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6

Today I was amused to see this update to a news item:

Fake news, but once upon a time....

I'd been noticing this item for several days, and every time I did, I found myself thinking, "Hmmm....have they been listening to old Bulgarian songs?"  So today I want to share with you a song about Jánko and Janínko.  But first, I'd like to point out that anyone who gets involved with Bulgarian folklore will sooner or later bump into the 500 years of "Turkish slavery", when Bulgaia was ruled by Turks.  If you're dim on this important piece of history, check it out online.  The Wikipedia article on Ottoman Bulgaria is a good place to start.

So, as you can imagine, a lot of terrible, tragic things happened to individuals and to families in that time.  One that is well-represented in the Bulgarian song repertoire is exactly our "song of the day", the one about Jánko and Janínko.  I just went searching through my lists to see when and where I've recorded it; I see that I have more than 20 versions of it (and counting)—plus an additional song I recorded in Bistritsa, that may be yet another version, or it might be an offshoot that developed in a somewhat different direction.

In other words, this is a very powerful story, that village people remember.  I guess it all goes to show that "there's nothing new under the sun"! though I'd like to point out that most likely this Bulgarian song originated not in someone's fancy (like the news item), but in response to a real event.

Here is a nicely-sung version, which I see that I already gave you early last year, but I will re-post here, with its beautifuland haunting Samokovsko "harvest song melody":
Bg map-Screenshot, Dragovishtitsa

К вечерум се робье продавая (K večerum se rob'je prodavaja), recorded in Kovačévtsi, Samokov region.

You can find the text and translation for this version in my post from February 2016, "Harvest songs...Part 1".

Eléna Nikólova Božílova, Béli Ískâr 1988 (click on the picture to see it larger)

But, to give you something new this time, here is a version that I recorded three years later in Béli Ískâr, also Sámokov region, from Eléna Nikólova Božílova, born in 1931.  Elena has given me many magnificent versions of songs, and I consider this the granddaddy of this song.  It is a good example of the way a consummate singer can breathe life into a story-line.  Here are two pdf files, one with the original Bulgarian text, and one with a translation.

Now, I know that if you read the translation carefully, you're going to wonder about some peculiar, even illogical, things about the plot.  This was only the second song she gave me, and I don't think she'd yet gotten over her shock at meeting me.  You see, I had met her husband in the village square, and he took me to their home, certain that we would find her there.  But no....she was nowhere to be found.  He went out to look for her, leaving me alone in the house.  It was a warm day and I started feeling a bit drowsy, so I lay down to rest a bit, when....Elenka walked in!  She had NOT met her husband before coming home, she just walked in and found a total stranger lying down in her house! and she seemed pretty cross.  I tried to explain calmly why I was there and what had happened, and she gradually relaxed.  In the end she became quite friendly to me—you can see this in her smile here, but that took a little while.  She gave me 21 fine songs, and when I saw her again in 1994 and she told me more than 30 more!

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!”

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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