Vulcho Ivanov: Artists wield paintbrushes to paint our folklore, we, musicians, use songs

Photo: library

Vulcho Ivanov is a singer with a velvet voice that touches the hearts of listeners, weaving the fabric of Thracian musical ornamentation with infinite attention to every detail. He was only 15 when he started performing at fairs and festivals. Since that time he has more than earned the admiration of audiences. To the fans of Vulcho Ivanov’s music his singing style is a “balm for the soul”, to musicians he is “the voice of gold”, “the charmer from Thrace” and “the living legend of Thracian songs”.

Vulcho Ivanov was born in the village of Trakia (Thrace), 30 kms. from Stara Zagora. He says that he took notice of the songs women sang at working bees when he was still a child and tried to imitate them, then he painstakingly started putting together his repertoire.

“I sensed that if I continued, singing would take me to a road in life different to that of the other villagers,” Vulcho Ivanov says. And that is precisely what happened. A chance encounter with folk singer and editor at Radio Stara Zagora Petkana Zaharieva emboldened him in his music career, and in 1963, she advised him to start making recordings there. Later, he continued to record music at Radio Plovdiv and at the Bulgarian National Radio, Sofia where he has recorded more than 150 songs – songs that set the norm in Thracian-style singing. Vulcho Ivanov grew professionally as soloist of the ensemble in Dimitrovgrad and of the Kitna Trakia ensemble in Haskovo. What gave him genuine pleasure was the living bond with the audience during concerts with some of the most famous ensemble from the Thracian region: Ivo Papazov and his orchestra, Kanarite, Rhodope, the Konushen group and many more. But Vulcho Ivanov is also generous of heart – he never refuses young singers his help and support and derives pleasure from sharing songs from his own repertoire with them, guided by a desire to “have his songs sung”.

This year Nikolay Chapanski – publisher and folk music show anchor at Radio Plovdiv – put together a book about Vulcho Ivanov and his music, with recollections by friends and fans of his contribution to traditional music, but also some of the songs the singer loves best – with scores, in support of budding singers from the region of Thrace.

“To mark Vulcho Ivanov’s 70th birthday and 50 years on stage, we put together his best songs in a songbook,” says Nikolay Chapanski. “The idea was suggested to us by a fan of folk music artists such as Vulcho Ivanov. I didn’t want it to go unnoticed – we are so wrapped up in things modern that we risk forgetting the worthwhile music created through the years. Vulcho Ivanov’s music career is truly impressive – he started out when he was only 15 when he made his first recordings. He toured extensively across the Thracian region and his fame spread. I met him for the first time 20 years ago in my own radio show – I always meet with each and every performer personally to get to know their repertoire. That was how I came to meet Vulcho Ivanov who gave me a great many notebooks, cassettes, newspaper clippings which I used to compile the songbook. When we were shooting a film about Vulcho in his village I saw with my own eyes people there giving him a warm welcome with songs. And they would ask me whether I wouldn’t do something for “our Vulcho” as they call him. So, I picked out some interesting excerpts from an interview he gave to Radio Plovdiv’s Dora Staleva when he was only 26, when he was making his first recordings at the radio with the orchestra of Asen Ovcharov and Hristo Urumov. In that interview he talked about how he learnt different songs from his aunt Stana, about the start of his career. What I would like to wish Vulcho is to never give up singing, because his songs are an inspiration to audiences, but also to his own self. Vulcho Ivanov does not have a formal music education but he has created so many beautiful songs which the younger generation of singers are now performing. And that is the most precious thing of all.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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