Yesterday we enjoyed a fantastic version of the Bulgarian traditional song “Dilmano Dilbero.” When we sing the song in class we tame the rhythms a bit, but we still do pretty well. “Dilmano Dilbero” is a song that is ostensibly about the pepper harvest. It’s important both in Bulgarian weddings and as a labor/work song, tying together the importance of both life-cycle events like marriages and the regular coming of the harvests. Plus, we get to chant about paprika.
Bulgarian music is known for its “additive” rhythms, phrases that build upon small groups of beats to create a dynamic whole. In one traditional version of the song we’re hearing in this video, “Dilmano Dilbero,” the first line is in the time signature 8/16, the “kajui mi kak se sadi” line is 11/18, then the count goes to 5/16, then back to 8/16… Can you count along with these singers?
Based in my beloved West Philadelphia neighborhood, the Philadelphia Women’s Slavic Ensemble does good work honoring Slavic vocal traditions, especially those from Bulgaria. Here they’re singing “Svatba,” which means “Wedding.” The English translation of the song offered by LyricsTranslate.com is riveting: “The mountain is my mother and my father was the violent wind, The dark sea is my brother and my sisters are the wild grasses, That’s who I am – I am telling you myself….I’ll hold a weighty wedding and I’ll bring 300 musicians, The sun will wed us and it will give you a star for a ring, I’ll cover you with gifts so you wouldn’t grieve over your mother and your father wouldn’t ask in anger Who has taken his greatest treasure from his house. Who lies to you and with what he lures you? Join in the dance with me and never let go of my hand.”
In 1980 an album called “Le Mystères de Voixs Bulgares,” a compilation of performances by several Bulgarian vocal groups, introduced the world to truly unique Bulgarian (so-called) “open-throated” singing. These astounding vocalists inspired generations of Americans to pursue the art of Bulgarian singing. In this video we meet Bulgarian music as much of the United States did in the early ’80s — with a mesmerizing Bulgarian vocal performance on the Tonight Show.
Bulgarian clarinetist Ivo Papazov is the undisputed King of Wedding Band Music. Along with his Trakija Band which blended Bulgarian and Balkan music with contemporary arrangements in the early ’70s, Papazov was at the heart of the the contemporary Balkan music revival. Why not start our week of Bulgarian musical exploration with the best?
This week in our online class we visit Bulgaria, a Southeastern European nation that has a millennium-long, cyclical history of ruling Southeastern Europe by force, eventually succumbing to stronger empires, struggling against those powers to achieve independence, then building up to start the whole series of events again. Today Bulgaria isn’t exactly rallying its military to conquer the continent, but in one way it does rule the world — Bulgarian rhythms and “open-throat” vocals are unlike any other music, anywhere. We’ll meet some of Bulgaria’s best over the course of the week.
Yesterday we met the Cadaneasca, a 9 beat Romanian dance. Counting nine beats is tricky! We make it easier when we try it in class by using fruit to help us count. To get to nine, with “apple” being two beats” and “pineapple” three, we count APPLE, APPLE, APPLE, PINEAPPLE. We can also count “one two, one two, ONE two three” or, as we also do in class to kick us into gear, “step step step HOP!” We end our week in Romania with this level of fruit-counting, step-hopping joy.
The Cadaneasca is a Romanian rhythm and accompanying dance that is among the substantial number of Romanian, Bulgarian and other Southeastern European dances that use “additive rhythms” — phrases that add groups of beats together to make a rhythmic statement. Follow along by counting this 9 beat rhythm quickly — “one two, one two, one two, ONE two three.” Make sure to yell “HEY!”
Folk dancing in Romania is a beloved art, and there are many many kinds of astounding dances. One of our favorite is the fecioreste — a foot slapping, heel clicking, leg rotating Transylvanian “lad dance.” The boot-slapping element of the fecioreṣte may have its root in military recruiting dances of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. The guy in this video, which features three Transylvanian dances that sure seems to be taking place in someone’s apartment hall, will clap, stomp and military-boot-slap his way into your heart.
Fanfare Ciocărlia is another Romani band from the exceptionally talent-rich Carpathian mountain village of Zece Prajin (population 400). Fanfare Ciocarlia is a high-energy brass band that plays music from Romani, Romanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbian and Macedonian styles, and also incorporate music from Hollywood and Bollywood. The band started as a loose assortment of musicians who performed at weddings and baptisms.