Angel Dobrev: Sound of rebec can cheer us up or make us cry


СнимкаAngel Dobrev is a popular name in Bulgaria’s folk music field. He devoted his entire life and profession to the rebec. Angel is an inspired instrumentalist, composer, author of song arrangements and orchestral pieces. He is also a rebec teacher and very skilled luthier. When Angel was still a child and lived in his native village of Yamna (Etropole region) he was attracted by the rebec’s voice and his grandfather’s skills to make that music instrument. He even dedicated a piece to his grandfather which was named My Grandfather’s Rebec. Step by step Angel improved his music skills. Since 1982 Angel Dobrev has been a soloist at the Bulgarian National Radio Folk Orchestra. He recorded over 400 pieces as part of the BNR Folk Orchestra. He founded and took part at music formations where he combined rebec with flute, mandolin, double bass and vocals in search of new sound combinations. His compositional experiments, however, do not offend his devotion to the ancient musical heritage of rebec playing. He is also an active lecturer: he teaches at the National Palace of Children in Sofia. Angel is also a lecturer at the Sofia University Saint Kliment Ohridski. He wrote the textbook How to Play the Rebec which was translated in English. Angel Dobrev took part at various seminars and training courses and played in a series of music projects with colleagues from other countries.

On the eve of his 60th birthday Angel Dobrev shared with Radio Bulgaria his vision for the aesthetics of rebec and a child memory which predestined the fateful meeting with his favorite music instrument:

“I must say that fate knows best. I made my first steps in music in the community center in the town of Etropole with my first music teacher Vasil Spiridonov. Later, I joined the National School of Folk Arts in Kotel where I was captivated by the beauty of folk music. I continued my studies at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv where I met very skilled musicians. When I joined the Bulgarian National Radio Folk Orchestra I played together with Atanas Valchev. He tried to put rebec at a higher level and compare it with violin. I have been trying to stay traditionalist and guardian of tradition in its ancient sonority, to preserve the eternal in folk music and carry it in time. Rebec can cheer us up, but it can also make us cry. It goes deep in the human soul and tells stories with its sounding like no other instrument does. I will go back to 1969. My father bought me a rebec when we were living in the village of Yamna. When I came back from school I tried to play a tone or a melody, but I couldn’t. It turned out that the bow was not coated with rosin. This was my first disappointment in that field. Rebec is part of the Bulgarian originality. According to foreigners, it is an exotic instrument. I don’t agree with those who contend that foreigners will steal our folklore. Even if they play traditional Bulgarian music instruments they can’t feel them the way we do. The Bulgarian folklore is part of our nature. I believe that young Bulgarians like folklore music. The task of all music teachers is to find a way to reach these people and tell them how beautiful and exciting the Bulgarian folk music is.”

On occasion of Angel Dobrev’s 60th birthday we would like to wish him sound health and good luck in his music career.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov


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