Singing the changes – Nina Nikolina and her new project of songs we know well and love

Photo: Courtesy of Nina Nikolina

Nina Nikolina is a well-known singer who has released successful projects in four different musical styles – folklore, ethno, pop and Latino. She graduated folklore singing and double bass at the Panayot Pipkov National School of Arts in Pleven, and then folklore choir and orchestra conducting, and music pedagogy at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv. She has released 10 albums. She has presented Bulgarian culture and folk music at many international folklore festivals and has recorded duets with emblematic pop singers and “singing actors” like Kamen Donev, Hristo Mutafchiev, Lubo Kirov, Rushi Vidinliev, folk singer Lilyana Galevska and many others.

Nina Nikolina made her film debut in “The King of the Belgians” – a Belgian, Dutch and Bulgarian coproduction, in which she stars as a Bulgarian folk singer, Ana, who charms the king of Belgium. After the film earned world acclaim, at the invitation of the film’s directors Nina Nikolina took part, in 2018, in the sequel – The Barefoot Emperor - alongside Geraldine Chaplin.

On 8 February, 2019 in Sofia Live Club, Nina Nikolina is presenting her new concert programme. Alongside Kalin Velyov (drums and percussion), Martin Tashev (trumpet and vocals), Yasen Velchev (piano) and Tanya Parvanova (vocals) she will be performing Bulgarian folk songs from various regions of the country in ethno-jazz arrangements.

“Every one of the musicians will bring some element from various parts of the world. They each are in contact with a different species of folklore which has made an impression on them. There will be instruments from Brazil, from Cuba… Martin, with his voice, will bring elements of improvisation coming from Morocco, from Africa,” says Nina Nikolina.


“The new project is something I have dreamed of for a long time but have been putting off because there were other things to be done. The programme I shall be presenting can well be called “Singing the changes”. They are folk songs, some of them have been sung many times, and not just by me, but by other performers in a blend of jazz and ethno arrangements. At the concert I shall also be telling legends that are connected with the songs, there will be comedy songs from the Shoppe region (around Sofia), and they will need to be translated, because it is a dialect not everybody understands. It will be a refreshing, colourful programme.”

Nina Nikolina says she grew up on folklore:

“My mother is the musician in the house, she is conductor of a folk choir. Since I was a little girl I have been listening to folk songs, since I was a little girl I have been surrounded by traditional folk costumes. My mother instilled in me good taste in music. When you are performing folk songs, you have to do it professionally. That is the artistic taste she taught me. Folk music can have a different sound, the important thing is the quality. That is the way that folklore can reach out to young people. This is a project that they can feel close to.”

As to the music culture of today’s young, Nina Nikolina says: “I think that the music culture of the coming generation is connected with the times we live in. There is information to be had everywhere, and people listen to whatever interests them. I think the important thing is what they learn at home. If parents bring their children up to go to the cinema, to the theatre, to concerts, and teach them how to listen, in time, they will realize this is food for the soul.”

Nina Nikolina is hoping that the old songs we know and love, in their new version, will reach some cities in Europe, and maybe even further, to the US. As she puts it, it would be interesting to Bulgarians living in other counters, but also to their friends who are not Bulgarian.


English version: Milena Daynova

Photos: Courtesy of Nina Nikolina

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