Manol Mihaylov: Strandja songs made me what I am


The life of Manol Mihaylov has been marked by the songs of the Strandja region all through – from his childhood to his recent 60 birthday, marked end-February. Grown in a rural environment and brought up with the local lifestyle and kind of communication, he has always been saying that his “music school” is that of the songs sounding during festive days as well as on weekdays in the villages of the Strandja Range. That is why he remains true to the rather archaic singing style of that region. The love for Strandja traditions passes through the mission of a researcher, too. Manol Mihaylov is the author of a volume entitled “The Strandja Folklore Song”. The second edition of the book is due soon, with more information added. Part of the repertoire has been written in notes by folklorist Mihail Bukureshliev, who held in high esteem the folkloric contribution of the singer. Testimony for that esteem is his publication “The Singer of Strandja – Manol Mihaylov”.

Manol Mihaylov is born in the village of Gramatikovo, the region of Malko Tarnovo (south-eastern Bulgaria). Since childhood he has been singing at the community centers and at gatherings. During his student’s years at the Chemistry Department of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, he got acquainted with the then prominent Strandja singer Magda Pushkarova. Her lessons in stage behaviour and the subtleties of that style of singing, as well the selection of repertoire, all give useful directions for his further development. The result is impressive – more than 500 recordings for the National Radio Fund. He recorded for the first time a collection of spoken good-wishes in the Strandja region dialect, used in the most important folklore festivities from the calendar, as well as music images of the Strandja Christmas and fire-dancing (Nestinarstvo).

At his personal initiative Manol Mihaylov brought back to life the National gathering “Strandja is singing”, held in his native village of Gramatikovo. The gathering was restored after a gap of 35 years.

“The Strandja song is for me kin, root and tradition”, Mihaylov shares. “It has built my personality, culture and consciousness in real life. I not only sing, but I feel inspired by these songs. In the past, when meeting elderly people, I was curious to ask them about the songs of their place. I was happy when they used to say ‘Manole, come to hear a song’. I have lived great moments with these people in my native Gramatikovo, later in Malko Tarnovo, Grudovo (now Sredets) and in Sofia, where I met the great Magda Pushkarova. She gave me many advices. She used to say: ‘I want you to come out on stage as an artist. First you loog at the audience, you smile, you look at the orchestra to give a sign and you start living the piece of music with your entire body’. She gave me some songs she had kept to pass over to a male voice. These songs made my personality and they are as curative as the Strandja wild Rhododendron ponticum.”

English version: Iva Letnikova

Photo: archive

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