Bulgaria is usually divided into 6 or 7 folklore regions. Each of them has its history and local characteristics. The people wear different traditional costumes, sing different songs. It is very hard to imagine that in such a small country as Bulgaria there can be so many differences, but yes – there are. A big part of the traditional Bulgarian folklore has been saved through the centuries and is still being studied and explored. Here is some information on the folklore regions.
“Shopluka” – The Sofia region
Population around Bulgarian capital Sofia in a wide perimeter - the whole Central Western Bulgaria - carries proudly its name - "shopi". They are famous with their sense of humor, with their rough temper, skepticism and suspiciousness as well as with their unique folk music, song and dance. It looks like out of spite their music is also completely different from the one in closer or remote folk regions Women’s “shopi” songs are incredibly poetic and full of lyrics. They are absolutely contrast with the rough shopi’s character, with strong "dissonant" two-parts singing that singers perform their old ritual, labor, dance, tragic and joyful.
The North District
North Bulgaria region includes the lands between Danube river to the North and Balkan mountain to the South. These are ancient Mizia lands. The population in the western part is a local one, while in the middle and especially in the eastern part it is mixed with settlers from Eastern Thrace. They have settled here after the liberation from Turkish yoke /1878/. This mixture of Bulgarians from different regions reflects in the music as well. North Western Bulgaria has olden songs and instrumental folk music. Primitive ritual melodies - for wedding, at dry etc. are preserved here. They sound strange to the modern ear - they are built only of one or two tones, and have thrifty rhythmic. Labor’s songs - harvesters’, shepherds’ etc. also carry the primeval characteristics when the song had been a symbol - it had impact upon the Nature. These songs are attended by exclamations on high pitches and are performed mostly by two solo singers - one of them begins and the other one responds. In the near past hundred dance songs had been sung at the great square horo-dance in the village center or at small dances far from the central parts, in hamlets.
The Dorbrudja folklore district is situated in the northeast part of Bulgaria. It is surrounded by the Danube river in the north, by Black Sea in the east and by the North folklore area in the west. It characterizes by rich and varied music folklore. During the Liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 large groups of the Plovdiv region population, as well as from the Balkan Mountains moved to the Dobrudja region. There are two musical styles in Dobrudja - the Thracian one and that of the mountain-dwellers, which gradually join the depths of the ancient local traditions. Along with the Thracian and mountain-dwellers songs, there are heard richly embellished, unmeasured harvest, table and working-bees' songs. The Dobrudja slow song is sung equally by men and women. Here, unlike many other regions, women usually sing in a higher register and closed.There has been created a new style in folk music, characteristic only for the Dobrudja region, which is performed by rebec, shepherd's pipe and bagpipe. Partcularly well-known are the Dobrudja dance melodies ruki, sboreni, ruchenitsa and others.
Thrace – Plovdiv region
Thrace is the largest folk music region in Bulgaria. It is situated to the East - from Pazardjik field till Black Sea coast – South Bulgaria. Long ago famous folk singers, players and dancers have spread its fame in the whole Bulgaria and abroad.
Here in Thrace we find the richest palette of folk songs from all genres: numerous peasants labours’ songs – in summer the large fields have always been sounded by rich ornamented harvesters’ songs; in autumn and winter the most beautiful melodies have been sung at working-bees. A lot of famous singers in Bulgaria prefer the local melodies and songs. They are not only performers but also interpreters of these old Thrace songs in their own style. Dance songs are countless – the Thrace "pravo horo" is an unending one. People dance it in hours; they wind it on the large horo-places and the tireless women sing song after song.
It is situated in the Southwest Bulgaria. Folk songs and instrumental music could be heard in every village, every town in that region. Here songs are sung in two voices and in two groups. The group consists mostly from three singers (women) - first one is singing the melody, the others - the second voice, which is usually lying on the Tonic. First group begins, the second - responds. The result is a beautiful, almost choir sound. Very often dissonant intervals are formed between first and second voice - small or large seconds. Such "harmony" is very unusual for untrained listener, but singers are very delighted of that sharp sound. "Like bells, " they say. This sound reminds them the bells ringing of the numerous flocks that graze on the fertile meadows, where Pirin, Belasitza and Ograjden Mountains surround every lowland. Songs accompanying the folk dances are particularly beautiful. Here the measure 7/16 with prolonged.
The Rhodopi Mountains
The mountain of ancient Orpheus - the Rhodopes, South Bulgaria, is the most differentiated as a region. Here the population sings unique in their musical and poetical structure folk songs and it has its own musical instruments and dances. During the Great migration of peoples, around VII century AD the Slavonic tribe "Smoleni" took here the central place and the main settlement in the mountain region now - Smolyan - inherited their name. In the Rhodopies region everybody sings - men, women, solo and together. Most of the melodies are constructed in the old mode Pentatonic. This ancient structure of the melody gives majestic sonority to the slow, rich ornamented songs. They tell about the heard shepherds’ life and the love sorrow of the lasses, who are waiting for them to come back from the White Sea region where they pasture their flocks during the winter time.Almost the whole population sings its songs in one voice.
For all the information and photoes on this topic we thank a lot to our friends of the only private folk dance group in Bulgaria, the so called "Bulgare" ensemble. If you come to Bulgaria and have some time, try to get tickets for their amazing dancing performance "This is Bulgaria". It will help you feel the spirit of the country, and experience an imaginery trip around the whole country, through dances and songs. For more information on their show and activities, please, visit their web page here.