just well mixed.
Robert Frost

This can be a source of confusion sometimes, when one country's music sounds like another's.  Since I enjoy writing about confusion and Balkan dance it was time for another post on that topic.

Serbian music is usually associated with the accordion (some people find this an instrument of torture but the Serbs love it).  Croatian music is usually associated with the tamburitza orchestra.  The tamburitza orchestra includes a number of string instruments that give it its distinctive sound.

One thing I noticed is that Croatian kolo tends to start to the left and Serbian to the right.

Although most people associate tamburitza music with Croatia, it is also popular in Vojvodina, an autonomous province in Serbia.

The first example is the dance Rokoko Kolo.

Video #2  is the dance Keleruj ,also from  Vojvodina, Srem district. This is a performance of a school group. Notice the Hungarian flag in the background.  There is a significant Hungarian minority in Vojvodina.  It's the most diverse region in Serbia.

Vojvodina was ruled in turn by Romans, Slavs, Ottoman Turks, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  When the Austrian Empire broke up in 1918, parts of it became a part of Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. After the Yugoslav wars, it split into different countries.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The "Flavors" of Serbian Kolo

The "Flavors" of Croatian Kolo

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Folk Dances on Zoom: Part Four

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but the living room in your fortified compound.
Kurt Vonnegut

Today's post is a continuation of the series "Most Balkan Popular Folk Dances on Zoom."

Usually for dances to be popular on Zoom, the footwork has to be adapted to fit in a smaller space because most people dance in their living rooms.  Living rooms are not the only place where I've seen dancers: they also perform in kitchens and garages.  One woman I saw had a really small kitchen and she did the fast Romanian dance Vulpita.  She compressed it to fit in the space.

The series continues. I've spent a good part of the summer participating in Zoom dances.  There is usually at least one for every day of the week.  Most take place in the evening, and the ones that work best for me are on the East Coast.  I usually stay at the dance meetings until about 10 p.m. or so. When we danced in person that was the time the dances ended.

Video #1 is Dedo Mili Dedo (the song for this is also known as Dedo Mili Zlatni).  There is no English translation but from what I got from Google Translate the song describes an elderly couple going about their daily routine (Dedo means grandpa in Macedonian).  The group in the video is the Bonding Folkdance Dance Class from Taiwan.  They have many videos on YouTube.  I wonder if they have resumed in person dancing in Taiwan yet.  Their Covid stats are very low.  I'm sure these days if they do get together they dance in small groups and wear masks.

There is no way we could do that in the United States; the numbers are too high.

The dance Lesi is also very popular on Zoom The song for it also appears in the film Kapetan Lesi from the year 1960.  According to the YouTube comments, the song was created in 1930 by the Albanian composer Tish Daija and originally titled Po Vijne Krushqit Maleve.

Corlu Aroman is a dance from Dobrogea, in Romania. According to the notes, the dance is from the Macedonian ethnic group in Romania.  Corlu is another name for hora;  Aroman is another name for people of Romanian origin who live outside Romania. They settled in a number of Balkan countries: Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece among others. They are also known as Vlachs and speak a language related to Romanian.

The article in the link mentions "not to be confused with Armenians or Romanians." Readers of my blog know how I like to write about confusion: are you confused yet?

The music sounds neither Macedonian nor Romanian, except for the gaida (bagpipe) in the introduction.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom: Part Three (links to the others in the series)

Vlach Dances From Bulgaria and Serbia

Age is an Issue of Mind over Matter: Old People in Balkan Folk Songs

Dances from Oltenia: Part Two

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Folk Dances on Zoom: Part Three

If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius.
Larry Leissner

Tsigansko Horo is a dance popular in Bulgaria as well as North America.  It bears a slight resemblance to Chichovo Horo, another Bulgarian dance.  Video #1 shows a dance group from Bulgaria. The song is actually Serbian. by Sanja Ilich and Balkanika. You can find the lyrics here.

You can read more about the song Djipaj and its associated dance in the first post link listed below.

Another dance that I have frequently seen on Zoom sessions is De Secerat, from Romania. It is a women's harvest song.  It was introduced by Cristian Florescu and Sonia Dion.

The group is Balkanitsa, from Haifa, in Israel. This is another sing along song!  If anyone can find the lyrics please post them in the "comments" section.

The next dance, originally taught by Yves Moreau, made popular by Murray Spiegel on his bi-weekly Wednesday night Zoom sessions, is Vidinsko Horo. He has a teaching video on Youtube as well, with the faster parts slowed down.

Murray mentioned that Boris Karlov (the musician, not the actor, here we go with that confusion thing) composed the music.  As a matter of fact, many of our dances use the music of Boris Karlov: for example: Bavno Oro, Gankino Horo, and Zizaj Nane (a daichovo dance with calls). You can read about it in post #2 below.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

(Almost) The Same Music, Different Dance: Part Two

Call and Response: Daichovo Horo

The Legacy of Boris Karlov, Bulgarian Folk Accordionist

Here are the links to Part Two and Part One

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Folk Dances on Zoom: Part Two

Aside from singing, I'm also a dancer. I've been dancing since I was 8.
Billie Eilish

Valle Pogonishte is one of the most popular Albanian dances.  People love the melody and sing along with it. You can find the lyrics here. The translation, in German, describes a festival in the Chameria region of Albania.  Fritz, the teacher in the video, calls out the steps in German.

The group is from a workshop in Austria.  They sing along, too. If you're a trivia buff, the artist for this song is Sami Kallmi.

Siriul is a dance from the Muntenia region of Romania.  There are two versions: one with vocals and one without.  I prefer the one with singing.  Here are the lyrics if you want to sing along. There is also an English translation on the lyrics page. There is a mention of a place called Buzau that is a river in Romania. Siriul Mare is one of the tributaries. (Note: this is not a song about what you eat for breakfast! If you like confusion, there is a post at the bottom of this page for you).

If you listen to the music carefully at about 1:50 and also again 2:47 it evokes the sound of flowing water.

Another Romanian dance popular on Zoom is Hora Banateana. Thanks to Riki Adivi (who does Thursday night Zoom sessions at 8 p.m. Eastern Time) and the video, I'm learning the dance. For those who prefer written instructions I have also included the dance notes.

Banat is a region shared by three counties: Romania, Serbia, and Hungary.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Most Popular Folk Dances on Zoom, Part One

And for those who enjoy confusion there's a 20 post series:
Balkan Dances that are Often Confused, Part 20 (this post has links to the rest of the series.)

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom: Part One

Human history has a repeating theme: we battle pandemics, we lose, we die, it burns itself out, and we rebuild. We always come out the other side stronger. Humanity marches on.
― A.G. Riddle

Things have changed so much in the past few months.

The last time I went to a live folk dance was March 1st. The following week I made a trip to Florida to visit my relatives. As soon as I returned on the 10th things went bad very quickly: Connecticut had declared a state of emergency.

The group was discussing cancelling dancing because there was a state of emergency in Connecticut, Shortly afterwards, scary announcements starting popping up on the news.

Coronavirus spread like wildfire (it had been spreading here in the U.S. probably since January.  Yet people continued their normal lives (working, shopping, eating out, having weekly dance meetings).  I had planned a trip to Florida in March and didn't think there would have been a problem (although we did take out insurance in case the trip had to be cancelled).  We had thought snow or bad weather would have been an issue.  It wasn't. So my husband and I went to see relatives and visit the theme parks.

(Epcot Spaceship Earth on March 7, 2020)

The parks were crowded, the weather was pleasant, and coronavirus was the last thing on our minds.  The State of Florida did not take this seriously until all Florida theme parks closed on the 15th.  People still congregated on the beach for Spring Break until the following weekend.

 My husband and I returned on the 10th wondering if we had been exposed to the virus during our trip.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts and Connecticut, both venues where I dance were closed until further notice. Balkan Music Night and NEFFA were cancelled. All in-person dance events were cancelled until further notice. They have been replaced by Zoom meetings.

Surprisingly, so far, we have been healthy.  Those of us who are feeling well enough to dance have been suffering from withdrawal.  A group in California addressed this with a Virtual Folk Dance Party on the Zoom platform. After that, other groups followed suit. There is an event every day of the week.  They are listed on Dale Adamson's web site.

In the meantime we can dance in the safety of our homes.  It's not the same, but at least we can still connect.

Today's post is part one of a series: Most Popular Balkan Folk Dances on Zoom. The first one is a dance just about every group does: Indijksi Cocek.  There is more than one tune for this dance; this one is the one played most often.

Video #2 is Gori More, a dance that originated from the Serbian community in Racine, Wisconsin, based on a pop song. If you listen closely, at 1:38 you can hear the melody to Zaiko Kokorajko, a folk song from North Macedonia.

If anyone can provide an English translation of the lyrics, please post them in the comments section.

Video #3 is Zek Zek Dadumle.  The song is an earworm (I actually find it quite annoying) but everyone on Zoom seems to love it.  It's a Chalga song, in Bulgarian, and requested at almost every dance event.  I call it the Theme Song of the 2020 Pandemic (it was introduced in April by Roberto Bagnoli at a Folk Arts Center workshop).  The workshop was held online, via Zoom.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Alien Diaries Best of the Worst: Earworms From the Balkans

Songs that Tell A Story

Stay tuned for more Most Popular Balkan Dances on Zoom, Part Two.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dances From Oltenia, Part Three

The world is a very noisy place and so I don't need to shout about things. There are so many people shouting and a lot of people get lost in it.
Ben Howard

I never thought there would be a part three to the series "Dances from Oltenia."  My YouTube search came up with numerous dances.

The first dance has "Alunelul" in the title.  There are many "Alunelul" dances from Oltenia.

Oltenia is a region in southern Romania.  It borders Serbia to the west, and Bulgaria to the south.

Video #1 is the group Hora Romanesaca.  The dance, Alunelul de Briu, was performed at a Romanian festival in Boulder, Colorado, in the United States. This dance has shouts (in Romanian, strigaturi).  I wish I understood what they were saying!

Video #2 is the Dunav group from Jerusalem, Israel.  The dance, Poloxia Din Bechet, is from a town across the Danube from Oriahovo, Bulgaria.  Oriahovo is best known as the town where the composer Diko Iliev spent the most productive period of his life.

Dances are often named after towns or regions, and sometimes after people.  Poloxia Din Bechet is another dance with strigaturi.  There is something really cool about shouting while dancing, especially when the dance includes stamping as well.

Video #3 is a Rustemul dance from the region near Dolj. This group from Taiwan describes itself as a "Bonding Folkdance Class." You can find their playlist here.

There are several versions of Rustemul, done to different music.  I have never seen this version done in the States.

Video #4 is Salcuira, also performed by the Bonding Folkdance Class.  People from China and Japan, especially, seem to be fond of Balkan music, and of folk dancing in general.  Their enthusiasm is fun to watch.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dances From Oltenia, Parts One and Two (there is a link to Part One in Part Two.)

The Different "Flavors" of the Romanian Folk Dance Alunelul

If you want to know more about Diko Iliev, click this link:

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 20: Kasapsko Oro and Kasapsko Horo

If we each had to butcher our own meat, there would be a great increase in the number of vegetarians.
Ernest Howard Crosby

First of all, I would like to mention that I am not a vegetarian. Or vegan.  I eat meat. As a child, I went on weekly trips with my dad to the butcher shop.  He saved my dad the best cuts of pork chops and steaks. His shop had sawdust on the floor and he wrapped the meat in waxed paper.

It's time for the 20th installment of "confusion, Balkan style" and it has to do with butchers, who provide carnivores and omnivores (human and animal) with a steady supply of meat.

"Kasap" comes from the Turkish word for butcher. The Balkan region was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.

In the Balkans, the butchers also danced!  Today's dances are from North Macedonia and Bulgaria. There are three different dances with similar names but different music; you have to be specific on which "Kasapsko" when requesting one of these dances. The Bulgarian ones come from two different regions which adds even more to the confusion.  You read this blog to become confused, right?

Video #1 is Kasapsko Oro from North Macedonia.

Video #2 is Kasapsko Horo from northwest Bulgaria. What adds even more to the confusion that it's the same group, Dunav, from Jerusalem, Israel. You would think that a group from Israel would be into Israeli dance, but they specialize in dances from the Balkans and the Middle East.

Video #3 is Kasapsko Horo, this time from southwest Bulgaria (Pirin).  Different music and different choreography from Video #2.  These dancers wear elaborate embroidered costumes; this time it's a performing group from Bulgaria.

The zurna, an instrument that resembles the oboe, originally from Turkey, has also become part of the music of the Pirin region of Bulgaria as well as North Macedonia. (There is no zurna in this piece, but you can read about it in the one of the posts listed below. It is an instrument people either love or hate).

Video #4 shows a kind-hearted butcher from Istanbul, Turkey who converses with a cat and offers her choice cuts of meat. She was a daily visitor to his shop .  The cat's name was Yesim. Yesim came to the shop every day for five years, and the butcher, Ikram Korkmazer, took care of her.

Istanbul is known for its stray cat population.  The cats walk into stores and people feed them. They are ferals who maintain their independence and for the most part, have passing relationships with humans. 

Unfortunately, Yesim got sick from dehydration and hypothermia from living on the street; Ikram the butcher took her to an animal hospital. Unfortunately, she passed on.

This video is a loving tribute to Yesim and the butcher. Her favorite food was liver. She asked for it by name 😺.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 19: (you will find a link to the rest of the never ending series at the end of this post.

The Zurna in Bulgarian Folk Music (cultural cross-pollination)

The Butchers' Dance in Balkan Folklore (includes Hasapiko, dance of the butchers' guild in Greece)

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the National Dance of Bulgaria

Dancing - however you do it, even if it's in your living room - is a great workout.

Festivals and in-person dancing, unfortunately, have been cancelled for a while until a vaccine or effective treatment can be found for Covid-19. These days the place to dance is your living room, via a Zoom connection. 

One of my favorite dances, rachenitsa, is the national dance of Bulgaria. Today's post will educate you about it.  If you have been reading this blog on a regular basis, you will know almost as much about rachenitsa as the Bulgarians. They, of course, know more about it than we do.

Tom Pixton does a great job of explaining the dance with text in Video #1.  He also arranged and played the music. He is a musician from the Boston area who plays at various gigs in New England.

This compilation is a delight for the eyes and ears. It is very well put together.

Rachenitsa na Horo means to dance rachenitsa in a line as opposed to solo or couple. We usually do the line rachenitsa at dances.

There are plenty of them, from every folklore region of Bulgaria.  I believe the music in Video #1 is a Thracian tune.  Thrace is the largest folklore region of Bulgaria. There is also a Thrace in Greece as well as one in Turkey, a source of confusion for some people.

Video #2 is a Thracian Rachenitsa. This is a dance performed in the town square during celebrations and holidays (just for the fun of it).  The dancers are of varying abilities; some are confident and some are hesitant.  The gadulka, gaida, clarinet, and accordion are important instruments in Bulgarian folk music.

The gadulka is the most Bulgarian of folk instruments, even more so than the gaida (bagpipe).  Some people find the "buzzy" sound takes some getting used to but I love it. You can hear the gadulka in the video from 1:06 to 2:18.

Video #3 is a rachenitsa arranged for violin. Although I have listened to Bulgarian tunes arranged for non-Bulgarian instruments such as the violin, piano, and marimba, the ensembles that played them kept the Bulgarian soul of the music.  To me this is just a classical piece in 7/8; it just doesn't sound Bulgarian. This melody is Bulgarian in name only.

Rachenitsa can be in 7/8 or 7/16; it depends on the speed of the music.  The best way to get the rhythm is to say the words apple-apple-pineapple.

Video #4 is another classical rendition of rachenitsa. This one is much closer to its Bulgarian roots.  The music is by Petko Stainov, Bulgarian composer who lived from 1896-1977.  It's part of his suite: Thracian Dances.

What is unusual about this version is that it was arranged for brass instruments. Stainov originally wrote it for symphony orchestra. (if you want to hear the symphonic arrangement, read the post on Petko Stainov below.)

Brass music is very popular in northwest Bulgaria and also in Thrace.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Variations on a Theme by Petko Stainov: Rachenitsa Travels to Guatemala

Classical Musicians Play Balkan Folk Music

The Accordion in Bulgarian Folk Music

The Gadulka in Bulgarian Folk Music

Variations on the Bulgarian Folk Dance: Thracian Rachenitsa

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

(Almost) the Same Music Different Dance: Part Two

It's a crazy world, so sports and athletics and music can be a form of escapism.
Eddie Veder

The world has indeed changed in the past two months.  Many of us are under stay at home orders and cannot get together in person to dance anymore for a while.  I have taken to music as a form of escape. It keeps my mind away from all the gloom and doom reports.  There are also plenty of Zoom dance events these days.  It's not the same, but I get some exercise from them.

It's time for some cultural cross-pollination between Bulgaria and Serbia. The dances are Bulgarian, the music is from Serbia.

Video #1 is Tsigansko Horo from Bulgaria. The performing group is Nadigrai Me (also the name of a competitive folk dance show that was broadcast in Bulgaria 10 years ago.  It lasted for several seasons.) The dance is similar to Chichovo Horo, with some fancier moves. Listen to the music carefully.

Video #2 is a crazy version of Chichovo Horo, another Bulgarian dance performed by Lyush from Dallas, Texas. They use the song Kermes by Sanja Ilic and Balkanika.  It's similar to the music in Video #1.  The main difference is that the melody is played on a gaida instead of brass instruments. The chorus part is the same (at 1:25).

Why does the music in Video #1 and Video #2 sound similar?  It's the same band, Sanja Ilic and Balkanika.   They are very popular in Serbia, and have performed at Guca, a brass band festival that takes place every year in August.  They also participated the Eurovision Song Contest for 2018, and placed 19th. (Unfortunately the contest has been cancelled for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, but you can find this year's songs on YouTube.)

This is a totally wild video with a little bit of everything, an auto mechanic, a man with a bullhorn, an oboe player, women cleaning a fancy car, even a dog!

You can find the lyrics for Djipaj (in Serbian) here.

At the end the ladies push the car.  The "mechanic" couldn't fix it!

If you enjoyed this, you may also like:

A Sense of Deja Vu

Almost the Same Music, Different Dance: Part One

Eurovision and Folklore

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Friday, April 10, 2020

(Almost) the Same Music Different Dance

When the music changes, so does the dance. - African proverb

Today's theme is about different dances (to similar music). The first is Graovsko Horo. Gravosko is a dance that can done to many different melodies.  The rhythm is 2/4.

Video #1 is the music favored by the Dunav group in Jerusalem.  The dance shown here is different than the one in the notes because the speed of the music does not change.

The Ibro Lolov music in Video #2 is a different arrangement, but the basic melody is still recognizable. The dancers wear costumes from the Shopluk folklore region, where the dance is from. I don't know how they manage to dance on cobblestones.

This version speeds up slightly towards the end.

Video #3 has a different tune for Graovsko. This one is popular in Bulgaria (different music, gaida dominant). The dance has a slight variation as well, watch the feet closely. There is a tempo change at 1:48 that continues to 4:53 which must be the Divotinsko part. These ladies have stamina!

Video #4 is Ogneno Horo, as taught by Roberto Bagnoli. There is a teaching session for most of the video; the music starts at 17.18.

The first two figures are similar to those in the dance Kulsko Horo, and there is one at 11:54 that is used in the dance Vlashko.

This is an interesting combination using steps typical of northwestern Bulgaria and choreographing them to the music for Graovsko.  Remember Video #1?

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 11: Kulsko Horo and Kulskoto

A Family Resemblance: Theme and Variations

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dancing in Sixes

It’s like asking why is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don't see why, someone can't tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren't beautiful, nothing is.
Paul Erdos

Today's post features two dances, two from Serbia, and one from Romania.  All of them have the number six in the name.

Video #1 is Sestorka.  шест is the number six in Serbian.  What is really amazing about these young dancers is their ability (this is not an easy dance) and that they are members of a Chinese folk dance club in Dallas, Texas.

Follow the link to these to old dance notes (there is no year, but you can tell they are old because they were done on a typewriter.)  Also there is mention of a country, Yugoslavia, that no longer exists. Although there are only three kids in the line, the shout "ooh ah" is done after the first set of six steps.  So I see a connection here.

Video #2,  U Sest (In Six) is also a very popular Serbian dance from the region of Sumadija.  The music is played on a frula, a traditional folk instrument.

This is a leader-called dance. The different variations are mentioned in the notes, and if you listen carefully, you can hear Yehuda call them.

The Dunav group is from Jerusalem in Israel, and they have numerous Balkan dance videos on YouTube.  While you are isolated at home, you can connect with the rest of the world and learn some new dances as well!

Video #3 is Hora pe Sase from Romania.  It has three sets of figures: the three steps in and one step out (pravo step), the second figure (czardas), and the last is the step together step.  I don't see anything here in six or its multiples, so how did the dance get its name?  I couldn't find any notes.  If you can find an explanation for the name or dance notes, please post them in the comments section.

The dance reminds me of Bulgarian Pravo Horo with a shot of Romanian attitude.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Dancing in Sevens (the series)

Dancing in Nines

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Balkan Blues: Some Really Depressing Folk Songs

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall, and wind may blow
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by”

J.R.R. Tolkien

There are numerous folk songs from the Balkans that deal with tragic events.  Today's songs are from North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Video #1 is the dance song Tino More from North Macedonia. It's some serious stuff when a young woman is about to lose her husband when her parents live far, far away, and three doctors are at the head of his bed.

Deljo will die.  The doctors have already sent for the priest to perform last rites.

Video #2 is Devojko Mari Hubava, a song from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria. It's about a couple who can never marry.  They drown their sorrows in wine and rakia. In wine there is truth, but too much gives a nasty hangover the next day.  It's misery on top of misery.

Video #3 sounds like a happy song, and the video is very upbeat, with people dancing in colorful costumes.  The occasion looks festive, with wine and dancing, but the lyrics are tragic.

The singer is Daniel Spasov, the song is Tsiganko, and it's about a man so smitten with a Roma woman (Gypsy is the politically incorrect name) that he cries all the time and doesn't sleep.

Note:  You have to watch the video on YouTube.  For some reason it has been disabled on this website.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Beli Dunav Part Two: Danube Blues

A Tribute to Lyubka Rondova

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Songs That Tell a Story

I would like a wine. The purpose of the wine is to get me drunk. A bad wine will get me as drunk as a good wine. I would like the good wine. And since the result is the same no matter which wine I drink, I’d like to pay the bad wine price.
Steve Martin

Today's post is about songs that tell a story.

Video #1 is a dance song from North Macedonia that tells the story about a rabbit on his way to Salonika to get married. He had several adventures on the way, and almost got killed by the hunters and their dogs.  It has a surprise ending!

The song is Zaiko Kokorajko and the dance to it is Arap.

The dancers in Video #1 and Video #2 are from Vienna, Austria.

Video #2 is Sadi Moma, a song from the Pirin region of Bulgaria. It describes a young woman who planted a grape vine. The vine became really big and the grapes from it produced barrels of wine and rakia so strong the soldier who drank it was out of commission for a week. He must have had one hell of a hangover when he finally woke up. Was it good wine or bad wine?

Sadi Moma also underwent a second incarnation as the Free Software Song. It wasn't the same guy who had the hangover after drinking the wine and rakia.

Video #4 is the Dance of Zalongo (you can read the story and the translation of the song here.) This was a really dramatic event that occurred in Greece in 1815. It's similar to the story of Masada, where the inhabitants chose mass suicide over slavery.

The music is in 7/8 (pineapple-apple-apple). There is no dancing in the video, although there is a picture of women in Greek folk costumes, as well as a statue that depicts women dancing to their deaths on the rocks below.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The Dance of Osman Taka

The Rebels (Haidouks) in Bulgarian Folk Songs

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused: Part 19: Dunavsko Horo and Dunavsko Daichovo Horo

If I look confused, it is because I am thinking.
Samuel Goldwyn

Let's start 2020 with one of my favorite topics: Balkan dances that are often confused. It is the series that never ends. If you are a regular, you had probably read the previous 18 posts on this fascinating topic.

Video #1 features a group from the Czech republic, from the city of Brno. Despite the "soubor Pirin" in the title of the video, this is not music from southwest Bulgaria (Pirin region) but from the northwest region. Are you confused yet?

They perform a medley of two dances: the first a Vlach dance (known as Krajdunavsko, or from the Danube region).  Vlach dances are characterized with a lot of fast steps, crossovers and stamps. At 2:04 is the Dunavsko Daichovo Horo.  Daichovo is also a dance popular in northern Bulgaria and there are several variations, with different choreographies and different music.

The original version of Dunavsko Daichovo was composed by someone in the group Orchestra Horo. They are from the city of Ruse, and their specialty is modern renditions of folk songs and dances from the northern region of Bulgaria. The ensemble celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012. I'm sure they will make it to their 60th in 2022.

The album cover below is probably from one of their original albums. Remember when there were records instead of digitized music?

Things get to be even more confusing because there is a very famous piece by Diko Iliev, that he composed and introduced in 1937: Dunavsko Horo.

This piece has a martial motif because Diko Iliev was involved with military bands in a number of towns and cities in Bulgaria. Diko Iliev had also fought in the First Balkan War as well as World War I. He was also the bandmaster in the town of Oryahovo, where he composed numerous works.

Video # 3 combines an old war movie with Dunavsko Horo.  The explosions seem to be in time with the music.  The music begins at 0:19. The New Year fireworks in Bulgaria are also in synch with the music. (If you want to see those, check out the 2020 New Year Post).

There are different tunes used for Dunavsko Horo . The choreography is essentially the same no matter what music is used because you can hear the dance in the music.  Here is an example of a more traditional version with dancers in folk costumes.  The group is Ensemble Gotse Delchev.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 18 (links to rest of the series)

The 2020 New Year Post (fireworks)

Same Dance, Different Music: Dunavsko Horo

Orchestra Horo: Modern Bulgarian Folk Songs, Traditional Rhythms

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