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Greetings from Konushentsi – that is the title given by the famous musicians to their new music. The Konushenska band is the most famous among the so-called Bulgarian wedding orchestras, focused in Thrace. Those are all talented musicians with remarkable instrumental and singing technique, a gift for improvisation and interesting inventions, following the ritual moment of a wedding. This specific music requires good physical health by the orchestra players due to the long performing hours /often 8 – 10/ and the constant renewal of the repertoire. The Bulgarians say for this: ‘Whoever pays – he orders the music’.
The Konushenska band is the oldest of the wedding orchestras of that kind in Thrace, with history of over 50 years. It has been established and constantly headed by clarinet player Nikola Iliev from the village of Konush, Plovdiv region. He named the band after his village. As far as their style is concerned, the musicians follow the best traditions of their colleagues of the renowned Parvomayska, Sadovska and Lenovksa bands. In 1963 then 19-year-old Nikola Iliev recruited the best instrumentalists from the region and established the first formation: Todor Prashtakov – accordion; Sabcho Genov – trumpet; Yanko Petrov – rebec and Asen Musov – drums. Their leading figure has academic musical education, but has devoted himself to folklore professionally. He was a student of world famous clarinet player Prof. Petko Radev, known for his huge contribution to instrumental folklore music. His performance style in the genre is leading for the artistic work of Nikola Iliev, in regard to the preparation of repertoire chain dances and songs for the Konushenska band. It is also called the legend of Thracian music. They have played to endless in their number weddings and gatherings, making lots of Bulgarians happy. Now the music of their recently released album, titled Greetings from Konushentsi has already gained the appreciation of their fans.
Clarinet player Nikola Iliev gives us more details on the current formation, the style of their new music and the euphoria during wedding playing:
“The orchestra consists of the following colleagues: accordion player Blagoy Manchev (we’ve been together for over 40 years); Kostadin Penchev – one of Thrace’s best saxophone players; Svilen Ivanov – keyboard. Tanya Doseva is one of the soloists and we’ve spent the past 25 years together; the other one’s name is Elena Chausheva. We have this very good interpersonal contact, which explains our success. I had many ideas and so I started to write those down and play them. The most important thing is to leave something behind, in order for young musicians to have their grounds in the development of folk music – the way Petko Radev showed us with his marvelous academic sound how one should play. Many of our colleagues who even didn’t read scores learnt from him and followed his example, this irreplaceable style that he continued on with from the old musicians. Then I inherited it too. May this style continue, as it is in the heart of Bulgarian music making. Once I played at a wedding for 12 hours without any rest, Nikola Iliev says. There was this 8 – 10 row chain dance in the village of Hristo Milevo. At another wedding in the village of Manole we counted 180 cars which had arrived from different regions to listen to Ivo Papazov and us. I will never forget that. If I were an artist, I would draw great pictures based on my experiences.”
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