ulgaria is a European country situated in the
middle of the Balkan Peninsula / South-Eastern Europe/. The
state was founded in the end of VIIth century and included
three main groups of tribes - thrako-iliri (the oldest one),
proto-Bulgarians and Slavs, who came from Northwest. Gradually
folk music that carries the characteristics of these three
groups was formed. This is the reason for the variety of folk
songs and instrumental melodies.
Every region in Bulgaria has
its own folk music. These are the folk music regions - Thrace,
Pirin, Shopluk, Rhodopies and North Bulgaria. Even today
village people sing olden folk songs about the peasant’s
labour; ritual songs - for wedding, carols, Eastern songs, old
Lazar’s songs and many others. Bulgarians use to play the
ancient folk instruments - strings: rebec, pandore; wind:
kaval, wooden pipe, shepherd’s pipe; percussions - drums and
It is particularly typical for Bulgarian music
having a tremendous fund of songs and instrumental melodies
constructed in asymmetric measures - from 5/16 till 8/16 in
hundreds of varieties and combinations. Bulgarian musicians
are the first who find these measures and present them into
the theory of the world music in the beginning of XXth
century. Bella Bartok, the famous Hungarian musicologist and
composer, called them "Bulgarian measures" in 1929.
born and die with music. Special songs are sung when a child
is born; at wedding - a number of songs for different moments
of the ceremony, that lasts for several days; and when he dies
- they weep him over with special funeral laments till the
40th day of his death.
"Gadulka-Player", Ivan Milev,
Dance-songs and instrumental music are
particularly rich in asymmetric measures. Melodies
accompanying dances are full with dynamics and strength.
Bulgarians play dances at every time - they start dancing in
the afternoon and continue till midnight or sometimes even
till next morning.
In the field, at harvest time, women use to sing
wondrous songs, connected with hard labour. Beautiful rich
ornamented melody floats over the field and delights the
harvesters. When sitting at the table, men prove themselves,
singing epic, historic, novels songs, accompanied by rebec.
Such a song sometimes lasts for 3 or 4 hours like Omyr’s
"Iliad" or "Odyssey".
In the biggest part of the country songs are
constructed in one voice but in South -Western part they are
in two voices. This kind of singing carries an old -time
sound, there is heavenly beauty in shapr sound combinations
that bring us in Orpheus’ times...
For everyone who wants to feel the
strength of Bulgarian music and songs, to delights the folk
dances of these ancient people, it is enough to visit National
folk fair in the old Koprivshtitza town. 20 000 folk players,
dancers, singers show their arts there, retell legends, show
folk traditions and rituals from the whole country. Three days
and three nights the fields around are sounded by old en
Bulgarian music. The audience - several hundred thousands
people - enjoy playing, dancing, singing together with
performers, who carry the folk costumes from Trace, Pirin,
Rhodopies, North Bulgaria and all other regions
opulation around Bulgarian capital Sofia in a
wide perimeter - the whole Central Western Bulgaria - carries
proudly its name - "shops". They are famous with their sense
of humour, with their rough temper, skepticism and
suspiciousness as well as with their unique folk music, song
and dance. It looks like out of spite their music is also
completely different from those ones in closer or remote folk
regions. Bulgarian nation was formed in the second half of
VIIth century by three main groups of tribes -
oldest one), proto-Buulgarians and Slavs who came from
Northwest. They formed the new Bulgarian people it looks as if
the "shops" didn’t agree that as well and they remained as
some "forth" group...
songs are incredibly poetic and full of lyrics. They are
absolutely contrast with the rough shops’ character, with
strong "dissonant" two-parts singing that singers perform
their old ritual, labour, dance, tragic and joyful folk songs
with. Women use to sing their two-part songs in two groups -
the first group begins, the second one finishes and they
continue in that way until the whole text is over. One singer
in the group sings the first part - she "leads", another two
or three or more sing the second part they " trail". The
second part "fights" constantly the first one - it always
seeks for the sharp interval "second" for receiving more
"Harvester from Shishkovtsi
Vladimir Dimitrov - The Master,
Men do not sing in two voices. They sing
one-part melodies, famous old Bulgarian epic songs about
stories from the history of people, about legend heroes -
fighters against five hundred Turkish yoke - Krali Marko,
Momchil the leader etc.These songs have very large texts - 400
-500 verses and usually their performance lasts for several
hours. They sing these songs at the table when listeners have
the time and the mood to listen. Usually these epic songs are
accompanied by rebec.
Shops’ folk dances also don’t have an equivalent. These are the most
brisk, temperament and dizzy dances that could be seen in the
whole Balkan Peninsula.
They start in slow
tempo. Little by little the tempo grows up and soon it reaches
the maximum of rapidity and frequency of steps. Dancers cry
out "Hold on, Earth, shop is treading on you" ... and it seems
as if they fly out.
Region", Nikola Obrazopisov,
If one wants to understand the music
accompanying these primary dances he would be not only
well-trained theoretic musician but a mathematician as well
because these are asymmetric measures from 5/16, 7/16, 11/16,
13/16 till 1/16 - incredible treasure and music wit!
The shops around Sofia sing an old song of
theirs that says - "There is nothing high but Vitosha".
Vitosha is the mountain of Sofia and the Shops around. That is
their "humble" self-evaluation - there is no more clever,
better, more beautiful and talented people but them.
The folk music of Western Bulgaria includes the whole theme diversity of Bulgarian folk songs.
This is the area situated between the Balkan and the Pirin Mountains, reaching Yugoslavia in the
west and bordering on the Thracian folklore area in the east.
As regards to their desposition, temper, dialect and to a large extent customs the Shope people,
who inhabit the area, differ considerably from the Thracians. Their musical folklore diverges from
the folklore of the other neighbouring areas too. The hot-tempered, facetious and resourceful Shope
people have created a folk music, which corresponds to these qualities. Particularly specific for the
area is the two-part style of singing with the unique parallel second.
As if singers attempt to obtain second even when they could avoid them - the second,
which is the lower voice follows the basic melody, which is of a narrow tone range.
The two-part Shope songs have a interesting sounding, somehow sharp and even piercing.
These songs embody almost all genres - old working-bees, table songs and especially the
harvest songs which could be one or two-part. The one-part songs are more varied, often
with high exclamations in the end of the melody. The frugality in the two-part style seems
to be compensated in the other type of songs - the recitative ones. They are one-part,
unrestricted, starting with a richly embellished exclamation, to get the listener ready,
followed by descending of the tone. The song usually finishes with exclamations similar to
those at the beginning. In this stereotyped melody hundreds of old-time heroic and historical
songs are sung, called by the people "Krali Marco's" or "matchmaking" songs. Most of the two-part
songs are the local harvest solo songs, which are performed antiphonally with overtapping.
Now you will hear the song "Oi, Shope, Shope"
The local two-part songs are performed solely by women, who sing loudly and openly.
It is very specific for the one-part songs, as well as for the two-part harvest songs
to be performed in a typical "feverish" manner, which is attained by abrupt changes
of the tone. Here we can find old-time monorhythmic horo songs in 2/4 beat.
In the Shope folklore area the irregular beats are used in songs of different kind.
The further east we move towards Pazardjik, Ihtiman and the Sredna Gora region, the
greater their variety becomes. The interesting 10/16 beat, a modification of the 11/16 beat,
is present in an old local horo danced here. There is also found the oriental combination 7/16
+ 11/16 in the traditional Shope horos "Sedi Donka na Djukenche" and "Jova's" song.
A distinguish feature of the Shope dances is the movement known under the name natrisane
(quivering of the body upwards of the waist and especially of the shoulders) as well as the
sharpness, with which they are performed. The basic movements are small and concentrated in
the legs, while the actual movements are high, wide and with the other parts of the body taking
part in them. The Shope people dance highly, lively, as if they don't touch the ground.
Men's dances often are accompanied by vigorous exclamations "ha-a-a", "i-i-i" or by growling
or speaking, which emphasize some difficult dance combination. Wide spread are the chain horos
and the horos with the arm hold na lesa. The Shope dances are based on the greatest variety of
complex rhythms: "Small-stepped Men's Horo" in 2/4 beat, "Chetvorno" in 7/16 beat, "Jove" in
7/16 + 11/16 beat, "Lile, Lile" in 9/16 beat, "Dilmano, Dilbero" in 8/16 beat and others.
Very popular instruments in the Shope folklore area are the wooden pipe, rebec, bagpipe and
shepherd's pipe. The two-part instruments are predominant, which accompany two-part as well
as one-part and horo songs
orth Bulgaria region includes the lands between
Danube river to the North and Balkan mountain to the South.
These are ancient Mizia lands.
The population in the western part is a
local one, while in the middle and especially in the eastern
part it is mixed with settlers from Eastern Thrace. They have
settled here after the liberation from Turkish yoke /1878/.
This mixture of Bulgarians from different regions reflects in
the music as well.
North Western Bulgaria has olden songs and
instrumental folk music. Primitive ritual melodies - for
wedding, at dry etc. are preserved here. They sound strange to
the modern ear - they are built only of one or two tones, and
have thrifty rhythmic. Labour’s songs - harvesters’,
shepherds’ etc. also carry the primeval characteristics when
the song had been a symbol - it had impact upon the Nature.
These sons are attended by exclamations on high pitches and
are performed mostly by two solo singers - one of them begins
and the other one responds. In the near past hundred dance
songs had been sung at the great square horo-dance in the
village center or at small dances far from the central parts,
Nowhere but in northwestern Bulgaria we
find the wealthiest collection of folk dances, accompanied by
musical instruments. The violins have entered in here early as
well as the brass- winds. They play the old-time local rich
asymmetric rhythms together with assimilated from the
neighbours melodies - Serbs in the West and Vlachs in the
Therefor the folk
music and especially dances of this region have many
varieties, with very complicated steps and figures,
temperament and brisk. It is old style here the violinist to
play and dance himself. The other players follow him, but he
is the great master!
Dancing", Ivan Murkvichka,
Going to the East the horo dances calm down
gradually. The tempo gets slower, asymmetric measures remain
mostly 5/16 and 7/8 ("Rachenitza Rhythm") and rarely 9/8. The
song is calmer, exclamations on high pitches disappear. In
return for it the number of instruments gets more. Every
village has its own famous kaval-, pipe- or rebec players who
play the old melodies. Melodies of the ancient local
population - kapans, grebens, erls and others are particularly
interesting. These players also form their own small
orchestras in which they combine the three main Bulgarian folk
instruments - kaval, pipe, rebec and drum.
The Northeastern part is Dobrudja region -
unendless valley, the most fertile one of grains in Bulgaria.
Here three musical styles meet together: music of the ancient
local population, situated mainly along the Danube river,
around Silistra and Tutrakan, big groups settlers from Thrace-
Southeastern Bulgaria, as well as people from the mountains
from central Balkan that had come here in the middle of the
XIXth century and later. These three groups inhabitants have
given the best of their own folklore and a new original,
"Dobrudjanski" style was formed. Dobrudjan dance melodies,
performed by their famous players, could be found only here
and they are performed in a peculiar, specific style. The musicians were born with it. Here
the mouthorgan is also well known. It has been brought from
Besarab where thousands Bulgarians had moved during the
Turkish yoke. The only Bulgarian chamber formation - so called
"Dobrudja Trojka" consists of mouthorgan, small rebec and
Like the Dobrudja folklore area here the music folklore is a mixture of different styles,
influenced by the neighbouring districts, because of the migration of large number of people
before the Liberation in 1878. Being afraid of the Turkish brigands, who after the decline of
the Ottoman Empire increased in number, many Bulgarians escaped in the mountains.
So the population of the Danube Plain beared down on the Balkan Mountains.
After the Liberation local people moved back to the Plain and together with them came
many settlers from Thrace. The mixing of the population determined the mixing of the musical styles.
Nevertheless, if we closely examine the styles, we could see some features typical of the Northerners'
musical style like for instance some pentatonic songs unusual for other areas, old-time wedding songs
or harvest songs with original exclamations. There is a certain resemblance between the Northerners and
theThracian musical folklore, a striking example of which are the kapantsi in the Razgrad county,
the erliitsi in the Novi Pazar county, the hurtsoitsi in the Rousse county, the turlatsi in the
That is why the characterization of this vast folklore area is not detailed enough,
because the description of the folklore elements will coincide with those of other ares
he Dorbrudja folklore district is situated in the northeast part of Bulgaria.
It is surrounded by the Danube river in the north, by Black Sea in the east and by
the North folklore area in the west. It characterizes by rich and varied music folklore.
During the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 large groups of the Thracian population, as well
as from the Balkan Mountains moved to the Dobrudja region. There are two musical styles in Dobrudja
- the Thracian one and that of the mountain-dwellers, which gradually join the depths of the ancient
local traditions. Along with the Thracian and mountain-dwellers songs, there are heard richly
embellished, unmeasured harvest, table and working-bees' songs. The Dobrudja slow song is sung
equally by men and women. Here, unlike many other regions, women usually sing in a higher register
There has been created a new style in folk music, characteristic only for the Dobrudja region,
which is performed by rebec, shepherd's pipe and bagpipe. Partcularly well-known are the Dobrudja
dance melodies ruki, sboreni, ruchenitsa and others. It will be no exaggeration of we say that an
interesting instrumental school is in process of forming here, as a result of the linking together
of the two styles already mentioned. The influence of the neighbouring Romanian folklore should not
be underestimated, which on one side takes elements from Bulgarian folklore (some irregular beats)
and on other gives the Bulgarian folk music certain ways of performing.
The Dobrudja dances are distinguished with their own style, which is notable for the high-spirited
performance, free of stiffness movements and taking part in the dance of arms and shoulders.
They are danced at a moderate tempo, with squattings and a slightly bent backwards body.
The Dobrudja horos are performed in a semi-circle or straight ruchenitsa. Men usually dance
in a straight line but when horos are mixed they are performed in a circle or semi-circle.
The Dobrudjan man likes dancing solo, for example the ruchenik has such an ensemble performance,
as if everyone is a soloist. Most widely spread are the mixed horos and less are men's. Famous
horos are "Sboreniya", "Ruka", "Buenets", "Danets" in a 2/4 beat, "Paidushko" in a 5/8 beat, as
well as "Ruchenik", "Sei, Sei Bob", "Brusni Tsurvul" and others. Very interesting dances are
"Izhvurli Kondak" in a 9/16 beat, "Cherkezkata" and "Trunkata" in a 13/16.
hrace is the biggest folk music region in
Bulgaria. It is situated to the East - from Pazardjic field
till Black Sea coast – South Bulgaria. Long ago famous folk
singers, players and dancers have spread its fame in the whole
Bulgaria and abroad.
Here in Thrace we find the richest palette of
folk songs from all genres: numerous peasants labours’ songs –
in summer the large fields have always been sounded by rich
ornamented harvesters’ songs; in autumn and winter the most
beautiful melodies have been sung at working-bees. Famous
singers as Valkana
Jordanka Ilieva, jovcho Karaivanov, Grujcho Dochev and many
others have sung these working-bees’ songs. They are not only
performers but also interpreters of these old Thrace songs in
own style. Dance songs
are countless – the Thrace "pravo horo" is an unending one.
People dance it in hours; they wind it on the large
horo-places and the tireless women sing song after song.The
ritual songs for wedding, go caroling, songs at Lazar’s day,
St. George’s Day, Enio’s day etc. are the connection with the
deep old ages. The cradle of the ancient Thracs is here!
Men are masters in singing table songs – wedding
ones or at meetings. These songs are serious, slow, recitative
songs that tell about old-time stories or new ones – since the
war in 1913 when the population was too close to events about
conquering Odrin - the armies passed these places on its way
to and back the Western border. But the songs for "Hajduti" –
fighters for liberty from Turkish yoke – who were especially
active in XVII and XVIII century, take central place in men’s
Only men play the
folk music instruments. Here in Thrace we can find all kinds of
Bulgarian folk music instruments- kaval, pipe, small pandore,
all kinds of winds and percussions. Famous Thrace players put
the beginning of the new type of Bulgarian folk orchestra.
Composers as Fillip Kutev, Krassimir Kjurkchijsky, Kosta Kolev
made arrangements of folk music especially for these new
Western Thrace is rich with asymmetric measures
but going East these measures diminish and remain only in
dance melodies like 2/4 and 7/8. More complicated measures as
9/8 and 13/16 are rarely found.
southeastern part is situated Strandja. Its music has
connection with the Thrace folklore but it also has its own
local colour. The old-time ritual melodies are richer in their
asymmetric measures. Lasses’ spring songs, accompanying the
calm lasses’ dances during the Long Lent when the big horo
dance in not allowed, are especially beautiful. The ancient
ritual "fire-dancing" – dancing on the live coals during St.
Constantin and Elena celebration has been preserved in
Strandja. The greatest Bulgarian kaval players – Nikola
Gantchev, Stoyan Velichkov, many pipe and rebec players were
also born there.
Thrace and Strandja folk music was the touchstone in creating the new
type of arrangements of folk music. The composer from Thrace
Fuillip Kutev created this style in the beginning of 50es.
The Thracian coval style has influenced an enormous part of North Bulgaria, because whole villages from
Thrace migrated there particularly the Bulgaria's Liberation in 1878.
The Thrace region characterizes with one-part style in singing and richly ornamented slow songs.
Women sing openly, loudly and naturally. The range of the female voice is narrow with a ninth or a
Song are sung mainly by women and their repertoire is rather diverse - from ritual to epic songs.
The melodic structure of Thracian songs stands close to those of other areas - with gradual movement
(except the carob songs). The tone range is narrow - up to the fourth or fifth, with predominating
minor or Phrygian tetrachord, typical of the ritual, horo and harvest songs. The table and the
working-bee songs have been noted to have a wider tone range. In their melodic development they
have reached the eight or ninth and even wider tonal range. The slow Thracian songs have often a
two-mode structure - the first melodic series forms one mode, the second series - another one.
The Thracian folk song lack in irregular beats. In the areas where traditions are still preserved,
the local folk songs are two types - in 2/4 beat,characteristic of horo and ritual songs and
the second kind are slow, unmeasured table and working-bee songs. Many songs of the second type
became masterpiece of Bulgarian vocal folklore with their exquisite lyrics, richly embellished melody
and tender sounds. In some places in Thrace along with the 2/4 measured songs, there are others, which
have the beat of the Paidushko horo (5/8, 5/16) and ruchenitsa (7/8).
This shows the depths from which the Thracian song had blossomed out as a continuer of the ancient
The Thracian Christmas is generally celebrted holiday and the songs, connected with it,
are extremely poetic, of various themes, structures and melodies. Here the carol song is lively,
cheerful, with sharp melody, always in "guisto" tempo, with frequent descending and ascending movements
or the fourth and fifth.
The Thracian folklore area is very diverse with regards to the genre. Except winter songs there are
also sung others, related with spring customs. Particular place take the lyric series of songs, called
"na filek" some of which have the uncommon 8/8 beat. St Lazar's Day songs are widely spread spring
songs which in some districts are given the name "na peperuda" (a butterfly).
The shepherd's pipe (kaval in Bulgarian) is an inseparable companion of the Thracian peasant,
which is proved by its great influence upon Thracian songs. Many ornaments used in slow songs have
been literally drawn on from shepherd's pipe melodies. There's a saying here which goes "She is
singing as a pipe is playing". Even some specific intonational features of the pipe such as the
"chopping" (a kind of repetition of a tone, obtained by lightly tapping the finger over the hole)
have been reflected in men's and women's style of singing. It happens very often that the shepherd's
pipe as if "completed singing" the vocal melody of the song. That is why most of the shepherd's pipe
melodies are in fact melodies of famous folk songs.
Except the "favourite" instrument - kaval or shepherd's pipe there are met other typical Thracian
instruments like for example the bagpipe "djura" and less often the rebec. The Thracian instrumental
style is unique with its richly embellished slow melodies, which have segmental melodious lines, called
kolena. The kolena often have similar modes or they alternate with each other in different modes - first the minor, follow by the major and then with and augmented second (hiatos) between the 2nd and 3rd degrees of the mode. That way the shepherd's pipe horo melodies has grown into interesting, logically developed multi-parted composition.
The Thracian dances are jovial and exuberant. Some places in this vast area are greatly influenced
by the neighbouring districts. That is the reason why there are found dances characteristic of other
regions. For instance the Western Thracian horos are affected by the Shope and Pirin dances of the
type of "crooked" horos, base on a 11/16 beat. More famous are the "Glavanishka" Kopanitsa and
The Eastern Thracian horos are danced with typical small-stepped tapping on the ground, known
under the name of "tropoli" and are performed only by men. They dance gracefully, solemnly and
usually the beat is 2/4, 5/8, 7/8, and 9/8.
Other horos typical of Thrace are "Trite Pute" (The Three Times) and "Kasumska Ruchenitsa",
also danced to a 2/4 beat.
Although the Strandja district falls under the Thracian folklore area, it has its own features
in singing and dancing. The Strandja Mountains begin south of the Bay of Bourgas, spreads between
the Black Sea and the Deventski heights and reaches the Turkish village of Strandja. The Strandja
horos take a particular place among the Eastern Thracian dances with their specificity and original
style. Most of these horos have ritual character - the fire-dances are mystical dances over a fire.
Similar character have the Easter ruchenitsa, the carnival plays - mummers and others. All over the
Strandja district is famous the genuine, youth spring party "Filek" which characterizes with small
steps on the right.
The Strandja horos are usually performed collectively and rarely individually when a competition
in dancing is organized. They are performed in a semi-circle or a line and accompanied by a singing
and the music of bagpipe, shepherd's pipe, drum or other instruments.
Men's bodies move gracefully to the rhythm of the music and it is obvious that what is danced is
deeply felt. Most widely spread dances are "Chapraz" (2/3 beat), "Yareshkata", "Buenets" (2/4 beat),
"Lekata" and "Peperuda" (9/16 beat)
t is situated in the Southwest Bulgaria. Folk
songs and instrumental music could be heard in every village,
every town in that region.
Here songs are
sung in two voices and in two groups. The group consists
mostly from three singers (women) - first one is singing the
melody, the others - the second voice, which is usually lying
on the Tonic. First group begins, the second - responds. The
result is a beautiful, almost choir sound. Very often
dissonant intervals are formed between first and second voice
- small or large seconds. Such "harmony" is very unusual for
untrained listener, but singers are very delighted of that
sharp sound. "Like bells, " they say. This sound reminds them
the bells ringing of the numerous flocks that graze on the
fertile meadows, where Pirin, Belasitza and Ograjden Mountains
surround every lowland. Songs
accompanying the folk dances are particularly beautiful. Here
the measure 7/16 with prolonged.
1935, oil, 63X73,
This original measure has been underlined
clearly and precisely by accompanying pandore, which tinkling
cords measure seven beats of the melody like a clock. We find
songs in that measure in all over Macedonia, Greece, Albania.
This type of melodies lie in the structure of the new movement
for contemporaring of folk music in Pirin region - so called
Pirin folk - annual festival of the new Pirin song, which aim
is to create new art in old Pirin style.
It was very soon until the old rituals at wedding was
performed in Pirin region. The wedding was attended with
special songs for every moment sung by the friends of the
bride. Also ritual songs
for rain, at dry, rusalijski games etc were
performed. Wondrous songs used to be sung at working-bees -
slow, poetic, in two voices, sang by women and lasses with the
specific for that region lyric intonation. During the last 30
years men also use to sing in two voices in many settlements
The most typical instruments in Pirin are pandore and pipe.
We find kavals in detached places.
The rebec is unknown for the local
players. Small folk ensembles are popular in villages
Bulgarian Muslims - groups of singers
(men or women) accompanied by two or three pandores, a pipe,
shepherds’ pipe and a drum. This typical Pirin ensemble sounds
marvelous and has unique timbre and mood.
Every year, at Predela place, high in the mountain, people
from Pirin organize it’s own meeting of traditional arts. It’s
called "Pirin is singing". Thousands of folk singers, dancers
and musicians from the whole region perform their repertoire
during the two- days festival, with their typical temperament
and admiration for the old-time testament by their ancestor
only their own - Pirin style.
Whoever has seen the beauty of the Pirin Mountain might have felt its music.
Characteristic of the Pirin song is that it has a two-part style. Usually one
woman sings the first voice and two, three or four other women sing the second
even voice, called iso. Because of the little tone range of the songs sometimes
the first voice lowers under the level of the second one. The melody is flowing,
occasionally accompanied by the typical shouts. Some often used techniques for
embellishing the songs are atsane (hiccuping) and tresene (trembling of the voice).
A few women sit at a working-bee, throw glances at each other and suddenly start singing.
The splendid melody sounds in two-part style, dearly and wonderfully, as if in all
their lives they have rehearsed in order to make it so superb, original and unique in sound.
The Pirin folk songs are varied in style, because there were great migrations in these
areas in the past, mainly from Drama, Syar, Demirhisar, etc. Here we can find all kinds
of songs characteristic of Bulgarian culture. Most favourable of work songs are the harvest
songs, which are sung in the morning, at noon, at break, while coming back from the field
and at harvest-time. Other preferred songs are those which are sung at working-bees, called
"na sedeshki". They have diverse themes and melodies and are one of the genres preserved till
Although in most places horo is not performed to songs, horo songs are sung because of their
lively melodies and interesting content. They usually have 2/4, 7/16 beat (women and men's ruchenitsa)
and 9/16 beat. Wit and humour exhale from these wondrous Pirin songs, which were heard in bygone days
on squares and during holidays. The typical 7/16 beat of the second kind - men's ruchenitsa with the
first part longhtened is the most widely spread. The well-known Pirin songs "Makedonsko Devoiche"
("Macedonian Little Girl"), "Liliano, Mome, Liliano" and others have the same beat as well as the
song "Se Zapali, Pile Treno", which you will hear performed by a men's vocal group)
In this beat 7/8 (7/16) are also sung working-bee, table and wedding songs.
In the Pirin area there are not often heard richly ornamented slow songs, typical
for the neighbouring Rhodopes, Thrace and North Bulgaria. Singing in the Pirin district
characterizes with harsh glides, hiccuping and trembling of the voice which make the slow song
The old Pirin songs contaon the Pirin dialect - a Western Bulgarian vernacular having plenty of
archaic words, interesting grammer forms and typical combinations of sounds. While the performers
of the two-part songs in the region are mainly women, the instruments are played mostly by men.
Widely spread are the tamboura and the bagpipe "djura", because both of them are two-part.
Young men play the shepherd's whistle, called svorche.
Characteristic of the area is the zourna (a kind of clarinet) in a combination with a drum.
Pandore is a preferred instrument for setting up folk orchestra.
During weddings or other celebrations there take part small, but fine-toned groups of
two zournas and one drum - the first zourna plays the melody and the second plays the even
tone - iso. The two-part melody is typical of the East Orthodox Church music.
Dances of the Pirin district are varied and divided into men's and women's. Women's dances
are played with a tempered tempo to the sound of songs. The dancers from a circle, a semi-circle,
a row or dance individually. Men's dances are faster due to the instrumental accompaniment.
The movements are high, with bounds and spring-like. The slow dances characterize with high steps,
turning round, kneeling and bending down of the body. These movements are filled with much feeling,
manhood and grace. Typical is the Macedonian horo which has 8/8 beat
he mountain of ancient Orpheus - the Rhodopies,
South Bulgaria, is the most differentiated as a region. Here
the population sings unique in their musical and poetical
structure folk songs and it has its own musical instruments
and dances. During the Great migration of peoples, around VII
century AD the Slavonic tribe "Smoleni" took here the central
place and the main settlement in the mountain region now -
Smolyan - inherited their name.
In the Rhodopies region
everybody sings - men, women, solo and together. Most of the
melodies are constructed in the old mode Pentatonic.
structure of the melody gives majestic sonority to the slow,
rich ornamented songs. They tell about the heard shepherds’
life and the love sorrow of the lasses, who are waiting for
them to come back from the White Sea region where they pasture
their flocks during the winter time.Almost the whole
population sings its songs in one voice. The songs are calm,
even when they accompany the severe Phodopies’ horo. The
up-land had never afforded opportunities for dancing a wildly
horo - the horo place is small and sometimes - rather steep.
During the XVII - XVIII century a part of the
population has been forcibly converted to Mohammedanism.
Bulgarian Muslims take the new religion but the language and
the old songs remain unchanged. They even preserve lots of
old-time forms that have been lost among Christian population.
Among the Muslims we find miniature midget melodies
constructed from two or three tones that lasses sing until
nowadays at "mejo" - working-bee or "bajramsko horo".
Unfortunately the new religion has forbidden the old Bulgarian
ritual songs to be sung. The games of the Lazar’s day are
forgotten, go caroling is not remembered, people have been
prohibited to play the Rhodopy "caba" (big) pipe etc. In the
past men used to sing their own, "men’s" songs, rich
ornamented and free, while women used to sing others -
"women’s" songs,, with more narrow tone capacity and week
The wide, free mountain melody and
exceptionally poetic texts fascinate the listener, move him
into another, old times, times of purity and natural human
relationships. This remoted from the world population has
expressed everything through its songs - little joy, lots of
|Roufinka was lying sick
On the high mountian
There was noone by her side,
Except her mother.
|She was asking her dear child:
"When you are dying
and going away,
What is the thing dearest
|"What I cherish most, mother,|
Is that spring is into full bloom,
That everything is going out
of this earth,
While I am going in it.
The Rhodopy song is not so rich with
Rhythmes - only measures as 2/4, 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8 are recognized but it doesn’t
decrease the wealth and variety of the melodies and highly
poetic texts. And the big Rhodopy pipe colours with its manly
sound the endless pine forests of the great mountain. Swains
play the pandores, the shepherds’ whistles. They don’t
recognize other musical instruments. From here - the Rhodopy
mountains -Valja Balkanska’s (folk singer) old song "Deljo
hajdutin" flew into the Space together with the most
worthwhile of the Human culture - the Beethoven’s Symphony,
the Ainsthtein’s theory... To carry message into the far
Future about the high culture that has been created onto the
Listen to the Rhodope Mountains and you will hear a sea of songs. The
Rhodope song is full-toned, endearing; free and wide like the mountain. The
purest style is heard in the Central Rhodopes. The wondrous beautiful mountain is
populated mainly with little villages and hamlets, where still are heard songs
- pure, authentic and sincere, closely related with people`s life. Women sing
fast closed. Their natural vocal abilities allow them to raise the tone
especially the Bulgarian Mahometan women. As far as it concerns men there are
dominating the low voices - bariton and bass. In the Rhodopes the folk song is
sung equally by men and women.
The archaic words exalt the originality of the songs and lend them
extraordinary fasciriation. The most favourite stereotype verses which
diversify the text are "Devoiko, Mari Hubava" (I say
beautiful girl) "Malele, Moya Maichitse"(My dear mummy),
The songs meanwhile the working-bee dominate but as long as they are
performed mainly by young people, they usually have love theme.
Typical of other region's songs are near extinction hear in the Rhodopes.
For example there are not sung carol and St. Lazarus's Day songs as well as
harvest songs, because farming is not means of living in this region and
Mohammedan women are forbidden to sing on the field. There are still preserved
the wedding songs which took a special place in the wedding ritual in the
Widey spread are gurbet
songs (gurbet means going abroad to make a living). Which are two
kinds of departuring and of coming back. These songs poetically express the
sadness of people going abroad.
Close to this genre are the shepherd`s songs, symbolizing the essential means of
living of the Rhodope people. The songs convey the affection of the Shepherd
towards his flock, towards "ovena vakal kamaten" (a splotch - faced ram),
towards "parvo libe" (first love) and towards the house.
The melody is flowing, but sometimes the intonation becomes uneven and every
raise of the tone is compensated with lowering. There is not a variety of beats
and the songs usually have 2/4 beats. Most of the songs don`t have definite beats,
they are slow and sung by a solos or a band of singers.
The instruments characteristic of the Rhodope Mountains are not so many -
bagpipe (kaba), pandore, shepherd's pipe.
The most widely spread instrument in the region is the typical of the Rhodopes
"kaba" or low bagpipe, which is greater in size than "djura" or high bagpipe,
it has a linger drone which gives out low and long tone. There is also "kaba"
bagpipe with two drones, which is used for playing all kinds of melodies.
Except the bagpipe the mountain constantly echos with the copper shepherd's bells,
called chanove, whose ringing resembles the delicate melody of the Rhodope tambura.
The Rhodope horos are danced gracefully, widely and with emphasized steady steps.
Squatings and kneelings are important part of dances and especially of the slow
straight Rhodope horos, very often accompanied with high shout. While some of
the men and women are singing, the others are dancing. Men dance freely, with wide
steps, while women dance in a circle, dung close each other.
And now listen to two precious pearls of the Rhodope song - "Bela Sam, Bela,
Junache", sung by a women's folk chorus
and "Izlel e Delju Haidutin", sung by Valya Balkanska. The last song is
included in the message of mankind to space, called "The Voices of Earth",
together with the composition of Hendel, Bach, Mozart and music from other countries