Folklore and Traditions
Bulgarian Folklore

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The music of Bulgaria refers to all forms of music associated with Bulgaria like classical, folk, popular music, etc. Bulgarian music is part of the Balkan tradition and has its own distinctive sound. Traditional Bulgarian music has had more international success, due to the breakout international success of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, a woman's choir that has topped world music charts across Europe and even farther abroad.

Bulgarian vocals are said to be "open-throated", though this is somewhat of a misnomer. Singers actually focus their voices in a way that gives the sound a distinctive "edge", and makes the voice carry over long distances.


The Bulgarian folk music is known for its "asymmetrical" rhythms (defined by the famous Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist Bela Bartok as "Bulgarian rhythms" ), where the musical time is not split in even beats, but in longer and shorter. Such asymmetrical rhythms may in Europe only be in use in Bulgaria, Norway and Sweden.


The distinctive sounds of women's choirs in Bulgarian folk music come partly from their unique rhythms, harmony andpolyphony, such as the use of close intervals like the major second and the singing of a drone accompaniment underneath the melody, especially common in songs from the Shope region around the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the Pirin region

Folk music revolved around holidays like Christmas, New Year's Day, midsummer, and the Feast of St. Lazarus, as well as the Strandzha region's unusual Nestinarstvo rites, in which villagers fell into a trance and danced on hot coals as part of the joint feast of Sts Konstantin and Elena on May 21. Music was also a part of more personal celebrations such as weddings. Singing has always been a tradition for both men and women. Songs were often sung by women at work parties such as the sedenka (often attended by young men and women in search of partners to court), betrothal ceremonies, and just for fun. Women had an extensive repertoire of songs that they sang while working in the fields. Young women eligible for marriage played a particularly important role at the dancing in the village square (which not too long ago was the major form of "entertainment" in the village and was a very important social scene). The dancing  every Sunday and for three days on major holidays like Easter  began not with instrumental music, but with two groups of young women singing, one leading each end of the dance line. Later on, instrumental musicians might arrive and the singers would no longer be the dance leaders. A special form of song, the lament, was sung not only at funerals but also upon the departure of young men for military service.





Musical Instruments

Bulgarian music uses a wide range of instruments. They are often handcrafted by the people involved in the musical field. The most common instruments are made out of local products such as goat skin, wood, and some metal when necessary; as a result of most of the materials being accessible many people throughout the countryside are able to access or make instruments enabling their participation.

Instruments in folk music include the pieces locally known as the gaida, kaval, gadulka, tupan, tambura, and the tarabuka. In order to gain a better understanding of the use of these instruments it can be beneficial to compare them to western instruments, for example the gaida is very similar to the bagpipes popularized in Scotland although the Bulgarian version is constructed out of goat skin. The kaval and the tambura are both similar to the western flute as they are an end blown flute and a long necked metal lute respectively. Bulgarian folk music also includes a string component as the gadulka is a variation on other traditional string pieces such as the viola, the guitar or the violin. A deep beat is also kept in the music which is important for the complex rhythms as the tupan is a large frame drum and the tarabuka is an hourglass shaped finger drum.  It is important to note that folk songs or dance are not complete with simply one instrument or one dancer as it is the combination of the elements that creates the art.


Bulgarian folk dances

Bulgarian folk dances display complex choreography. They have been created over the course of centuries and have been improved and refined. Bulgarian folk dances are easily identifiable even if you are not familiar with the intricacies of the form as the dances are almost always performed in a line, or in a circle, usually twisting to the right with elaborate costumes. The dancers link themselves in the line by either joining their hands low and at their sides or crossed in front of their bodies. The feet are critical in Bulgarian folk dancing as the feet move in intricate patterns that are either very fast or much more slowly and deliberate. Bulgarian folk dances are joyful, part the of the daily life and holiday calendar. Some of them accompany ritual practices.

The female style of dancing shows the dignity and the proud of the Bulgarian woman, while the male dancing is very energetic with lots of jumps and shouts. Most of the dances are very competitive. Some are divided by gender, age and relationship between genders, for example holding through a handkerchief, which is part of the moral.

Dancing very often is compared with flying, because in some of dances it is hardly visible when and how the dancers step on the ground. The special patterns in Shopska  dance are like flying. The joy of dancing is like twinkle, not only in the hearts, but in the entire body. Dancing brings health and happiness in people lives.

One of the most distinctive features of Balkan folk dance music is the complexity of its rhythms in comparison to Western music. Although it uses Western meters such as 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4, Balkan music also includes meters with 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 beats per measure, sometimes referred to as "asymmetric meters". These can often be understood as combinations of groups of "quick" and "slow" beats.


Bulgarian National Costumes

Along with language and folk song traditions, the national costumes are a specific cultural characteristic of the Bulgarian people. In the different areas, the costumes are different.

From the Renaissance until XX century people were wearing traditional costumes. The casual clothes were simpler than the formal clothes. Mens clothes were usually brown with white shirt. In some regions they were wearing special hat. Women were wearing low-cut sleeveless dress and special belt. Rich girls were wearing beautiful ornaments earrings, necklaces and belts. After women were married, and later were widowed the number of garments worn was reduced, with those being worn have little or no decoration.

Formal clothes were worn only on holydays, weddings and christenings. All costumes were hand-made. They were made in the villages using materials that were produced locally, made of wool and hemp. Painting the clothes was difficult, because it was made with natural paints, so only formal costumes were colorful. All costumes have got different embroideries and decorations. The basic structure of the clothing worn by men and women for workdays and holidays remained the same for many hundreds of years, until urban influenced fashion and factory produced clothes became available.





Some Bulgarian national music.

- Bulgarian Folk music - gaida (bagpipe)


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