Bulgarian Music and Dance

May 28, 2018

Bulgarian folk music and dance are quite different from what Americans are used to. Dances are performed by men and women in lines or circles (horo). The performers wear traditional, colorful garments of primarily white, red, and black, embellished with much embroidery. The colors and designs have meanings. White and red represent the sky and earth, the marriage of the male and female gods of creation, while black is the destruction of the earth, when it is no longer fertile. Traditionally, the embroidered designs were not symmetrical because this was considered a diabolical creation. To have symmetry was to invite the evil eye.

Bulgarian Horo

“Na Megdana” by Nelly Tonchev-Nelinda (Nelinda.com)

The dancers move their feet in fast, intricate patterns, or at times, slow and deliberate ones. They often jump and shout while they twirl around a room.

The music has an eerie, hypnotic quality to it. Common instruments are the gaida (a bagpipe made from goat’s skin), kaval (a flute-like instrument), tupan (drum), and outi (stringed instrument). In Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey, Stefan hears someone singing in the forest when spring arrives. An excerpt follows:

The whistling of the wind sounded like a reverent song drifting out of the forest. He moved toward it, stopped, and spun around. The tune came from every direction, as if the forest itself sang a hymn of praise to the arrival of spring. Riveted by the music, he remained immobile until the last note drifted away like mist evaporated by the sun. So unlike any song he had ever heard, it filled him with peace, and he experienced a oneness with nature.

Maiden Horo by Nelly Tonchev - Nelinda

“Maiden Horo” by Nelly Tonchev – Nelinda (Nelinda.com)

And in another scene, preparations are being made for a wedding – gaida, zurla (another type of flute), and tupan playing at the joyous celebration.

On that glorious wedding day, festivities abounded in the village. The aroma of roasting game from the magnificent feast mingled with the fragrance of flowers decorating the streets and houses. Joyous, mellow notes of zurlas joined wailing skirls of gaidas and the steady beat of sticks against tupans. Music vibrated through the air, drowning the clamor of the multitudes.

Combine the music with the lively dance, and get swept away to another place and time. Listen to the following to get a sense of what you might have heard had you been there.

Folk music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTmF2aCEJrY

Gaida: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jccGfGBkky4

Kaval: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMpxFGUDgDI

Outi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZgSj7ko9do

Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_gm0j1H1kc

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