Stoyan Dechev – the guardian of authentic folkore from Dobrudzha

Photo: courtesy of Stoyan Dechev

Accordionist Stoyan Dechev is among the staunch guardians of the unadulterated performing style of Dobrudzha folklore. The traditional instruments from this part of the country – alongside the rebeck, the kaval, the bagpipe – include the harmonica (a bag-and-keyboard instrument, similar to the accordion).

Having been brought to these parts by Bulgarians returning from Southern Russia and Bessarabia, it was later replaced by the accordion. Even the typical “Dobrudzha trio”, along with the rebeck and the bagpipe, invariably includes the accordion with its vast technical and harmonic potential.

Stoyan Dechev is one of the most talented performers on this instrument, acknowledged as Dobrudzha’s accordion virtuoso. He was born in Garvan village near Silistra, where musical tradition is kept alive by the famed local orchestra. Fascinated by the sound of the Dobrudzha rebeck and accordion, his career took him to the stage, to recording studios, to concert tours around the country and abroad. His desire for a formal music education took him to Pleven, to bandmaster Kiril Kozhuharov, with whom he spent two years. There he learnt to play the rebeck – the instrument he performed on when he joined the Sliven ensemble. In 1974 he made his first recordings at the Bulgarian National Radio – elegant Dobrudzha horo tunes, arranged by Stefan Kanev, to the accompaniment of the Folk Music Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio. A few days ago Stoyan Dechev turned 75:

“My father used to play the rebeck, as did my grandfather,” Stoyan Dechev remembers. “They were shoemakers and playing this instrument was their way of relaxing. In our village half the people play some instrument – the rebeck or the harmonica. I myself chose the harmonica. Later, in Sofia, I bought an accordion. When I graduated the institute in Sliven, I went on to study at the school for folklore conducting in Plovdiv with Prof. Ivan Spassov, Prof. Vassilka Spassova, Hristo Urumov. I then applied to the Music Academy in Sofia where I passed the exam for accordion lecturer. And that is my main profession – I constantly teach folklore groups. At the moment I have groups in Tutrakan, and I am really thankful to them and to destiny.

My daughter has lived in USA for 20 years. She first lived in Chicago. When I went to visit there, I took the accordion I played with me. There I had students – Bulgarians living and studying something else there, but they all bought accordions. Prof. Stefan Stefanov – an accordionist and lecturer at the university in Chicago had accordion classes there, and we lectured together. And my students were eager for my return to continue their studies.

In 2016 I took part in a World Balkan Festival in Brooklyn where I did very well – I was given half an hour, everyone else was given five minutes. I have always endeavoured to popularize the folklore of Dobrudzha, to track down music no one else has played.”

English version: Milena Daynova

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