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