Bulgari Band photo Bulgari
Bulgarian Folk Music
Music of the World

Audio Clip
"Mari Todoro"
The last time Bulgari played in New York they created quite a stir with their authentic folk repertoire. A friend of mine who attended that event was impressed that they included not often heard music of Bulgaria's various ethnic minorities. Perhaps the fact that it was a dance party gave them reason to widen their presentation, because this CD is a horse of a different color. Eight of the 17 tracks are composed by the band. Since Georgi Andreev is currently the director of the orchestra of the Bulgarian National Ensemble, all the tracks are arranged in a very sophisticated manner, and in a way that is probably the most palatable for a western audience.

The liner notes are bare bones, limited to thumbnail resumes of the band members and descriptions of the instruments, so it is odd that along with the song titles, the meters for each of the tracks are given. It calls to mind the many times I have played Balkan music for jazz players. Their first instinct is to find "one," and then figure out the meter, so I guess jazz musicians will be very happy about the inclusion of this information, but what about the rest of us? These are dance meters, and it would be nice to know the difference between a "ruchenitsa" and a "kopanitsa" and how those meters translate into steps.

Caveats aside, I should say that this is a lovely-sounding CD. Radostina Kaneva is a wonderful singer, who negotiates the ululations and trills of the highly ornamented vocal tradition with ease, precision and emotion (check out "Mari Todoro"). The musicianship is top notch, (kudos to Georgi Zeliazov, the kaval player, in particular) and the composed songs themselves are well constructed, with real folk inspiration. The arrangements utilize the ensemble's potential to the fullest; rhythmically, texturally and harmonically. This is a very good example of "radio-style" folk music, the kind that has been heard on Bulgarian radio for years, although there are not that many CDs of it floating around the western market. It's pretty stuff, and is a good introduction into the music for those whose ears require a bit more of a "fleshed out" sound. The hard-core aficionado will just have to curl up one more time with their favorite volume of Chant du Monde's "Anthologie de la Musique Bulgare" series. - Michal Shapiro

Audio Clip: "Mari Todoro" by Radostina Kuneva, arranged Bulgari, Published by Music of the World
Used by express permission of the publisher.

See: Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, gaida (bagpipes)

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