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Todor Todorov – the living encyclopedia of folklore

Photo: library

Among Bulgaria’s folklore musicians Todor Todorov is a true legend. For his knowledge of Bulgarian folklore, especially the performers, he is respected by the most thorough of researchers. And he learnt it all by himself – from recordings and concerts of folk music, from the performers themselves, from the collections of folk songs by the Miladinov brothers, from folklore experts Vasil Stoin, academician Nikolay Kaufman… And, last but not least – from his work as administrative director of the Philip Koutev ensemble. He is owner of a remarkable collection of tapes, gramophone records, audio cassettes, CDs, photographs and publications.

His unconditional love of folk music goes back to his childhood, but with the passing of years it grew to be a passion to which he dedicated himself entirely.

“I was born in Petelovo village on the borderline between the Thracian Plain and the Rhodopes, at an equal distance from Haskovo and from Kurdzhali,” says Todor Todorov. “Electricity came to my village in 1959. Before that I would go to the cultural community club to listen to the radio (it had batteries) and I learnt quite a lot about the famous singers – Vulkana Stoyanova, Boris Mashalov, Mita Stoycheva, Lalka Pavlova, Atanaska Todorova. I went to secondary school in Kurdzhali and there I started buying all folk music records that were released. I only bought a gramophone in 1970 while at university in Moscow.  Until that time I only collected them.”

“Before I started work at the ensemble” he remembers, “I knew all the singers and dancers. I have been with it for 16 years now. I have always endeavoured to keep up with all novelties in the genre. I have made recordings using a tape recorder of all folk music performers from all over Bulgaria and I gradually got to know them.  I have not missed a single concert by the Philip Koutev ensemble ever since 1966.”

Through the years Todor grew to be an unparalleled connoisseur of the folklore regions of the country, and an expert in the history of folk songs and tunes. He has known singers and instrumentalists of all generations who have sought his support and advice. He is in contact with many foreign researchers of Bulgarian folklore. And what he remembers knows no bounds.  He can spend hours telling stories about the musicians he has known, about Philip Koutev, or about his close friend – remarkable clarinet player Prof. Petko Radev.

“With him (Petko Radev), we never missed a festival in Stambolovo, it lasted three days, from daybreak until sundown. These music playing contests were very popular , with the best wedding bands competing. In 1987 two first places were awarded - to Ivo Papazov’s Thrace and Ivan Milev’s Youth, second came Vasko Pruvanov’s Horo, and third – Georgi Yanev’s Orpheus and Nasko Stoev’s Kanarite. These five orchestras had two historic concerts at Universiade hall in Sofia. People from all over the country came, the tickets were sold out, there was even mounted police as if it was a football match. Then they started playing around the country. To begin with experts didn’t think very much of wedding bands, it was only later that they grew so popular. Now the young are still releasing albums of folk music. That is why I am an optimist – as long as Bulgaria exists so will folk music.”

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