Last week I had the honour of featuring in one of Kevin Mulryne’s interviews celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Yes Music Podcast. Some topics discussed were my interest in Bulgarian Folklore Music, start of my online bass lessons project and, of course, Yes Music and Chris Squire.
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A little bit late but I’d like to report another year of great musical moments in Bulgaria this summer!
I should start by mentioning my gadulka lessons, with my dear teacher, Dr. Angel Dobrev, of the Bulgarian National Radio Folklore Orchestra, who this year introduced me to new challenges in Bulgarian music. Here is a little from our lessons where we play two types of 7/8 meter. The Rachenitsa and the Dospatsko Horo.
I also attended the recording of a TV show with the group “Arta”, including top Bulgarian musicians such as Kostadin Genchev (kaval), Hristina Beleva (gadulka), Petar Milanov (in a mix of tambura with guitar that himself has constructed), Ivan Tsonkov (tapan) and Petyo Kostadinov (bagpipe).
Then I went to Plovdiv, to see Ensemble Trakia, one of my favourite Bulgarian acts, which features Stela Petrova on bass, who last year provided me a great masterclass on doublebass applied to Bulgarian folk. I was delighted to see them on soundcheck, performance and even next day at work, rehearsing.
I also got in touch with Ensemble Trakia’s soloist Darina Slavcheva Slavova, who despite her young age, is a multi awarded singer, teacher and producer. I learned Darina released her book, a research work of Thracian melodies from Bulgaria and Greece, carefully documented not only with technical details as scales, meter and ornaments but also the context in which each melody was used. Although it’s written in Bulgarian, the universal language of music makes this work appealing for foreigners who wish to learn more about Bulgarian folklore and shows how this art is so seriously handled as to be kept at the highest standards. Here is Darina in a breathtaking performance, joined by the beautiful kaval of Temelko Ivanov.
Still in the Trakia region, I attended a show by the Young Thracians orchestra (Mladi Trakiytsi) – a genre usually classified in the west as Bulgarian wedding music. Their lead singer Vania Valkova, one of the top singers in Bulgaria, kindly informed me of this show which I could not miss. The orchestra played with 3 singers, drums, bass synth (very common in wedding groups), clarinet, kaval (traditional flute), accordion and saxophone. The rhythm section was so tight playing the whole night that gave me the impression to be a single unit and the gentleman behind the kit is one of the best drummers I ever saw. I encourage you to look for other videos of this orchestra, with better quality than these, and you will certainly agree with me!
Well, this post is getting rather long, but I would just like to sincerely express my gratitude to all of those who welcomed me to Bulgaria this year. Especially for my dear hosts Nina Koleva and Tihomir Kolev and family, Stela Petrova and Radostin Rusev, Dimcho Enchev, Dimitar Arnaudov, Darina Slavcheva Slavova and all the members of Ensemble Trakia, Vania Valkova, Temelko Ivanov, Petar Milanov, Boryana Vasileva, and my dear teacher Angel Dobrev. Thank you for taking care of me and I hope to see you all soon!
In the Loving Memory of Christopher Russell Edward Squire
This morning I was interviewed by Bulgarian National Television about my interest for Bulgarian Folklore, along with my Gadulka teacher Angel Dobrev.
You can watch the video at https://www.bnt.bg/bg/a/migel-falkao-portugaletsa-t-kojto-sviri-na-ga-dulka
Last Sunday I had the privilege of attending a session with Stela Petrova, bassist at the Ensemble “Trakia”. Later, on that unforgettable day, I watched Ensemble “Trakia” on their 40th anniversary concert, at the Ancient roman Theatre, in the historical city of Plovdiv. I carefully chose my place at the first row to watch Stela playing up close. The ensemble is composed by dancers, a choir and an orchestra, where Stela plays the double bass, the only non-traditional instrument in the group. Stela’s role is exclusively to provide orchestral support and probably the only element which will never take a solo spot in any presentation, yet Stela provides the bottom end during the whole performance which totally drives the whole show, essential for the rhythm section, and consequently setting the pace for the extraordinary dancers to perform intricate choreographies, defining harmony for the choir and orchestra, and allowing soloists to shine.
Hopefully, the footage I have gathered will show, despite of the audio quality of my recording, the often disregarded role of the double-bass in a Bulgarian folk ensemble, which is in reality vital. Stela also told me that many of the songs, by the great composer Stefan Mutafchiev, do not have bass scores originally, so Stela actually composed many basslines, for Stefan Mutafchiev gave the freedom for the bass player to develop them. Stela also has shown me different versions of songs, where she was playing different basslines of the same song, such as “Oi, Shope, Shope” which closes the first part of the footage.
The second part ends with the great finale, where many of the 4ooo attendants join the ensemble to dance onstage, bringing the celebration to a spectacular apotheosis.
Although I opted to film mostly Stela and his orchestra mates, the show is much more a dance and vocal show for the majority of the audience, so I add below and excerpt from the show, as broadcasted live by the Bulgarian National Television and I encourage you to look for more audience recordings of this and other shows of Ensemble “Trakia” to complement your perspective of the beautiful show of colour and movement provided by one of the most relevant artistic institutions of Bulgaria.
A session in Bulgarian Music with bass star Stela Petrova. During this two-hour session, Stela taught me how to play 3 songs. One, in a very tricky (for me) form of 9/8, from her band Diva Reka, is named “Happy Nine” and composed by one of the great kaval (Bulgarian flute) players of Bulgaria, band mate Kostadin Genchev. Two others, in 7/8, from the highly prestiged Ensemble Trakia, by great Bulgarian Composer Stefan Mutafchiev. Later, Stela would kindly demonstrate on video excerpts of “Happy Nine” and “Oi, Shope, Shope”. Hoping one day I will make my own versions of these and more wonderful Bulgarian Music.
Here’s Stela with Diva Reka playing “Vesela Devyatka” (Happy Nine)
As for “Oi, Shope, Shope”, Stela pointed out that the actual meter is 13/16, but it’s simplified to 7/8 for music sheet, meaning that the actual duration of the first and last beats are not exactly equal, as in 7/8 (2+2+1+2).
Here’s the Trakia Ensemble orchestra and choir, performing “Oi, Shope, Shope”, joined by the “Cosmic Voices” choir.