Internationally, Bulgarian music is best known for its unique and emotionally stirring female vocal tradition of so-called (though somewhat inaccurate) “open-throated” singing. In 1980 and album called “Le Mystères des Voixs Bulgares,” a compilation of a number of Bulgarian singing groups, introduced the global music community to these “other-worldly” songs.

But there’s a lot more to Bulgarian music than choruses of enthusiastic, polyphonic women. In Bulgaria, music is part of most every public and private celebration. Traditional
Bulgarians sang while they work in fields, upon the departure of young men for military service, or, in the case of young women, in the village square as a way to attract prospective husbands. There is a thousand year old tradition of Orthodox church music, which coexists in the Bulgarian music community with rock, rap, reggae, and even a unique, sometimes racy genre called Chalga, which is a contemporary style that merges traditional Bulgarian folk with Eastern European and Asian music.

Bulgarian folk music is unique in Europe for its “asymmetrical” rhythms, which Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Bela Bartók called “Bulgarian rhythms,” in which the music isn’t split into even measures but instead into beats that are longer and shorter. The original rhythm for the Bulgarian song we sing, “Dilmano Dilbero,” is asymmetrical, though we make it a bit more symmetrical for class.

More information:
National Geographic on Bulgarian Music | More about “Le Mystères des Voixs Bulgares” | An impressive list of Bulgarian dances and more about their asymmetrical rhythms | Wikipedia on Chalga | A BBC video report about Chalga

In class we listen to “Neizpeti Pesni, Bulgarian All Stars Formation” (Unsung Songs) by “Stefan Dimitrov” from “42 Golden Hits of Bulgarian Pop Music.”

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