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Touching the depths of human soul with a song

Remembering unique folk singer Komnia Stoianova

Photo: BNT

"Natural sound, neat and intricate ornamentation, and unmistakable style. She presented to us the most perfect way of Strandzha singing," this is how folklorist Maria Kouteva describes her admiration for Komnia Stoianova, with whom she worked for many years in the "Philip Koutev" National Folklore Ensemble. The art of the famous singer is highly valued to this day and is seen as a model of ancient Strandzha singing and repertoire.

Born in the Strandzha village of Drachevo near the town of Sredets in southeastern Bulgaria, she grew up in a family of musicians and the folk song was part of both workdays and holidays.

From her early years at school, she invariably participated in school celebrations with her favorite slow songs. In 1951, at the District Folklore Festival in Burgas, she placed first. Her warm, caressing voice always caught the audience's attention. "A bright voice sang and swayed… A voice that finds its way into the human soul" - this is how the great folk singer Magda Pushkarova remembered her first meeting with her future friend, which took place shortly before Komnia's participation in the same festival. The already popular singer encouraged the shy girl. Komnia was not only the winner, but also received a personal invitation from Philip Koutev (chairman of the jury) to join the newly-formed Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances - Sofia. In 1953 she became part of it, leaving "her Strandzha mark" in the repertoire of the ensemble.

In the same year she won first prize at the International Youth Festival in Bucharest. Together with the Ensemble, but also as an independent performer, Komnia participated in a number of concerts in Bulgaria and around the world. The singer had a repertoire of 250 Strandzha songs, most of which are preserved in the BNR audio fund. Georgi Draganov, author of a book about her life and work, takes us back to the magic of patriarchal life - a source of wisdom and songs inherited by the famous Strandzha singer:

"Our house was 200 meters away from the house of Komnia. When I opened the window, I could hear her and see her. That's how I listened to her songs. There was a lot of farm work going on in the village in the summer and I was looking forward to that time as she sang the most then. I didn't move from the window and even my mother did not scold me, she understood me. I remember people gathering around their house, with the women working outside, and she was always singing. She did not stop singing while working. My father also sang a lot and even gave her a few songs. From him I received the love for our folklore, but from listening to Komnia this became even more pronounced. In the book about her I published 110 songs, as the notes were written down by famous accordionist Todor Prashtakov. I know her whole repertoire. Once my daughter won the grand prize for singing at a contest named after Komnia Stoianova. Back then it was held in our village, before it moved to the town of Sredets under the name "Folklore Wreath". To encourage young singers, the festival has included the Komnia Stoianova Award for best performance of a song from her repertoire. I put a lot of effort into publishing my book and I provided copies to the National School of Folk Arts in Kotel. Before leaving this world, the singer made her last recordings at that school with a team from Radio Stara Zagora - the same radio in which 18-year-old Komnia recorded for the first time. Hopefully young people will look for and read the book. It's important that future generations don't forget her songs."

English: Alexander Markov

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