The Bulgarian bagpipe or GAIDA which some westerners misquote as Macedonian is a typical folklore instrument. It belongs to the group of wind instruments. It first appeared in the remote past somewhere in Southeast Asia, but it is now part of the folklore music in many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. In some like France, Germany, Austria and others it has been improved, retained its primitive shape. In Bulgaria the gaida is bound up with people's everyday life. As an instrument with a very powerful sound it is often played at weddings, at grape-harvest time, holidays like Trifon Zarezan in February when the vines are clipped, at Nestinari (barefoot walking on live coals) or Koukeri (masking parades) games and gatherings. The gaida is a respected instrument in many parts of the country but it is most treasured in the Rhodopi Mountains.
The Bulgarian gaida has two sound pipes – a chanter and a drone. There are of course bagpipes with more than two sound pipes, but they are not representative for Bulgaria. There are two types of bagpipes here – the low, mountain gaida, also called KABA, and the high weddings gaida which is called DJOURA.The Kaba gaida is the most popular type of Bulgarian bagpipes. It is distinguished for its large bag, longer chanter and drone. The sound is unique, deep and beautiful; it takes you away to the mild green hills of its home, the Rhodopi Mountain.
There are data about a third type DVOIANKA (double chanter) but it can rarely be heard.
Construction: All share a common form: white kidskin bag, blowpipe, drone and chanter. The wooden parts are as follows:
1. "duhalo" (blowpipe) – a short (12 cm) wooden pipe through which the player blows in order to fill the bag with air. The bottom part of the duhalo has a skin flapjack which prevents the air from escaping out of the bag;
2. "gaidunitsa" – a chanter, made of hard wood, 25-30 cm long. The gaidunitza has on its face side seven finger holes of different width and on its back side a single hole for the thumb. The tone row is obtained from the finger holes. The "gaidunitsa" makes this instrument unique. It has the capability of a full chromatic scale.
3. "ruchilo" (drone) – made out of plum tree, 58cm. The drone produces only one tone, which sounds incessantly and is in unison with the main tone of the melody.
4. "Glavini" (Stocks)
The bagpipe tone is achieved through the help of "piskuni" (reeds) – thin pipes, with a tongue cut in lengthwise. The long one is made of special type of reed, it is 8, 5 cm long, and placed at the upper end of the drone. The smaller one (5 cm long), made of cow's horn, is for the gaidunitsa. Its most unusual detail is the "flea hole", a small metal ring at the top of the pipe that calls the tune. In its low register the bagpipe sounds softly with a subdued tone. In its high register the bagpipe tone becomes harsh, sharp and shrill. Generally, the bagpipe sounds full toned and mellow.
- The large KABA gaida with a low register is typical for the Rhodopi mountain area. It is usually pitched in the key of E (mi) or D (re). It is distinguished for its large bag, longer chanter and drone. The chanter is cylindrical or hexagonal with slight curve in its lower end. Griff apertures are 8 and differ in diameter and form. The drone consists of three parts. The most important acoustic role plays the third part - it forms the specific timbre of the sound. The reeds of the Kaba-gaida are quite big as well. The ring cap is made from cow-horn. When all griff apertures are closed, in accordance to the full length of the chanter, the produced tones may be C, Bb or A of the little octave. The drone is formed in tune with the tone that is two octaves lower than the quintal tone of the chanter. The sonority of the Kaba-gaida is mild and pleasant. Very often the piper-man sings and accompanies his song himself.
- And the small one called DJURA gaida with a high-pitched register. It is outspread in Thrace, Northern Bulgaria, and Dobrudja. Djura gaida is usually pitched in the key of G (sol). Djura in the key of D (re) also can be made. The high Djura-gaida is smaller than the Kaba. The chanter is in the form of cone with 7 griff apertures on the front side and one on the back side. The drone consists of three different-length parts. Due to the length of the joints, the drone is shortened or made longer till the right tune matching the chanter is achieved. The reed of the chanter is small as well. At all griff apertures closed, chanter produces G of the 1st octave. The basic key of the drone may be D or E. Djura-gaidas are characterized by its bright and sharp sonority, very suitable for playing on the outside. They are often accompanied with tupan (a big folk drum).
Bulgarian Myth and Folklore
Bulgarian folk narratives are distinguished by their stark, primal qualities, their spare poetic beauty and powerful archetypal characters. The characters are larger than life - epic heroes, warrior women and beguiling beings who inhabit a magical landscape that has its own reality, laws and logic. They are many-layered and reveal some very ancient roots, perhaps going back to Thracian times and beyond.
Modern day Bulgaria lies at the crossroads between East and West, and has ancestral roots among three quite different groups of peoples: the ancient Thracians, the Slavs and the Proto-Bulgarians. These peoples were originally separate and ethnically distinct, with widely differing cultures and religions, and it is this mix that has contributed to modern Bulgaria's rich heritage and still vibrant folklore and traditional culture.
The ancient Thracians were an Indo-European tribal people who settled at least 5,000 years ago in that area of the Balkans whose heartland is now the modern state of Bulgaria. They were expert horse breeders, produced fine vines and wines, and were artful metalworkers, creating an exquisite treasury of adornments, ritual objects and vessels. They had a rich culture to rival that of the ancient Greeks but they had no written language of their own. So much of what we know about them comes from their rich archaeological remains, and from the Greek writers who were their contemporaries.
The Thracians revered the forces of nature, worshipped the sun and believed in the immortality of the soul. Thracian mythology encompassed the mysterious Thracian Horseman, the wine-loving Dionysus and Bendis, the great mother goddess, sometimes depicted riding a doe, bow in hand with a quiver of arrows slung across her back. Thracian myth and culture is dramatic, veering from light to dark. It is located in a wild mountainous landscape where the great goddess hunts, the horse is sacred and the mysterious Thracian Horseman dispenses both life and death. And Orpheus, the great singer, musician, healer and sorcerer, descends to the Underworld in search of his dead consort Eurydice, offering the promise of immortality and rebirth.
After the 6th century AD the Thracians were absorbed into the Slavic and Bulgarian peoples who settled in the area, but the subsequent Bulgarian kingdom inherited their legacy.
Bulgaria is rich in Thracian archaeological remains, and traces of Thracian myth and religion have survived in current Bulgarian folklore and customs, such as those given below.
Samodivi (also samovili and yudi) There are many tales about these wild female nymphs of the waters, woodlands and the mountains, renowned for their exquisite singing and dancing. Though they are generally viewed as Slavic in origin (see below), in Bulgarian folklore they share some characteristics with the Thracian goddess Bendis. In one tale, Vida, a powerful samodiva of the Pirin mountains, rides a stag with bow in hand and a quiver of arrows on her back; her reins are grass snakes, and her whip is also a snake. She kills the beautiful male singer, Ivo (a relic of Orpheus?) and flies up to the moon, before restoring him to life in the curative gardens of Magda samovila. In other tales, samodivi call down the moon and milk it like a cow. In some tales they kill or take the heads of humans who cross them, reminiscent of the Maenads, the ecstatic female followers of Dionysus who tore Orpheus apart in a drunken frenzy.
The epic hero Krali Marko on his horse Sharkoliya Krali Marko was a real historical person who lived in the 14th century AD. He has since became overlaid with an earlier mythology that reflects some aspects of the Thracian Horseman god, who was sometimes simply called Hero. There are many heroic songs (the traditional way of telling these epic tales was through song) about Krali Marko's adventures with his magical horse Sharkoliya.
Bulgaria's ancient style of singing, famed throughout the world for its haunting vocals and exquisite harmonies, surely follows in the tradition of Orpheus. It is also thought that Bulgaria's unusual uneven rhythms may derive from Thracian music.
They believed in many deities, spirits of nature and demons, and for them, the world was alive with all-pervasive supernatural powers and energies,The Slavs migrated to the Balkan peninsula from Central Europe in the early part of the 7th century AD. They were a freedom-loving agricultural people, living democratically in clan communes with no rigid organisational structures or hierarchies. including wood and water nymphs, witches, vampires and werewolves. Trees and animals were revered as man's ancestors, rivers were worshipped, fire and the sun were important partsof cult rituals, and seasonal festivals featured prominently in their religion.
The Slavs built shrines where they worshipped their gods in the form of idols. Their main god was Perun, the god of thunder, who gave his name to the Pirin mountains in southern Bulgaria. Volos, or Veles was the god of horned animals. Female deities were less significant and included Lada and Lyulya, goddesses of love and awakening nature.Ladouvane A girls' ritual that takes its name from Lada, the Slavic goddess of love. The ritual includesfortune telling in a custom called "the singing of the rings". The goddess also features in traditional Bulgarian wedding songs.
Vampires This is one of several Slavic demonic beings. If proper burial and mourning rites are not observed, the dead can return from the grave in the form of vampires who walk the night, drinking blood from humans and animals, and smothering sleepers. Vampires can be created if, for example, a person or animal jumps over the dead body, if the corpse is not properly washed, if the deceased is not fully mourned, or if someone dies a violent death. In Bulgarian myth the vampire's bite is not contagious and there is no association with bats.
According to some people, during the first 40 days of their existence vampires look like shapeless bags of blood, after which they become strong enough to form some bone and to take on a human hape. Then they can leave the grave during the daytime, get a job, and even get married. But they must always take care never to cut themselves, otherwise they will burst and become a pool of gelatinous blood.
Vampires can be despatched in many ways: by pouring boiling oil in the grave, putting in hawthorn or blackberry, by fire, nail, stake or silver bullet. Also, it is well known that vampires are naïve and not very clever. If, for example, you were to send one to get some fish from the River Danube, he would undoubtedly fall in to the water and drown.
The ancestral homeland of the Proto Bulgarians is uncertain but it was probably the Altai Mountains of Central Asia or the northern frontier of China. The Proto Bulgarians were originally a nomadic people, keeping herds and revering horses. Mare's milk was an essential part of their diet. They were excellent warriors with a well-organised army; they were skilled in metalwork; and they lived in clans under the leadership of khans who held absolute power. In 681 AD they founded the first Bulgarian state in the Balkans in exchange for protecting the local Slav population against Byzantine attack.
Their religion centred on the sun and the light, and their main deity was the sky god, Tangra, whose sacred animals included the horse and the eagle. White horses were particularly revered. Although they had no writing system, the Proto Bulgarians had their own calendar based on a 12-year cycle like the Chinese calendar, each year bearing the name of an animal, bird or reptile. Shamanism was practised and each clan had a sacred animal totem – and dogs, deer and wolves seem to have had special significance.
Zmey The zmey, or dragon has an important place in Bulgarian myth.
Traditional folk costumes
The soukman dress was the most widely spread women's dress, most often a sleeveless dress, but in some places it is with short or long sleeves. The decoration of this type of costume is concentrated on the skirts, along the neck and sleeve ends. It consists of multi-colour embroidery, decorative cloth and braid appliques, varied in size and style. The soukman dress is worn with short woven belt whose ends are buckled by means of belt buckle called pafti. The apron is the most picturesque decorative center of the soukman dress. It is richly ornamented, in a variety of colours with beautifully stand out against the background of the large blackness of the dress, thus making the soukman costumes very artistic and original.
The saya dress has also the tunic-like shirt as a major component. The saya is a constantly worn outer garment, open in the front part, slightly wedged, with varied length of the skirts and the sleeves. The one-colour white, black, blue and dark blue saya dresses are predominant, made of cotton or woolen fabric. The decoration of the saya is concentrated on the neck and the ends of the sleeves. The other important component of this Bulgarian women's costume is the waist band, black or red, made of woolen fabric. The apron is also woolen in most of the cases.
Bulgarian men's costumes are belodreshna (white) and chernodreshna (black). They include: tunic-like shirt, pants and outer clothes - belt, typical fur cap and tsurvouli.
The legend of the Thracian singer Orpheus, who charmed gods with his music, tells that he was born in the Rhodopes.Bulgarian singers and musicians of today are no less famous than Orpheus. The remarkable opera-singers Boris Hristov, Nikolai Gyaurov, Nikola Gyuzelev, Raina Kabaivanska, Gena Dimitrova and many others make famous the Bulgarian school of singing on the world opera stages.
The unrivaled performances of our folk-singers - the Bulgarka Trio and the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices conquer the world of music. A Bulgarian folk song performed by Valya Balkanska resounds the Universe, recorded on a gold CD on the board of the Voyager space station.
The Bulgarian music is created on the basis of the musical tradition of the Thracians and the Slavs, later on influenced by the culture of neighbour peoples and conquerors. Instrumental and vocal folk-music are inherently bound to dance (horo, ruchenitsa), with the rites, beliefs and labour activities. The various regions of the country have their characteristic fast or slow, one-part or two-part folk songs with odd and even measure (5/8. 7/8, 8/8, 9/8, etc., up to 14/8). The most widely used string instruments are gadulka, gousla and tambura, wind instruments - kaval (shepherd's pipe) and gaida (bagpipe), percussion instruments - tupan (cattle drum).
Along with folk music works, soon after the conversion to Christianity in the 9th C., religious chanting in the Old-Bulgarian language develops. A Bulgarian church-singing school is created and it exerts influence over the musical culture of other peoples. Music is primarily vocal and monophtonic. The most prominent singer, composer and theoretician of medieval Bulgarian music is Yoan Koukouzel, known as Angel-voice.
The second half of the 19th century witnesses the emergence of city-folk music culture - city-folk songs, the first band of musicians, school and church choirs. At the beginning of the century primarily chorus songs are composed by Emanoil Manolov, Dimitar Hristov, Angel Bokoreshtliev. The opera genre is also developed - Georgi Atanasov - Maestro.
In 1908 in Sofia the Bulgarian Opera Society is set up, later to be named National Opera. The dance music is widespread.
During the 30-ies folklore motives are introduced in musical works - works of national style by Pancho Vladigerov (Bulgarian Rhapsody Vardar), Petko Stainov (Thracian dances), Marin Goleminov, Filip Koutev, Parashkev Hadzhiev, Lyubomir Pipkov.
The 50-ies are the period of development of popular song and chorus activity (Bodra Smyana Choir, Children's Choir at the Bulgarian Radio, Svetoslav Obretenov Cappella Choir, the men's choirs Kaval and Gousla, the choirs Rodina and Morski Zvutsi, the mixed chamber cappella choir Polyphony, etc.).
FOLK MUSIC Melodious tunes and beautiful voices, fiery dances and brightly coloured costumes - Bulgarian folklore has to be seen, felt and experienced!
The world has already discovered Ninth Symphony, its message to other civilizations travelling to the stars aboard the Voyager I and Voyager 2 spaceships also includes the recording of a Bulgarian Rhodope Mountain folk song.
The world is discovering it again and again at major folklore and song contests in Italy, France, England and Ireland from which the Bulgarian music and dance ensembles invariably walk off with the first prizes.
The world has started talking about the "Mystery of Bulgarian songs and dances"...
If you attend one of the many picturesque folk fairs, singing contests and original folklore festivals in this Country, which gather thousands of singers, musicians and dancers, where several generations of Bulgarians sing, play and dance, you will perhaps yourself discover the key to this mystery, the key to the heart and soul of Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Folk Instruments
The Gaida (bagpipe)
Gaida (bagpipe) is one of the most characteristic folk instruments of Bulgaria. It is said that a traditional wedding is incomplete without its presence. Traditionally the solitary shepherd's companion, it is often heard solo or accompanied by a large drum. It is also popular in small village orchestras. Like all Bulgarian folk instruments there are many regional variations with distinctive styles of detail and ornament. All share a common form: white kidskin bag, blowpipe, drone and chanter. The pipes of the eastern regions of Thrace and Dobrudja are usually high-pitched, while those of western Shope region tend to be lower. In the south Bulgarian Rhodope mountain region they are extremely deep-pitched with huge goatskin bags. These are often played in pairs or trios and sometimes in large groups. There is one ensemble in that area called "Sto Gaidi", which translates as "One Hundred Gaidas". The standard instrument today is an outfit consisting of three chanters and two drones, giving the player capacity to perform music of all regions. The chanter, called a "gaidanitsa", makes this instrument unique. It has the capability of a full chromatic scale. Its conical bore may have up to seven subtle changes. The tone holes are curved and recessed to give the fingers a relaxed and comfortable grip. Its most unusual detail is the "flea hole", a small metal pipe or bushing at the top of the bore. This gives the instrument its exceptional chromatic range. The pipes are traditionally richly decorated with delicate grooving or combing and trimmed with metal and ox horn of varying hues. The kaba-gaida of south Bulgaria is a huge instrument. Its single drone is almost four feet long. It has a deep and noble tone. Its gaidanitsa is hexagonal rather than round in cross-section, and it is richly ornamented with subtle carving.
The gadulka is probably the most popular and also most ancient folk instrument in Bulgaria today. Although loud and resonant, its distinctive Slavic voice is warm and soothing. It is traditionally played in small orchestral groups or used to accompany singing. Most folk musicians make their own instruments following strong regional traditions of form and tuning, though there are many renowned professional makers. Two types of gadulkas are commonly played. Both are made from large single blocks of hardwood that are carved and hollowed into pear like corpus, then covered with resonant softwood faces. The more prevalent form has three bowed strings, tuned A'EA with ten to twelve additional sympathetic strings. The other type is much smaller and its playing is restricted to the Dobrudjan region near the Black Sea. It usually has three strings tuned EAA'. Unlike violins, gadulkas are played tucked into a shoulder strap or belt and bowed horizontally. The Tambura is also a popular instrument. It is similar in form to the gadulka, with a curved, pear shaped form. It has a loud, bright tone somewhat like a banjo, and is commonly used for both melody and chords. The strings are double-coursed like a mandolin but are tuned like the upper strings on a guitar.
Kaval a Bulgarian or Balkan end-blown flute is also a common shepherd's instrument played in orchestras and as an accompaniment to singing. It is universally popular in Bulgaria. Playing techniques vary throughout the country. Typically a staccato style is played in the West, while a richly ornamented style is played in the East.