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When music touches your heart, or why foreigners fall in love with Bulgarian folklore

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Photo: Veneta Nikolova

Love of Bulgaria’s songs and dances brought hundreds of visitors from abroad to the festival in Koprivshtitsa during the weekend at the beginning of August.

People from the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, France, the UK spent their time singing, humming, taking pictures, as they watched and listened to the performances on the six stages set up on the meadows around. A Radio Bulgaria reporter saw that for them, Bulgarian folklore is more than a passing interest, it is a true passion to which they devote their leisure time.

The popularity of amateur Bulgarian folklore groups has been growing abroad, and as people join them they fall in love with the magic of the rhythms and colours of the Balkans. For example, two years ago, Julie Gallifet from Toulouse in the South of France, who lives in Belgium, joined a 50-member international Balkan folklore group. Julie sings from the heart, and gets emotional when she talks about Bulgarian music:

Julie Gallifet

It touches me deeply. Just talking about it brings tears to my eyes. It is very powerful, and this here just cannot be described. And I saw all of these people – young, old – and I heard these sounds which vibrate deep inside me. I am here with my group, we shall perform on stage. The participants in the festival are so beautiful – the traditional clothes, the colours, the songs, the smiles, the dancing… To me that is magic!

Mariza is Greek, she comes from the island of Lesbos. She is a musician - she plays the accordion and is also conductor of a polyphonic choir. She says she draws inspiration from Balkan rhythms, and explains that she is in Koprivshtitsa for the festival and the music, but most of all for the authenticity of the traditions presented, and goes on to add how impressed she is with the incredibly beauty of the town of Koprivshtitsa.

But it looks like the biggest group of foreign visitors coming here are from the Netherlands. Moving from stage to stage we met Toke and Caspar, and, as it turned out, their bond with Bulgarian folklore goes way back.

Toke and Caspar