Bulgarian Music

When watching both videos of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir I thought there were some interesting similarities and differences. In the performance of 1990 on the Tonight Show, the women seemed less polished as a whole, and their sound was much more traditional and folky. Also, the host of the show was polite in welcoming his guest, but he didn’t seem to be too interested or well versed in their music. Comparatively the 2017 performance seemed more seasoned, and the music was more upbeat. The host of the show also seemed to be personally familiar and interested in the group. He even stated that he had been waiting for quite a bit of time to see this group perform (0:11). In both performances though the women’s voices are so powerful and they blend beautifully together. I was quite surprised at how strong the Bulgarian Women’s Choir was when they sang. I also found this group to be fascinating because I believe this is our first all-female group. I’m hoping that in class we are able to foster a meaningful discussion on gender and its place in this topic. Specifically, the Bulgarian Women’s Choir is interesting because they are an all-female group that have also won a Grammy for their album. Not only is this group interesting because of its all-female make-up, but it also has political importance. Bulgarian musical groups like this began to be beacons of democracy. As Bulgaria was finding its identity and sense of nationalism after being occupied so many times in the past the countries musical identity was fostered as well. Musical performances occurred at many political events and youth music programs were created. With a country that has a history like Bulgaria’s the impact that music had on them was enormous. They went from being a very poor country to having groups like the Bulgarian Women’s Choir performing internationally. These developments are all part of the transitions that are discussed in “Performing Democracy: Bulgarian Music and Musicians in Transitions”. In class, I would like to discuss if these transitions are clear in the difference from the 1990 performance to the 2017 performance? And if so how?

4 Replies to “Bulgarian Music”

  1. The sound of The Bulgarian Women’s Choir is extremely unique especially when compared to music that we have listened to in this class. It is especially apparent in the second video how deeply engrained this music is to them, they seem to be singing from the soul and almost has a magical sound to it. Due to this unique and folky sound, it is almost surprising to see them preform on a western nightly talk show because it is not like other music that would usually be preformed on a show like that. Also, I like the point that you brought up about this being the first all women’s group that we have discussed in this class, so I think it will be a good discussion to talk about how their gender may affect them as a group especially considering the political context of Bulgaria at that time.

  2. Personally I didn’t notice much from the way they were presented before their performance. Both hosts kept their words short and let the choir do the speaking. Both videos panned the group, with the 2017 recording maybe being more technologically advanced, employing better cameras and newer film techniques. Between the two, I also didn’t notice much change musically. While undeniably impressive and ethnic the two performances sounded the same to me, in the sense that the choir often used overlapping rhythms or came together to one unifying melody. It definitely sounded like a soundscape to me – music which employs ambience and resonance rather than memorability or dance-ability.

    I like your observation of them being the only female group so far. The readings mentioned a scholar at the Musicology Institute saying that folklore on stage breaks any connection the art had to its roots, saying it was more of a spectacle. Hristo, the man who made these claims, says it cannot be narodni in nature due its very definition. To my understanding, “narodno,” and “narodni” are phrases to identity the collective masses as one figure. I could be wrong, though. What do you think?

  3. I am with Mason, I think. Truly, I cannot discern a difference in vocal quality. Video quality definitely improved, but I think the real change is in repertoire selection. I have a very strong suspicion that the first videos selection of “Oh Suzanna” is intention to capture the audience who probably is not the same audience listening to international music. It is in stark contrast to the other two pieces and the later video. It does not seem on brand for the group.

    1. I think that both talk show hosts made a comment about being excited to hear this group, the big difference would be that the more modern video had a gentleman who appeared to have no plenty about the group. With that I agree that the sound was very similar and appeared to have changed mainly because the song selection change. I think I disagree slightly with Sydney in that I feel like the inclusion of “Oh Suzanna” didn’t have to be on brand for them. I think it was a way to tie in an American song with their style of song and engage the audience. Which they did and it was a fun way to end the show.

      The other thing to mention with their sound is that this is an “open-throat” singing. It can be very beautiful, but it is not the traditional American sound, so I find it so unique and incredible that so many Americans love this sound so much that they were on a radio and late night tv show. I think it tells something of our culture that we are able to listen to other music and enjoy it even if we do not know too much of what they are saying.

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