Kalinka Valcheva: “The song and stage are my life”

Photo: archive

Bulgarian folk singer Kalinka Valcheva has a career worth noting. Her sparking soprano voice attracts the listener’s attention. She easily uses complicated musical ornaments in slow songs just as she sings dance melodies typical for her native region like “rachenik,” “danetsa,” “sborenkata”. The song tradition of Dobrudzha is the source of the huge repertoire of Kalinka Valcheva, whose records in the BNR music fund are over 200 and are paragon of stylistic purity and musical exquisiteness. The arrangements of the songs are work of renowned folk music composers like Kosta Kolev, Stefan Kanev and Hristofor Radanov.

The famous Bulgarian singer has been searching for the authentic sound of folk songs from the Dobrudzha region, under the accompaniment of a kaval or instruments that are characteristic of this folklore region. During her concert and studio work with foreign musicians and orchestras she also remains faithful to the original sound of the songs of her native region.

In 2017, Kalinka Valcheva has celebrated two important anniversaries in her life – 75th birthday as 55 of these years have passed under the sign of music. The song trail starts from her native village of Sarnets and passed through the choir of the Folk Ensemble at the Bulgarian National Radio, known as "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices" that became Grammy winner in 1990. After that she spent time in the UK, having numerous concerts and tours throughout Europe together with her husband, Martin Jenkins (producer and player of mandolin, violin, and flute) before returning to her beloved Dobrudzha, where she continues to sing to this very day and to teach young singers. Her fellow citizens have organized a series of concerts in honor of the famous singer. Kalinka Valcheva has participated in the concerts along with musicians and singers from the towns of Dobrich and Tervel.

“The people I started walking this road with are my mother, my aunt, my grandmother Velika, who was a good singer and was present at all weddings and celebrations of people’s baptism in my village. There music and dancing were part of everyday life. When I went to school, my teacher Kiril Stefanov, whom I would never forget, was very glad that I sing and supported me. In second grade I became a soloist of the students’ choir. Step by step I reached the Music Directorate. Back then it controlled and organized all concerts in this country. I toured with the most famous performers: Iliya Argirov, Sonya Kancheva, Mita Stoycheva, and the Horo Orchestra. I'm very grateful to them; they took me to the big stage. I also toured with Yovcho Karaivanov and Stoyka Gikova, who were telling me that my place was in the radio ensemble. When I went for a three-day contest for the position of first soprano in the band, there were about 60 women together with me there. After the jury heard my singing, conductor Kosta Kolev came to me with the words: ‘It will be you.’ That's how my dream came true. I always liked the sound of our choir. I will not forget my first solo with it.”

Many awards, contests in Bulgaria and abroad followed, the singer recalls. I will not forget a competition in Tunisia in 1969, when there were singers from 22 countries and I won the first prize. I had to prepare a song from Tunisia for two days. When I sang it, the audience stood up. In the competition for professional singers and ensembles I took two first prizes - for the songs of a quartet with my participation and as a soloist. I also have interesting memories with the English and French musicians I have worked with over the years. We were working very well together. In France, I have worked with three bands. In Brittany the orchestra consisted of 16 people and we had many concerts in big halls. I also sang with the Topolovo orchestra, composed of French musicians who perform Bulgarian folk music only. The band is named after a village near Plovdiv. Now I keep singing with the Biseri Orchestra, with whom I have been working with pleasure. People from Dobrudzha have expressed their respect for me. I am already an honorary citizen of Tervel. The children's and youth ensemble in the town bears my name, as well as a club for the elderly in Dobrich and the band for authentic folklore in the Kladentsi village. A kindergarten named "Kalinka" is also named after me. I have been working very well with the kids. I am happy with the successes of Donko Markov, Petya Paneva, and Maria Stefanova. They all sing my songs. I think Petya Paneva will continue in my footsteps. They used to say about me that a new Valkana Stoyanova was born and now I say that a new Kalinka Valcheva was born. That is why I don’t have worries. I know there is someone to follow after me.

We wish one of Bulgaria’s most successful singers Kalinka Valcheva many happy returns of the day! 

English: Alexander Markov

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