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Getting together this post, which I thought was going to be simple ("Just put up some nice songs"...), has taken me a good week!  There is SO much more to say about each of these songs, and pictures to show, and customs to explain...as well as all of the music, texts, and maps to gather.  I hope I've learned my lesson and will try to present more limited posts from now on!

This is a HUGE topic, which I am going to have to break into manageable chunks...

One of the things I was specifically looking for, when I went to Bulgaria in the winter of 1980-81, was harvest songs (which became generalized to include ALL field-work).  Even though it was winter, I recorded over 100 of these songs!  And of course, on my other trips I have similarly recorded a great many, especially in the summer of 1988, when I was there from July through early October.

Everywhere I went, I found that some of these songs were sung solo (or by two voices singing in unison), others were sung with a drone.  In each case, a second person/group to sing would repeat each verse, singing the same words sung by the first group.  In the process of recording these, I learned that a great many of these songs had very precise times when they were sung, at the time when the tradition was strong.  I also learned that for the achingly-beautiful solo harvest songs, each village has its own melody (sometimes more than one, but often only one) to which they were sung.

Another time I'll talk more about which songs are sung when, which are solo/which are group, and all that - but first, I think I will pamper myself and offer you some of the solo harvest songs whose melodies I particularly love.  So, without further ado, bathe yourself in these songs!  Texts will be at the end, as usual.

Bg map-Screenshot, Cherna gora


Бегала Янка
(Begála Jánka), recorded in ‏ Čérna gorá, Pérnik region.
  For me, this melody has a feeling of immense space ....as if I see, stretching out in front of me, a huge field that we're going to be working in all day!

Bg map-Screenshot, Bistritsa

 

I wanted to put Bístritsa's beautiful harvest melody here, but could not find a suitable recording when I first posted this.  I've found it now, see "Harvest Songs...part II".

 

Bg map-Screenshot, Plana


Ой Петъре, Петъре юначе
(Oj Petâre, Petâre junáče),
recorded in Plána, Sofia region.  A cautionary tale - read the translation!  Plána is not far from Kovačévtsi, you can hear a similarity in the melodies.

Bg map-Screenshot, Kovachevtsi


К вечерум се робье продавая
(K večerum se rob'je prodavaja), recorded in Kovačévtsi, Samokov region.  The theme of children separated at a young age, whose lives cross again later in life, is very widespread.

Bg map-Screenshot, Dragovishtitsa


Облагала се Драгана
(Oblagála se Dragána), recorded in Jambórano (now part of Dragovíštitsa), Kjustendíl region.
  A beautiful melody with a terrifying text, if you get all the way to the end.

Bg map-Screenshot, Pernik


Карай, Райо!
(Karaj, Raja!), recorded in Vladája, a suburb to the south-west of Sofia. Before singing, Kúna explains that this song is sung towards evening, when the girls are hurrying to finish the field.

 


Song texts:

T- Ch.Gora '80-2 Begala Janka

 

T- Plana '80-15 Pojde Pet'r na rai bozhi d'ide

 

 

T- Kovach '85-23 K vecherum se robje (fr 2Girls booklet)

K večerum se robje prodavaja, pdf

T- Jamborano '80-11 Oblagala (hand-wr w transl)

 

Karaj, Rajo, daleko e kraja!

7

Now, I'm pretty good at catching on to the rhythms used in Bulgarian music—having danced for many years certainly helps, but even before that I understood music, including rhythms, pretty well.

Ihtiman, Sofia region, BulgariaBut sometimes the rhythm is really—well, "blurry" is the word that comes to mind, indistinct.  It's there, but it's not very sharply executed.  This happens particularly when the singers are sitting still while they are singing, not dancing.  On my 1980-81 field trip I encountered such a song.  This was in the town of Íhtiman (south-east of Sófia, on the way to Plóvdiv), where I recorded a group of women born in Belítsa (a tiny village about 10 km. to the north-east) but married into, and living in, Íhtiman.  Listen to it:

Един Димитър на майкя (Edin Dimitâr na majkja) (see text below)

What do YOU think?  (See answer, below second version.)  At first it seemed very even, but there was just a little something that left me wondering.  I puzzled over this for years, sometimes playing it for our folkdance gurus and asking what they thought, but no one was sure.
Then in 1985 I was able to go back to Ihtiman and meet with the same group of ladies.  "What dance do you do to that song?" I asked them.  They started singing AND dancing, and immediately the rhythm was obvious, though still not sharply delineated.  Listen again, especially you dancers—I think it's clearer when they're dancing while singing:

Един Димитър на майкя (Edin Dimitâr na majkja), sung while actually dancing

Now, after I started writing this post I got cold feet: I wasn't sure if it really is clearer without the visual element, or not.  So I asked people to tell me what they thought (see comments below), as a way test my own theory.  The general consensus seems to be that neither version is really clear, but the "while dancing" one is a little clearer, if only because there is no pause between verses, as there is in the first version.

The answer?

Thanks to everyone who replied for the interesting discussion.  Catherine and Dan nailed it: it's a gánkino!  But in fairness to people who gave different answers, the singing does leave itself open to being interpreted as a devetórka.  I will add the text, because it really is fun to both sing AND dance this, in the old tradition of "хоро на песен" ('horó na pésen', or 'dance to singing'), where marriageable girls led the dancing until later in the evening when the men with instruments arrived.

If you like these rhythm-puzzles, I have one more I can post that is still un-solved, and many examples of kópanica where the 3rd beat is seriously truncated (sounds like 2+2+2+4, rather than 2+2+3+[2+2]), even when they're singing while dancing.


Song text

Ihtiman 1980:14 Jedin Dimit'r na majkja
Ihtiman 1980:114 Jedin Dimitar na majkja
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