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5

Back in February I posted five of the melodies used by different villages in their solo harvest songs—but could not at the time find a recording that I had made of the haunting melody used in Bístritsa (a village in greater Sofia, on the slopes of Vítoša Mountain).  (I didn't feel right about publishing someone else's recording, but I couldn't find my own at the time.)

Bg map-Screenshot, Bistritsa
Bístritsa, Sófia region

It turned up recently, in a rather interesting way:  I've been compiling a master list of all the places I have recorded, with dates and tape numbers, number of songs I recorded, and just a little information about who I recorded.  In thinking about my recordings in said Bistritsa in the spring of 1985, I remembered that my first recording session in the village that year was on a day when I stopped by to see Dánče (Dana Ovnarska), then the youngest member of the group.  It just happened that Ménka Arónova was visiting her at the time, so after having a bite of lunch, the two of them did some singing for me.  I didn't remember what we'd recorded that day, but I did have a dim memory of having later studied very closely a recording of Ménka and "someone else" singing that song, working very hard to reproduce the vocal ornaments that they were using.  "Aha," I said, "maybe they did the solo harvest melody that day!"  And it turned out to be exactly the recording I'd been looking for!

Ménka and Dánče singing for me in Danče's kitchen, 9 March 1985
Ménka Arónova and Dánče Ovnárska singing for me in Danče's kitchen, 9 March 1985


От пладне се мома провикнала
(Ót pladne se momá proviknála), recorded in ‏ Bístritsa, Sofia region.

Pánka demonstrating reaping with sickle and palamárka
Pánka demonstrating reaping with sickle and palamárka

At the end of the song I left our discussion for you to hear.  It's a rather juicy song, this one!  They tell me that they used to sing this song right after they got up from their noontime rest to start reaping again.  These solo harvest songs were sung  while they were bent over reaping (one woman singing, another answering with the same words).  (Try singing this way some time....it's amazing how the position almost seems to pull the voice out of you!)  Were the singers working close to each other?  "Ah!  They might be, but they also might be far apart" —and Dánče told me how she would sing with her aunt, the aunt working and singing in her own field, and Danče answering as she worked in hers!


Song text:

От пладне се мома провикнала—
да би защо, моме, за низащо!
Ке промина една лудо младо,
ке промина, мирно не замина,
на везело моми свилна китка.
Викна мома, викна колку може:
"Де сте да сте, мои девет брайкя,
де сте да сте сега тука да сте,
да фанете младо неженето!
Ни го бийте, ни младо губете—
при мене го вързан докарайте,
да го тури мома вечна мъка,
летен дено под зелена сенкя,
зимен дено ю 'ладна одея,
да седне мома срещу него,
да го гори мома с църни очи,
да го бие мома с бели ръце,
да го петни мома с медни уста."

After noon a young girl cried out—
as if she had a reason, but she had none!
Because a crazy young lad had come by,
had come by and had not passed on peacefully
but had snatched her bouquet of jasmine.
The girl cried out with all her might:
“Wherever you are, my nine brothers,
wherever you are, come quick!
Come and catch that young bachelor!
Don’t beat him, don’t judge him—
just tie that young fellow up and bring him to me
so I can torment him forever—
in the summertime in the green shade,
in the wintertime in the cool house.
I’ll sit opposite him
and burn him with my black eyes,
I’ll beat him with my fair arms
and bruise him with my honey lips!”

5

Something that I've come to realize, as I work with my recorded material, is that the songs really DID function as a means of communication, in a time where there was not even electricity or telephones, much less cell phones, where people lived.  Here I would like to share some small examples of that.

Lakatitsa is prob about center of this clip
Lakatitsa is probably about center in this clip

A particularly striking one, to me, is the day in the summer of 1988 (August 16, to be exact!) that I went with my husband Dick and my friend Erica to a place a bit outside of Govedártsi, south-west of Sámokov—a place they know by the name of Lakátitsa.  (Peter, my son, was not with us that day— he had gone somewhere else with a friend.)  It was along the road that leads north-west from the village in this screenshot from Google Maps.

So, instead of going out to the working site in the morning with the women, we were driven out later by someone, arriving towards the end of their noonday break.  But the women (whose job at the time was to feed hay into the baling machine) were still sitting, showing no sign of working, because the baler was being repaired by the men.  Once we arrive and settle in a bit, two women start singing for us.  And while they are singing, suddenly, from wa-y-y-y high up the steep hill to the south of us, we hear another group of workers calling.  A bit of a shouted conversation ensues— "Right away!  We're getting up right away!"  After a moment three people started to sing. I tried to find something playable on my tape, but unfortunately they were so far away that we got next-to-nothing.  However, after they finished, the women told me the words to the song they were singing:

Море я ста'яйте да ста'яме, дружино верна зговорна
на поста(т) се наредете, дружино верна зговорна
да видиме коя нема! дружино верна зговорна

Come, stand up, let's stand up, oh my faithful band [here: of co-workers]
take your places, so we can se who's missing!

I later realized that with their song they were "asking" about what was happening—the kind of real "in context" singing that I had secretly hoped I might find!  "What's going on down there?   Why aren't you working?!"  The noontime break is over, you should be back to work, why aren't you?


Three years earlier in the village of Mádžare (just east of Govedartsi), Ánka Fílipova, a woman who eventually told me a large number of beautiful songs, had been telling me a song to which I will devote a whole post one day.  It's a song Anka considered particularly "hers" because the heroine is named Yána (a variant of Anna, as is Anka).  "You see those two teeth-shaped mountains up there? [on the ridge of the Rila Mountain.]  When I was a girl, I would go up there gathering blueberries, and when I sang, my father could hear me all the way down here in the village!"  From the map, it looks to me as if this might have been a good 2 miles "up".  Yes, I thought, the woman had a strong, beautiful voice.  And then...

These may not be the actual peaks Anka was talking about, but you get the idea. (I'll keep looking for a better photo.)
These may not be the actual peaks Anka was talking about, but you get the idea. (I'll keep looking for a better photo.)

And then I thought more.  What might it have meant to this man, whose daughter was all the way at the top of some of the highest mountains on the Balkan Peninsula, probably with a small group of friends, in mountains where bears, wolves, and all sorts of wild animals abounded, not to mention lonely shepherds, foresters, outlaws (you name the dangers), to hear her singing?

He could hear his daughter singing, and he knew she was all right—at least so far!

Boggles the mind.

 

 

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