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Nedyalka Keranova: “A folk singer cannot learn how to sing, he or she is born a singer”

Photo: archives

One of Bulgaria’s unique folk singers with songs from the region of Thrace Nedyalka Keranova was born in the village of Tatarevo, Southeastern Bulgaria, on 24 April 1941. At age 13 she won her first distinction. Together with fellow folk singers Magda Pushkarova and Boris Karlov she travelled Bulgaria to sing at weddings and other celebrations. In 1956 she joined as soloist the folk music ensemble in Plovdiv. Three years later Philip Kutev invited her to the State Folk Ensemble in Sofia where she worked for ten years. She sang with almost all famous folk bands in Thrace and was recognized as the pioneer of Bulgarian wedding music. 

Bands used to appear on weddings and other family occasions even before the Liberation of Bulgaria from Turkish rule in 1878. However this trend prospered in the 1970s. Nedyalka Keranova was among the singers whose careers focused on this practice. Moreover, she created her quite characteristic vocal style with a specific vibrato.

To commemorate her great contribution to Bulgarian folk music, now the First National Competition With the Songs of Nedyalka Keranova is a already a fact. It was held last week in the village of Mineralni Bani, Haskovo region. Singers from different age groups took part in the race. Talented and in love with folk music, they are all followers of great Keranova. Most often performed was her masterpiece ballad, Karadja Spoke to Rusanka. Its first recording was made at the Bulgarian National Radio, then Radio Sofia, in 1960.

The Grand Prix and the Mayor’s Prize in the competition With the Songs of Nedyalka Keranova went to the youngest singer Donko Markov aged 10 – from Varna. Our reporter Julia Gatderova talked to the boy:

„I have been singing since age 4. Many people help in that like my mom, dad, granny and my folk music teacher at the music school Pavlinka Todorova. My father can play the accordion, and my mom loves to sing. I have learned all the song from them. As the youngest participant in the competition I felt well. I am never shy or stressed when I sing. I presented the song Manolcho Took a Seat and I Had Drunk Wine, and I know other songs of Nedyalka Keranova such as I Had Not Come, Kalino and As You Sit and Watch, Kino, Kinche. Other folk singers that I love are Valkana Stoyanova, Boris Mashalov and many others. I plan to devote my life to music.”

In the men’s professional category the prizes went to Blagoy Manchev from Plovdiv and Dimitar Mitrev from Sofia. In the women’s professional category two renowned wedding singers were singled out – Tania Marinova from Plovdiv and Nadka Petrova from Karlovo.

The first prize for amateurs in the folk singing competition named after Nedyalka Keranova went to Velichka Kostova from the town of Merichleri. She sang the song Mother Arranged an Engagement for Radka.  

It has become clear from the first edition of the folk song competition With the Songs of Nedyalka Keranova that the folk icon has a few followers among young folk singers. She was remarkable not only with her powerful deep voice and virtuoso dynamics but also with a deep fusion with the lyrics and the story of the song. The lesson she left for younger generations is that the song is a state of mind, a tale narrated and experienced, with the singer spanning the bridge to listeners. Plamena Ilieva, a young singer from Burgas, was also awarded at the competition. With her distinct alto reminiscent of Nedyalka Kertnova’s voice she was highly appreciated by both the audience and the jury.

English version: Daniela Konstantinova
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