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Songs and singers from Strandja Mountain

Photo: Strandja ensemble

There are many famous and very talented folk singers from the Strandja Mountain, Southeast Bulgaria. Some of them, for instance Yanka Rupkina /b. 1938/ from the village of Bogdanovo made the Strandja folk songs world famous and one of those turned into a hit: the Kalimanku, Denku, mari love piece.
“I can listen endlessly to Yanka Rupkina singing Altan Mara,” says Joe Boyd, producer of the famous Balgarka trio that traveled around the globe. Altan Mara is waiting for guests, who will ask for her hand, but instead of this bad people appear and they want to turn her into a Muslim bride /hanama/.

Magda Pushkarova /1920 – 2006/ from the town of Malko Tarnovo was one of the first singers that popularized the Strandja songs. She had concerts in some 25 countries and recorded 7 long playing plates. Tudoru, Tudoru; Shto ma ne Ozhenish, Male; Petko lio, Kapitanine etc. – Magda has many popular songes, kept in the BNR archive. Ethnomusicologist Mihail Bukureshtliev even wrote a book about the singer back in 2005, admiring her unique, soft voice. The Dimcho le, Gaitandzhiiche le song tells an interesting story. Dimcho loves Rada, but his mother is not happy with it, as Rada’s father refused to marry her years ago. 
Strandja’s Orpheus – that is how Georgi Pavlov /1926 – 2010/ from the village of Visitsa was called. The famous singer was keen on authentic folklore. In 1960 he received the big award at the first folk festival in Bulgaria, held in the village of Gramatikovo. Georgi also won two gold medals at the national gatherings in the town of Korpivshtica, the Nestinarka award in Burgas etc. He stood behind the establishment of the local Strandja Ensemble. Vido le, Biala Balgarko; Todor Sabira, Tragnuva; Strati Angelak Dumashe – these are only some of the brilliant folk songs, performed by Georgi Pavlov. The story of Vida le, Biala Balgarko is a historic one: a young Turk wants pretty Vida and asks his people whether he should take her. Their advice is to ask the girl, but to avoid violence!
Komna Stoyanova /1930 – 1991/ from the village of Drazhevo served as an example for generations of Strandja singers. She recorded first with the Stara Zagora radio and later on moved to Sofia /1953/, joining the Filip Kutev Ensemble. She traveled around the world for 32 years with the formation and made solo concerts in Bulgaria too. Her repertoire had more than 250 songs. Listen next to the engagement song Sednala e Yana v Gradina: Yana sits in garden and two pigeons bring her the message that soon people will ask her for a bride.

Zhechka Slaninkova /b. 1962/ from the village of Indzhe Voivoda received her first gold medal when she was barely 14 years old, at the Koprivshtica gathering in 1976. She graduated the Kotel school of music and became a teacher there. She has released 10 albums with Strandja songs. Done le, Mari Hubava tells the story of a lad in love, who dares to express his feelings.

Zhivka Papancheva /1968/ grew up in a family of musicians in the village of Dolno Ezerovo. She also graduated the Kotel school and taught folk singing there in the course of several years. She has lived in the USA since 1997 with her husband, accordion player Milen Slavov. She is a lecturer on Bulgarian folk singing at the California University in LA and also in the states of Mississippi, Indiana, Louisiana. She was granted a scholarship in 2002 under the program for folk inheritance by the Art Committee in the state of Mississippi, as recognition of her activities. One of her albums, recorded in the USA, Passing with the Time, contains authentic Strandja songs.

Radostina Yovkova /b.1978/ from Grudovo is one of the youngest Strandja singers and belongs to the generation with a university degree. She has won many prestigious awards. Radostina started her professional career in 1995 with the Filip Kutev Ensemble and tours followed in GB, Japan etc. She has also sung in a series of European countries.
The next song from the repertoire of Magda Pushkarova, in the rendition of Radostina Yovkova is related to the most interesting Strandja custom – nestinarstvo, or sansing on fire.

English version: Zhivko Stanchev

По публикацията работи: Valya Bozhilova
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