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!

6

It's a cold day in late September, 1988, and I am only going to be in the Sámokov region for another week.  I am headed up to a small monastery above the village of Govedártsi.  On the way I notice that a group of women is working in a field off to the right of the road.  It's noontime, so they are napping under sheets of plastic (for warmth).

A noontime nap on a cold day in late September 1988

I head over to see who's there and what I can stir up.  I spend awhile with a woman I know, who seems to be awake, and she tells me some songs.  After a half-hour or so the others begin to wake up, as it's getting to be time to go back to work.

Background:  There's  a woman from Govedártsi whose songs have been mentioned to me several times (no details given), but there's never been an opportunity for me to hear them.  So now I become aware of a bit of a fuss, and see that people are trying very hard to rouse a woman who seems to be digging herself into the ground with great determination.  "Come on, get up, get up!"  One of the men even kicks at her foot to get her up, but she only digs in harder.  After a few moments I turn away to resume my conversation with the woman I'd been recording...and all of a sudden I hear more commotion behind me.  I turn around, and there's the woman on her feet, her buddies goading her to SING!  Later I realized that the few men present had moved away and gone back to work (potato-digging that day) — you'll see why this is important, but let's listen to the song first:

Тръгнала йе баба
(Tragnala je baba), recorded in ‏ Govedártsi, Samokov region.

So what IS this song, that she's singing so quietly, that causes so much giggling???  I'll admit, it took getting back to someone I know well enough to translate the critical words for me to understand it!  Here's what she sang (heck, I'll give you the musical notation too!):


Not many of these came my way, but I did catch a few!  "When did you used to sing it?"  "Oh, when we got together!  Especially if there were boys present!"

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