Here is a little project I started a year or so ago, got to the point where it is, and….it isn’t finished, sigh.
At present it has all of the locations, arranged by region, complete with latitude and longitude. For each place I have a brief “info box” with the number of visits I’ve made there, how many songs I’ve recorded and in what year, sometimes a photo or several, sometimes particularly “interesting” remarks, what blog posts refer to the village. You access the info box by clicking on the diamond that locates it.
What do I need to do to be able to call it Finished? Well, for one thing, it’s always going to be a work-in-progress. There are so many things I’d like to add! Pictures, for example. Names of singers – or at least of a few. This could get hugely out-of-hand! which may be part of the reason I’ve not yet made it “public” – but I think you can see some of it from this link (if you can’t, I guess I’ll have forced myself to make it public!). Comments, and suggestions, would be welcome!
An old song becomes documentably older
In my very first post on this blog, I included the first song that Ivanka/Mehrem/Kera sang for us in Draginovo in 1981. The one where “…she sat down and said nothing for a minute and a half! (I timed it), while she composed herself. Then she sang us a song that lasted for nearly 10 minutes….” This, she tells me, is a very old song. (You can hear the song in the first post on the blog, “Come sing for these Americans!”)
Sure enough, my dear friend and colleague Miriam Milgram recently sent me a text she had found in a song collection published in1895 — that’s almost a hundred years before Kera sang it for us! Miriam sent me the text, which I will post here. It corresponds rather amazingly well to Kera’s version (remember, village people don’t learn songs from books, they learn them from each other), though I have not translated it yet because there are some differences that I have not yet completely deciphered. But I’ll give you the two texts here:
Ivanka/Kera’s text from 1981: (click on the image for a full-size version)
The “new” (older) version, recorded in Chepino (one of the sections of nearby Velingrad) in the 1890s: (again, click on the image for a full-size version [it’s pre-1917 spelling reform])
Horo na pesen?
(UPDATE: Of course, this event did not happen on March 21 in 2021, thanks to Covid-19. When we are able to hold another Balkan Music Night, we will probably use this song.)
Every year for the past 35 years, we have a Balkan music and dance extravaganza in Boston called Balkan Music Night (coming up this year on March 21). And every year, starting in 1988, we do at least one, usually two dances accompanied by our own singing. For us, this practice grew out of a set of Bulgarian singing classes led by Erica Zissman (one of the songs we learned was appropriate for this, and as we got familiar with it, we said, “We should DO this somewhere!” Erica, being on the committee that produces this event, suggested Balkan Music Night.
But in Bulgaria (and other countries nearby, I’m sure), it was a time-honored tradition. When the village gathered to have some fun and do some dancing in the village square on Sunday or on a holiday, no one could wait for the local instrument players to arrive to start the dancing, so two groups of young ladies (the eligible ones….) would start singing, and the dancing would start! One group was at the head of the line, another group at the “tail”—that group repeated the same words the first group had sung. Then the first group sang the next verse and the second group repeated it, and so on until the song finished. At that point they could go seamlessly into another song…. I need to remind you that this dancing in the village square was an important social occasion. The eligible girls could show their stuff, young people could get a little chat in even though in public. This happened every Sunday and every holiday!
In order to make this happen in Boston, we need a small core group of people who can lead the singing. Since we don’t have a tradition in which you absorb these songs as you’re growing up, and we don’t have Erica to give singing classes anymore, I have taken over making sure there are enough people who know the song, to make this happen. So I am co-opting a blog post to put up the music and the words here, for people to practice. The words will be in the program booklet, and we will invite other people to join in singing as they get familiar with the song. (In this, we stray from the village custom. We do NOT insist that the singers be only a few people—we want everyone to sing!)
It happens that I’ve already done a post on this particular song, which you might like to read: “So what IS that rhythm???“—but I will repeat the recordings and the text here, so you don’t have to go to yet another page to find them.
Един Димитър на майкя (Edin Dimitâr na majkja) (see text below)
This is the version I first recorded, when they were not dancing as they sang. Later I returned and asked them about what dance they did to it, and they replied by singing it while dancing:
Един Димитър на майкя (Edin Dimitâr na majkja), sung while actually dancing
•••♦•♦•♦•♦•♦•♦•♦••• The words (first a large-type, easy-to-read version, then one with the music transcription, and the text in Bulgarian, in transliteration, and in translation:
Learning a song
This is not the post I have been planning to do “next” (that one will still take some time, because video-editing will be required), But I just stumbled on this interesting little piece in what I’ve been working on lately as I try to complete my inventory of all my recordings to date.
It is 1994, and we are in Dragínovo (near Vélingrad), with our old friend Kéra Kičilíeva (see my very FIRST post on this blog, “Come sing for these Americans!“). This time, “we” is myself, my husband Dick, and our good friend Pat Iverson, with whom I’d been singing for some years.
I already knew this particular song, but I was looking to understand the details of both parts better. So I want to share with you what I recorded in 1994. But before you jump in, let’s talk about what you’ll hear, because almost all the conversation is in Bulgarian.
First Kéra and I sing a few verses of the song, me singing the lower part. (This was not a “proper” recording session, with a proper “beginning”: we begin not at the beginning of the song, but on the second verse, actually in mid-word. Thank you, Dick, for realizing it would be good to record this….) Then we stop, and I try to clarify how the drone (the lower part) should ‘move’: should it slide down gradually (as I’ve been trying to do), or should it just jump cleanly to the lower pitch? (Evidently Kera didn’t understand my question, because she verbally preferred that it slide, but when she sings that lower part next, she makes a clean jump.) We sing a few verses again, in the same configuration, and I try to do what I thought she asked me too (not very successfully!)
We stop again; Kera says we are singing it in the old way, not the new way. She suggests we sing it a third time with her singing the second part, “so we can hear the way she sings the second part”. This is actually a bit mixed up…I’m not used to singing the top part—and I screw up, so she takes over singing that, while I try to do the second part with a clear break, the way I just heard her do it. It sort of falls apart at this point, so I suggest that when we go later to Sârnítsa, where her sister Albéna lives, Kera and Albena can sing it for me, and it will be clear. (This does happen, I’ll put that in here too.) There’s some interesting commentary at the end—about variations—that I won’t try to translate (the very end is in English). But I was pleased to note that I had already developed the thought that I express at the end, about the connection between what we call “ornaments” and the (physical phonetic features of) words, and even the meaning.
Паюнче свири (Pajunče svire), learning session
Now listen to Kera and her sister Albéna singing the same song, a few hours later:
Паюнче свири (Pajunče svire), Kera and her sister Albena