Young talents reveal the beauty of Bulgarian folklore - Philip Koutev National School of Folk Arts


At first glance, the school children from the Philip Koutev National School of Folk Arts in Kotel are no different from any other kids their age – they have their smartphones, their trendy hair-dos, they are noisy, they laugh a lot, they argue… But unlike other children their age they have chosen to dedicate their time to Bulgarian folklore. To them it is a dream come true, giving them a profession, holding out promise of performing on stages in Bulgaria and abroad…

“The music school in Kotel is like one big family,” says Sashka Chenkova, senior teacher at the school. “We say that often because over long periods of time, the school children live, work and study in one school building where folklore is made part of our lives each and every day. The school where these talents are molded is a national school, set up in 1967. Celebrated musician Theodosii Spassov, for example is a graduate of our school. To begin with admission was for folk instruments; later on folk singing was added. Twenty years ago Bulgarian folk dance was introduced. The instruments kaval, rebec, pandore, bagpipe are all taught here, but then we realized we needed to make our own instruments, so we created a luthier class. It is important what subjects are taught here. The children have all general education subjects as well as theory of music just like any other specialized music school. They acquire a rich panoply of knowledge of the art of music. They gain an insight into the fine details, so once they graduate they can perform the function of music instructors.”

We asked Kalina Kostadinova who is in the 11th grade about her favourite folklore region:

“I like them all, they make Bulgarian folklore what it is. And each has its specifics. But the region I love most is the Rhodope region. I am also very fond of Graovo folklore. I myself am from Tsarevo in Mount Strandja. I have been singing since I was a little girl. When I was in the 7th grade I made up my mind to devote myself to music, and it took me two years to prepare before I applied to the school in Kotel. I would like to tell all people who want to take up music that folk music should be performed from the heart, that they should endeavour to devote themselves to music entirely so they are able to give their most beautiful and colourful rendition.”

But how does one sit down and compose original music based on folklore? The answer from Dimitar Ivanov, also in the 11th grade:

“It takes a great deal of work. I started to write my own song last year and I was helped very much by my singing teacher Stefanka Georgieva. I am from Asparouhovo village near Bourgas. My grandfather also used to sing folk songs, it was thanks to him that I came to love traditional music. My sister also graduated this school – in our family we are all musicians.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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