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Rhythms, Melody, History and Dance Performance Music
Bulgaria is about the size of Ohio with a population similar to that of Washington State. The majority Bulgarian population is of Slavic derivation; minority populations include Roma, Jews, Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Russians.
The men and women in Bulgarian rural society had distinct spheres of labor, and this in turn shaped their musical activity. Men worked outside, and one of their responsibilities was herding their animals. Homemade musical instruments provided distraction during the solitary hours with their herds. Women worked inside, and their hands were always busy; too busy to practice instruments. So they learned to sing songs.
During the Communist era in the last half of the 20th centure, traditional Bulgar folk music was nutured and encouraged as a matter of national pride on both the amateur and professional level. However, Romany music was not seen by the authorities as representative of Bulgarian folk music and the government made efforts to repress it. However, Romany bands continued to be hired to perform at weddings throughout the country, and their popularity did not diminish. These bands brought emotion, excitement, and a fusion of foreign music genres and instruments to wedding celebrations and people were willing to pay large sums for the best bands.
Timothy Rice: "Metrical (songs with a definate beat) and instrumental tunes are almost always a catalyst for dancing. Furthermore, meter is one of the most interesting features of Bulgarian music, because of the wide variety of so-called 'additive meters', such as the ruchensitsa in 7."
Additive meters are more easily understood if you think in terms of breaking the music down into units, with each unit starting with an emphasized beat.
Chris Haugh: "Here’s a quick tour of some of the main rhythms. In most cases the accent will come on every 1, with the strongest accents on the 1 of every 3. Most of the rhythms are used for circle dances called horos or oros.. A typical tune title will therefore be Paidushko Oro, meaning, dance in the Paidushka rhythm.
DANCE PERFORMANCE MUSIC
The pravo horo and the ruchensitsa are the most important dances at Bulgarian weddings.
Gaida: Bulgarian bagpipe. "A wedding without a gaida is impossible." Timothy Rice.
Kyuchek, Roma solo dance.
Pravo Horo: the most important traditional Bulgarian dance. Performed as an open-ended circle with the dancers holding hands. A duple (counted in two) meter dance; time signatures often written as 2/4, 2/8 or 6/8. Triplets abound.
Ruchensitsa (aka Rachenitsa): 7/16 time signature, with a pulse of 2-2-3. Timothy Rice: "Typical of wedding celebrations. Unlike a horo or line dance, dancers... do not hold hands but move freely about the dance floor, waving their hands or sometimes a handkerchief."
Additive Meters: Count, Internalize, Enjoy!
Haugh, Chris; Balkan Fiddle. FiddlingAround.co.uk. Web.
Kanarite: A noted Bulgarian band with a mix of Roma and Bulgarian musicians.
Timothy Rice, Music in Bulgaria, Oxford University Press.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
Author: Maura Enright
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Last updated in March 2016.
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