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Who is an urban girl?

With the fast growth of crafts, industry and market relations in the late 19 and the early 20 c. many Bulgarian villages rose to the status of towns. Some of them including Gabrovo, Tryavna, Teteven and Troyan in Central Bulgaria, were villages in officials registers. However their residents adopted urban habits and ways displayed clearly in clothing and furniture choices and vogues. This happened with strong influences imported from big European cities.

How did the emerging townsfolk look upon the prevalent village population? Find out more from Folk Studio written by Rumyana Panayotova.

Urban dwellers were rarely chosen to appear in the songs from traditional culture. In one such romantic song a village bloke, Nikou, had a crush on a good-looking urban girl. His mother however opposed his choice, requiring a village girl as daughter-in-law. She soon found a match, engaged her son to her and instructed him not to go by the house of the urban girl. Nevertheless he went to say goodbye to his sweetheart. She broke into tears at the news of the hasty marriage. Nikou admitted to her that all he could do was comply with tradition, hence, with his mother’s decision. However on the day of the wedding he ran to the mountain to play a melody to his sweetheart on the shepherd’s flute. The urban girl heard him and went to look for him. The encounter ended in tragedy, with the couple committing suicide.

Rapidly growing towns attracted residents from villages. Some looked for new jobs, others were lured by the new, higher class of urban living. A song recounts the story of a young guy who got decent education and went to Gabrovo to work as a teacher. Young Todor taught the kids, while on weekends dated young Gabrovo girl Yova. He told his mother he wanted to marry her. But then there was a problem: it turned out that Yova was his blood relation and the marriage was impossible. Obviously the large village families were beginning to scatter under pressure from fast industrialization and mobility. Another song story provides further proof of the disintegration of large families. A little village girl is asking a convoy driver about her mother and father, who had migrated to the town to look for well-paid jobs. The girl hadn’t seen her mother for quite some time, and imagined her clad in village-style clothes, however carrying a gold shepherd’s crook, a symbol of desired wealth.

A marriage story provides interesting details about urban habits and ways from the late 19 and early 20 c. It is about two young people in love, both urban dwellers. The girl has not seen the sun since birth, unlike the village girls living close to nature. Her mother arranged to engage her to an urban bloke, a teacher, a most prestigious occupation at that time. The young man had enough finances to hire four nice cabs, worlds apart from the simple village carts. While the couple toured the town in a cab, they passed by a few Frenchmen, the song claims. Most probably those were local educated townsfolk practicing their French and trying to produce a cultured impression.

The transition from village to urban living is also mirrored in some of the urban folk songs so popular at that time. They blend themes from folklore and from the European popular music.

English version: Daniela Konstantinova

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