Music is inseparable from Bulgarian people's daily life and festive activities. Songs have accompanied them both in their work and holiday celebrations, in times of trial, joy or sorrow. Paradoxically, a Bulgarian would sing when in sorrow. Songs were created to any occasion - traditional festival songs (Christmas, Easter, St. George’s Day, praying for rain, etc.); working seasons' songs (harvest season, grape-picking, haymaking, etc.); feast songs, dance songs, refrains, and many others. Regional variations are not strictly delineated, but certain typical characteristics have formed several musical dialects: North-Bulgarian, Dobroudjanian, Thracian, Shopi, of the Pirin Mountains area, of the Sredna Gora region, and Rhodopian.
The distinguishing features of the Bulgarian folk song can be traced along three lines.
It is chiefly HOMOPHONIC. Even when there are two singing parties (choir and choir, soloist and choir), whether they alternate, or one of the parties is leading and the other one follows, the song sounds single-voiced.
Its RHYTHM and VOCAL WEALTH are of a calibre described by the experts as ranging from fantastic richness to primitive monotony. This is achieved by means of diverse time combinations based on EXTENDED TIME. This technique makes Bulgarian folk song unique, while extended time is its distinguishing feature, which is non-existent in the rest of the European music. It is most expressively used in the Rhodopian songs.
The Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 spacecrafts are travelling towards the stars. Each of them carries a gilded copper gramophone record - a message to alien civilizations. In addition to scientific information about the Earth and its inhabitants, the record contains selected pieces of mankind's musical treasury. Along with a Beethoven symphony, there is among them a Bulgarian folk song from the Rhodopes region, performed by Valya Balkanska.
Bulgarians have a preference for the recitative: this is how traditional and epic khaidouk songs are commonly performed. Declamation is melodious, orderly or ornamented, and the melody largely conforms to the lyrics: Christmas carols are cheerful and optimistic; khaidouk songs are wide and free; harvest songs are drawled; the songs of the gourbetchii (seasonal migrants making their living abroad or far from their home places), are drawn out and melancholic.
The style of the Bulgarian folk song is defined as hard owing to the performer's strong voice. Women's voices, though, are clear and silver-toned.
Over 70,000 folk songs have been collected at the Folklore Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. What is more, today the folk song tradition is as alive as ever.
In addition, folk music has quite a significant place in contemporary Bulgarian composers' works.
Bulgarian folk songs and performers are liked and praised in many places around the globe.
The Bulgarian folk music has had a strong impact on modern world music too and has been directly used in a good number of modern musical compositions.
The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices is known and valued world-wide.
Here you can hear some examples of the Bulgarian folklore: