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!
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])
(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:
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
It's been way too long since I've posted anything here...life has a way of intervening! First there was a busy time followed by 3+ weeks in Bulgaria; then a lot of computer hassles; then — not only the end-of-year holidays, but...I have been busy making two NEW KITTIES (once feral and with traces of that left) feel at home! Since they're not my Bulgarian research, I will only quietly put their pictures here (I may add a page for them some day soon). Suffice to say that I've been side-tracked from this blog by eight feet and two tails...
But a day or two ago I woke up to one of the joys of the internet: the director of the women's singing group in the village of Álino (Sámokov region) contacted me on Facebook. It turns out that he is either related to or neighbor to the 8 women who sang for me there in 1985! I hope this will give me an opportunity to get copies of my material back to the descendants of the people who sang them, and also to others who might be interested, or even singing them today.
Update: After posting this, I heard back from my new friend in Alino, Momčil Čalâkov (Момчил Чалъков). He sent me a handful of lovely videos of the women from Alino, and told me there are many more on Youtube. I've been watching them...but they've been put up by several different people. The easiest way to find them seems to be to search, on Youtube, in Bulgarian: just click on one of the links below (or copy and paste the search term) into the "Search" box on Youtube: фолклорна група село Алино or ЖПГ от с. Алино, and check them out.
Álino is less than a 20-minute drive from Samokov; it is located in the southern foothills of Plána Mountain, just two villages south of Kovačévtsi (birthplace of Kreména Stánčeva, singer extraordinaire). I recorded there just once, on 17 April 1985, 16 songs from a group of 8 women born between 1924 and 1933. Their songs are among those I consider not too "accessible" to people who are not into this music up to their eyeballs. The music is two-part and sung antiphonally (by two groups), the second group repeating what the first has sung, as we expect in this region. But sometimes it's a little hard to tell just what the melody is! The two parts like to hang out just a note or two apart, melodically — and come into unison only at the end of each verse. (It's such fun to sing things like this...)
Here is a dance song, sung while they were actually dancing. The dance was a pravo horo that I saw all over the region, but the little triplets near the end of each verse are interesting, and I notice them in other songs from Alino.
Today I was amused to see this update to a news item:
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":
You can find the text and translation for this version in my post from February 2016, "Harvest songs...Part 1".
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!
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).
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!"
A blog is supposed to be a place where you can write to help yourself think things through, so here goes. (When I can take the time to figure out how to do it, I could keep such things in a section accessible through the menu, e.g., "Martha's working notes" — but trying to do that right now would take time from my primary task, so you'll have to put up with "a useless interruption"!)
In trying to make life simpler, I think I made it more complicated for myself! Here's why:
In 1990 I have no less than THREE sets of recordings:
• August, when I was in Bulgaria for a short time to arrange for the visit of the Bistritsa Babi to the US;
• October when the Babi were in the US; and
• 1990-91 when I went back to Bulgaria for about 6 weeks.
On that winter trip, I went to Bulgaria specifically to work intensively with baba Linka, who was from the village of Bistritsa. I kept my recordings of ALL of our sessions (made in Sofia, where she was living with her daughter) on a set of 15 cassette tapes that I labelled "Linka". So far, so good.
BUT. On that 1990-91 trip I also recorded a number of times in the village of Bistritsa itself — people other than Linka. I also recorded in several other villages: Plana, Govedartsi, and Madžare. All of THAT material (both Bistritsa and not-Bistritsa) went on a set of five "not-Linka" tapes. I have been identifying those tapes (clumsily!) as "not-Linka" material. And now, I have to figure out how to identify them ALL as Bistritsa tapes, while still preserving a distinction! (Why ever? Well....first, because it's just easier to have all the Linka material in one place, not interspersed with the other material. There is so much of that, and relatively so little of "everything else" — I'm not trying to create a travelogue of "Martha's minute-by-minute journey through Bulgaria in the winter of 1990-91" — I am focusing on the material, how to find what you need in it easily.)
How about, to distinguish the two tapes from 1990-91 numbered 3:
• "1990-91 Bistr-L 3b" (Linka tape #3b, specifically side B)
• "1990-91 Bistr-xL 3b Danče's nameday" (not-Linka tape #3, sp. side B)
This might work. I will still keep them in separate folders: 1990-91 Linka, and 1990-91 not-Linka.
Thanks for listening — now back to work! There are a few "real" posts simmering…
Eureka! (Or whatever the word is.) I think I've solved it. Writing this did really help, but sitting down with old files names in one (text) column and new files names in a second column was what really worked: I could change them as much as I liked until I was satisfied with the result. At this point, if I wanted to, I could even mix together the Linka and the xLinka material, because the file names would keep it nicely sorted out. I'd take a screenshot for you, but I can imagine anything much less interesting!