Todor Kozhuharov: Our folklore is a reflection of everything that is great about our nation


They call Todor Kozhuharov “a singer who has left his indelible mark on our national traditions”, “a delightful voice coming from the heart of beautiful Thrace, a voice that “touches the depths of the human soul”, the symbol of the Thracian style of singing.

Todor Kozhurahov grew to love music in his childhood years, in the village where he was born – Moustrak near Haskovo. He remembers how he imbibed the songs his mother sang while she was stringing tobacco, without even noticing. His professional career was shaped by his very first amateur performances at local fairs. He was then invited to join the Kitna Trakia (Beautiful Thrace) ensemble in Haskovo as soloist. The first solo recordings he made were at Radio Plovdiv in 1979 and in 1982 – at the Bulgarian National Radio, a total of around 300 songs. And the big dream he had cherished – of giving concerts across Bulgaria to a large audience – came to be. He has sung his Thracian songs at innumerable weddings and local fairs and his fame spread throughout the Thracian region. He has been soloist of a host of wedding orchestras – Kozari, Konoushenska Grupa, Yambol, the orchestras of Ivan Milev, Ivo Papazov, Orpheus and has guest performed with the orchestra Bisseri in Dobroudja. In 1989 Todor and his wife Donka Kozhuharova founded their own orchestra – Yuzhni Ritmi (Southern Rhythms).

The Yuzhni Ritmi band

Throughout his career – combining talent, love, a lot of hard work and dedication to the songs from Thrace - Todor Kozhurahov has won a great many awards in this country and abroad. In 1985 and 1986 he won first prizes at the “Wedding orchestras and soloists contest” in Stambolovo. His singing career reached a peak in the late 1990s, when he travelled to Los Angeles, USA to take part in the World Music Olympiad, where he was awarded gold medals. In 2004 he released a book - “With the magic of songs” – a compilation of 115 songs with their music scores, selected from his rich repertoire for the benefit of his younger colleagues.

“What I have achieved through the years is all thanks to the talent I have been blessed with, a talent I have inherited from my mother Dena Zhelyazkova and my father Zheylazko Kozhuharov. I have put a lot of effort into making songs that will reach the audiences. It has always been my aim for the songs I record to reach the concert stage. In 1978 I spent one year as full-time soloist of the Kitna Trakia ensemble in Haskovo. I am grateful to the musicians from the ensemble – Stoycho Yanev, Ivan Georgiev – rebec and many other colleagues. We performed some superb songs with the choir, some we released as LPs. I shall never forget the first time I met the legend of Thrace – Yovcho Karaivanov whom I owe so much as tutor and mentor. He worked at the Folklore department of the Bulgarian National Radio and would prepare songs for me to record and edit the lyrics. When I couldn’t remember all of the lyrics to a given song I had learnt from my mother, Yovcho would finish them off. My first recordings of authentic music were with Atanas Vulchev’s group. At the beginning of the transition, in 1989 we founded our own orchestra - Yuzhni Ritmi – with my wife and several young musicians. And for 27 years we have been together at weddings and concerts. Weddings require a wide-ranging repertoire that we have amassed through the years. I love the songs of the Strandja region, also from the Rhodope and Macedonian folklore regions. That is why we have performed many duets. Thrace is the biggest folklore region, a treasure trove of folklore. We, the people from Thrace are broad-minded, just take a look at our big weddings. Whatever prizes I may have won, what is really important to me is to be close to people, to give them a good time.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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