At least that is what the organizers of the Gold Dust International Folklore Festival say. The event took place in the village of Chelopechnear Sofia at the end of July.
A combination of colourful events and music contests, for the fourth year running the forum attracted audiences with a flair. In this year’s edition Gold Dust joined forces with the Vitosha International Folklore Festival. So, most of the visiting groups were able to perform in Sofia as well as in the small village of Chelopech in the environs of the capital city with a population of around 2,000. The participants in the festival came from Chile, Brazil, Singapore, Turkey, China, Indonesia, Argentina and many other countries. The Bulgarian groups included the hosts from Chelopech – the Izvorcheta children’s dance ensemble and Bulgarche dance ensemble, as well as the Sredets folklore ensemble from Sofia.
Over four days Korminesh Park overlooking Chelopech echoed with songs and melodies from all corners of the planet from morning till night. It should be remembered that the festival’s competition programme is open only to amateur performers from Bulgaria. This year’s prize winners were several formations from the town of Zlatitsa with leader Maria Leshkova. One of the most prominent members of the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices ensemble talks about the festival, though not as an artist who has traveled the world to present the folklore of Bulgaria. Maria tries to see the event as the amateur performers do – ordinary people with different professions who have chosen to devote time to Bulgarian folklore.
“The festival is a real asset for this amazing region where there are fantastic landscapes all around, but also talented people of all ages,” Maria Leshkova says. “They feel the need to perform, to build a bond with music, to find out more about the culture of other nations. 5-6 years ago I started work at the HristoSmirnenski“chitalishte” (community culture club) in Zlatitsa. First, with the three-voice female choir, which has been in existence for four decades. We renewed the repertoire and added new voices. It gives us such pleasure to perform acapella, to keep tradition alive. We also have a group of schoolchildren – we founded it because the parents wanted their children to perform too. We set up the male group a few months ago. The amateur performers rehearse at the “chitalishte” which is a veritable hub of culture in the small town.”
Incredible classical and folklore dances from India were presented the very first time the Gold Dust festival was held. This year, the group that came to Chelopech from the land of ancient cultures and religions is Spandan. Its leader Falguni Hiren says:
Jorge Andrés Aguirre is leader of the music formation of the Expresión Latinoаmericana dance group from Ecuador. The group was founded in 1981 and has presented the country at many a prestigious international forums, where it has won a host of awards.
“We are in Bulgaria to present the music and dance traditions of Ecuador. I am a musician by profession and leader of the AylluLlakta group that is part of theUniversidaddeCuenca ensemble. I am happy to say we were given a warm welcome by the audience.”
Hadzi Momcilo Moso Vesovic, director of the Cajavec ensemble from Banja Luka says:
“This is our first time at the Vitosha International Folklore Festival in Sofia and the Gold Dust Festival in Chelopech. I was pleasantly surprised to see what a pretty village Chelopech is. I am 65 and its name sounded somehow familiar. When I found out there was a gold mine here I remembered that I used to know the geography and the history of this region pretty well. The atmosphere here is amazing, the programme is diverse presenting countries so far away.”
Amiran Paichadze, leader of the Mwvervali ensemble from Georgia:
“We perform Georgian folk dances from different parts of the country – Ajaria, Guria, the mountain regions etc. We were impressed that a small village like Chelopech has the infrastructure to be able to organize a major international festival like this. I have been all over the world, but I have never seen a village so well organized. You should be proud that there is such an impressive stage here, such a warm audience.”
Margarita Bogdanova, artistic director of the Gold Dust festival:
“What makes this year’s edition of the festival different is the great number of groups from abroad, as well as the use of the renovated village square where every night, before the official programme we organized a “dance school”. Every group from abroad presents something that is characteristic of their country and the other participants try to learn the steps. As to the competitive part of the programme, this year we included only arranged folklore. Our youngest participant is from Eleshnitsa village and she is four. I would like to thank the team from Chelopech municipality. Every year we add to the programme, but it is the same people who started organizing the festival four years ago that organize the forum now.”
Nina Kaloyanova, secretary of Chelopech municipality and member of the organizing committee adds:
“Every year we have been building on the organization. This year we tripled the number of groups from abroad. Another novelty this year – we introduced evaluation cards for the competition for Bulgarian folk songs and dances which each member of the jury fills in individually and the data is processed electronically at once. This makes the rankings more objective and the participants can find out what points they have been given from a video wall on stage. Ours is a small team and we were really pleased with the appreciation of the foreign participants. They compare our festival to major forums they have been to and say we maintain a high standard. This inspires us to introduce new elements all the time, and to improve practices already established.”
English version: Milena Daynova
Photos: Albena Bezovska, Gold Dust