The Uniqueness of Bulgarian Folk Music

First of all, when you read this title it may sound too trivial to explain why the Bulgarian folk music (BFM) is unique and those of you who have already been in touch with it somehow are probably convinced about it. Here I would like to point out those features that actually wakes up the interest to it, and which makes it so influential to a different kind of audience. Of course, other ethnicity and nationalities also keep their traditions, including musical, and they are also unique, exotic and recognizable, but when we talk about BFM we should point out some of its distinctive features. I believe that this uniqueness is based mostly on two things.

  1. The variety of odd meters that we can find rarely in the music tradition of other nationalities and ethnicity groups. Among the well-known regular meters, in BFM we can find a plenty of odd meters and the most common are: 5/8, 5/16, 7/8, 7/16, 9/8, 9/16, 11/16, 13/16 e.tc. In that kind of meters thinking about the music line is totally different, the metric pulsation is specific, depending of the alignment of the metric groups in the bar and the specific accents. This is very important especially when we are talking about very fast tempo, or improvisation parts, or adding plenty of ornaments to the main melody.
    In BFM we have also mixed meters /combining regular with odd meters, or combining different odd meters/. That leads to a very complicated rhythm sometimes. That is why it is necessary to work on it slowly with appropriate and adequate exercises to build a right inner flair of assorting the beats of the bar with a different length and counting the odd meter correct.
  2. In BFM (vocal and instrumental), we can find a huge variety of ornaments. It may sound too compulsive, but in my opinion: more performers we have – more different ornaments we can find. Every singer or instrumentalist gives us his own interpretation, according of his own feeling about aesthetic and technical skills, based on physical features and individual level of training. Anyhow, we find that some of the ornaments are mostly used and we will pay more attention to them in the online course “BgEthnoLab”. We believe that learning them is quite enough to reach the typical traditional sound of BFM. You should have in mind that these ornaments are usually played in a very fast tempo, so you will always find them marked with short notes, even in the slow non-metric melodies and songs.

These two indicators are what we will point out in the process of teaching at the online course. Other elements as melody, scales, interval ratio, rhythm and other, also has their specifics and we will talk about it too. We believe that they can be easily assimilated even only by the hearing method if you just pay more attention to them.
Through the years, BFM passes through many transformations in the forms of performing and in the interpretation. As a result, it changed its shape and sound. That is quite logic, especially when these authentic traditions were taken out on the stage of a concert halls. Of course, with the new tendencies in the contemporary world music culture and falling down the information barriers, this music style takes many outer, external influences. That leads to some transitions in sounding, but BFM still has elements, which are so typical and specific and thanks to this, it still stays recognizable and even when you put it in a new forms – it still got the scars of a unique ancient folk style.
BFM is highly appreciated out of our country borders, not only by the Bulgarian communities, but from the local audience too. In unique and variety forms, this music is having a big success and in the last few decades, it is spreading all around the world. It takes part in the programs of folk festivals (for authentic and modern folk); in different kinds of celebrations; music contests; in the albums of a famous performers (here I can mention some examples: Vanesa May – “Bulgarian song”, Adriano Celentano e Nada – “Il figlio del dolore”, Jason Derulo – “Breathing”, Monoir & Osaka feat. Brianna – “The Violin Song”, Sagi Abitbul & Guy Haliva – “Stanga” and many other). You can hear it in the soundtracks of movies like: “Troy”; “Hummingbird”; “Avatar”; “300”; “Step up: revolution”; “Tomorrow land” and many other. As a soundtrack of a computer games too. You can find it if you check “Alone in the dark”. It may sounds as a background; as a choir composition or ensemble music; as an individual solo performing or a chamber music; acapella or with an arrangement.
The compact disc “Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares II”, set up with Bulgarian choir compositions (based on folk style), wins Grammy award in 1990. The song “Izlel e Delyo haydutin” by Valya Balkanska is honored to take part of the golden record that is flying in the cosmos with Voyager since 1977 as a message from the human race to other unknown and eventually existing forms of life. We should also mention musicians and singers like Ivo Papazov, Theodosii Spassov, Petar Ralchev, Yanka Rupkina, Stefka Sabotinova, Kalinka Vulcheva and many, many other. I could not mention all of them now, but their music is quite popular abroad. More information about gigs and other form of activity of some Bulgarian folk musicians will be periodically publish on this site.
Dew this promoting, from years until now BFM is an object of interest from other musicians, out of our country – does not matter as a professional activity or just as a hobby. Some of them are visiting Bulgaria almost every year for a seminars and workshops. They are learning, practicing and training in Bulgarian folk instrumental or vocal music.
That theme can be long discuss but here in Bulgaria many scientific works has been release. Many articles has been publish in the periodic editions. A film productions has been release – Bulgarian and with international participation. We may list a huge number of forms that BFM got and we can talk a lot about the highest accomplishment of this traditional folk art. Here what is most important is to point out that it is favorite to a large audience and it takes its worthy part, among all the other genres in the field of world music. It is obviously, specific, recognizable, and it is hard to imitate it if you do not have a basic cognition about it. It is an important circumstance that makes it unique.
I should notice that this music is not so easy to be performed. I don’t want to underestimate any other genre or ethno style, but I can’t hide my deep conviction that BFM is much harder to be understand, assimilate and analyzed than many other styles. It is much difficult for performing, considering the technical part. All the arguments listed until now are just a cursory try to give a proof for the uniqueness of BFM, but I am sure that everyone can convince himself by just getting in touch with it. I know that the interest to it is big and that is the main motivation of our team – to point our attention and to give our best in the process of sharing a specific information about it and concrete educating materials, which are not accessible for now. When I am saying not accessible, I mean that often you cannot find them even at your personal meetings with teachers and mentors and it is almost unavailable in the net.
If you are interested of some similar information, if you need to learn more about it, I suggest you to pay attention to the article “The Interest of Non-folkloric Musicians to BFM“.

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