Bill Pringle - [email protected]

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Balkan Music

If you aren't familiar with Balkan music, then you are missing some very interesting rhythms. Balkan music, especially Serbian and Bulgarian, use a combination of 2/16 and 3/16 beats to form a wide variety of patterns. Because of using 2s and 3s, the final number doesn't tell you what the actual rhythm is. For example, 7/16 can be 2-2-3, or 2-3-2, or 3-2-2.

In addition to the rhythms, Bulgarian women's music is noted for their polyphony, where a single woman is singing two different notes at the same time.

I created a mix CD of Balkan dances that demonstrated some of the more common and interesting rhythms and songs. These dances are listed below, along with what album they came from, and a brief audio clip to let you hear them. A number of songs are on the same album, so I provide the details only on the first occurance of an album. Unless noted otherwise, the artist is usually listed as "Various"

01. Tedora (2-2-3-3 or 10/16) - 1:08
Listen
Todora, Vetcheryala (Theodora, Have You Had Supper?) - 1:05
Music Of Bulgaria, Nonesuch #72011
Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic/Philip Koutev, Conductor
Philip Koutev arr. &/or composed these songs from traditional Bulgarian and Thracian sources
This is a beautiful song with a haunting melody. Notice how to women's voices seem to fade and build at various times.
This song is very popular and appears on many Bulgarian albums.
02. Shopski Tanz (Chope Dance) (2/4) - 1:38
Listen
Music Of Bulgaria, Nonesuch #72011
This is an energetic men's dance accompanied with bagpipes. Men dance in a line, where the men wear a loosely fitting belt that rests on their hips. Each man holds the belt of the man on each side of them. This allows the line to stay connected, but also allows the men to move freely.
03. Prehfrakna Ptichka (The Bird Has Come) (2-2-3-2-2 or 11/16) - 1:59
Listen
Music Of Bulgaria, Nonesuch #72011
Again, listen to how the women's voices fade and swell.
04. Vetcheryai Rado (Come to Supper Tonight, Rada) (6/8) - 1:33
Listen
Music Of Bulgaria, Nonesuch #72011
05. Elenino Horo (3-3-2-3 or 11/16) - 4:07
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
This is a line dance with men and/or women. It often is done in a long line which wraps around the dance floor. If the leader is adventuresome, they might even go underneath the arms of someone towards the middle of the line. This means that those following the leader will go under those arms as well. This ends when the line gets back to the couple holding their arms up.
06. Paidushko Horo (2-3 or 5/16) - 2:29
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
This is a line dance that involves a series of lift-steps.
07. Krasavska Ruchenitsa (2-2-3 or 7/16) Very popular couple dance - 3:28
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
This is a couple dance. A Ruhenitsa dance for Bulgarians is sort of like the Polka for the Polish.
08. Sborenka (3-2-2 or 7/16) - 2:11
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
Notice that this song is the inverse of the preceeding rhythm
09. Kyustendilsko Horo (3-2-3-2-3 or 13/16 and parts at 4/4) - 2:33
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
10. Divotinska Kopanitsa (2-2-3-2-2 or 11/16) - 2:42
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
Compare this song with track 3, which has the same rhythm
11. Daichovo Horo (2-2-2-3 or 9/16) - 3:51
Listen
The Greatest Bulgarian Folk Dances, Gega #GD 106
This is a great circle dance. It consists of a series of variations that can be done. A leader within the circle shouts out what variation is to be done next.
The leader and the rest of the circle hold a dialogue. The leader says something like: "What shall we do", and the circle replies "What to do?". The leader then says something like "Let's do the (name of variation)", and the circle replies with the variation name twice. The entire circle then starts the variation.
Notice how the melody sometimes hides the rhythm. When doing the dance, it is important to stay on beat, even if the melody makes it hard to hear.
12. Duj Duj "Danse Tzigane" (2-2-2-3 or 9/16) - 3:31
Listen
Musiques De Yougoslavie - Music from Yugoslavia, 1992, Buda #92490
This song is from the Vranje area of Yugoslavia
Compare this song to the previous song, which has the same rhythm, but sounds very different.
13. Danse Rapide (3-2-2 or 7/16) - 2:47
Listen
Musiques De Yougoslavie - Music from Yugoslavia, 1992, Buda #92490
This is a "rapid dance" from Macedonia. (This is the Balkan Macedonia, not the Greek Macedonia.)
14. Kletska Igra (2-2-3 or 7/16) - 1:29
Listen
Chants et Musiques du Monde - Yougoslavie, WMD #24017
Notice how the melody sometimes hides the rhythm
15. Bulgarian Suite (2-2-3 (or 7/16), interlude, 2-2-3-2-2 or 11/16) - 7:05
Listen
Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares
Ritual, 1994, Nonesuch, #79349
16. Triti Puti (4/4) - 1:58
Listen
Village Music of Bulgaria & Bulgarian Folk Music, Nonesuch #79195
This CD is actually two vinyl albums in one, which makes it a really good deal.
This dance is quick-quick-slow, but the rhythm is actually 2-2-4 rather than 2-2-3. The dance itself involves short, rapid steps, and is a lot of fun.
17. Trugnal mi Yane Sandanski, lele (3-2-3 or 8/16) - 1:53
Listen
Village Music of Bulgaria & Bulgarian Folk Music, Nonesuch #79195
18. Moma dedi na chardak (3-2 or 5/16) - 2:13
Listen
Village Music of Bulgaria & Bulgarian Folk Music, Nonesuch #79195
19. Potter's Horo (2-2-2-3 or 9/16) - 2:46
Listen
Folk Rhythms From Bulgaria, Balkanton #060089
20. Ivailovsko Horo (4/4) - 3:46
Listen
Folk Rhythms From Bulgaria, Balkanton #060089
21. Bouchimish (2-2-2-2-3-2-2 or 15/16) - 2:13
Listen
Folk Rhythms From Bulgaria, Balkanton #060089
This is a fun line dance with a catchy rhythm. What makes the dance unusual is that the line moves pretty much left and right rather than forward and backward.
22. Tregnalae Malika Moma (2-2-2-3 or 9/16) - 2:01
Listen
Balkana: The Music of Bulgaria, Hannibal #HNCD1335
This song is by Trio Bulgarka, a very famous bulgarian women's group. Notice how they sing more than one note at a time.
23. Merry-Go-Round (4/4) - 2:15
Listen
Folk Rhythms From Bulgaria, Balkanton #060089
Notice the syncopation.
24. Zensko Pusteno Oro (2-2-3-2-3 or 12/16) - 3:47
Listen
Yugoslavian Songs & Dances, Playa Sound #PS 65044
I'm not sure of this rhythm. It may change throughout the song.

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