Category: Bulgaria

Karlo Ensemble – Lukovitsko Horo

It’s hard to refrain from tapping out the driving, complex rhythm to this lively piece of Bulgarian urban folk music – the Lukovitsko Horo, a dance originating from northern Bulgaria. This performance stems from the mid-20th century sometime, though it’s a little hard to pin down an exact date of release or recording. As I mentioned in a previous post featuring Bulgarian music, in 1947-1948, all the numerous Bulgarian independent labels (a vibrant bunch!) were nationalized by the Communist government and folded into the state-run label known as Radioprom. After a few years, Radioprom became Balkanton – the label featured here. However, both Radioprom AND Balkanton reissued earlier folkloric performances that had been originally issued on those independent labels (as well as a host of nationalistic performances – folk soloists were rare). I know that this record previously appeared on the Radioprom label – I suppose it’s conceivable that it originally appeared, earlier, on one of those lovely independent labels of 1930s Bulgaria: London, Balkan, Mikrophon, Orfei, Arfa…we have not forgotten you!

But, enough about label minutiae. Karlo Aliev’s brass band is performing this horo in 9/8 (or daičovo), and he was an important musician in Bulgaria. He was Romani, and was part of a lineage of musicians. Primarily, he was a trumpet player, and his ensemble recorded for numerous Bulgarian labels throughout the 1930s, recording tracks for Orfei, London, and Radioprom. His son, Boris Karlov (1924-1964) was a famed accordion player who began his career playing tambura in his father’s orchestra on Radio Sofia. In fact, Boris was known to later play the flip side of this record by his father, the song Eleno Mome. Boris’ son, Kalcho Karlov, played drums in his grandfather’s band – perhaps even on this track. I was unable to track down the names of the performers, but for other, similar recordings, Karlo’s ensemble featured Demir Cholakov on clarinet, Assen Radenov on violin, and Kalcho Karlov on drums. However, one can distinctly hear the sound of other brass instruments as well (a flugelhorn, maybe? tuba?) on this recording.

Bulgarian urban folk featured rhythms and melodies of traditional Bulgarian music, played on non-folkloric instruments. As Lauren Brody points out in her notes to her CD Song of the Crooked Dance (the essential CD collection of Bulgarian 78s available on Yazoo), folk musicians were “quite conversant with non-traditional instruments” and used them frequently in recordings. This is an all-out romp – with some shouts near the end!

Karlo Ensemble – Lukovitsko Horo

Technical Notes
Label: Balkanton
Issue Number: 1059
Matrix Number: 1991

Much information gleaned from Lauren Brody’s notes, Larry Weiner, David Murray and Peter Jaques.

Gergana Tsekova – Kako Todoike, Todoike

tsekovaWhile recording in Bulgaria did begin as early as the first decade of the 20th century, it wasn’t until the 1930s when independent Bulgarian labels began to crop up that recording began in full-swing. To compete with Odeon, Pathé, and HMV, local labels like Orfei, Arfa, Balkan, and London Record were recording at a rapid clip. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if these records received little distribution beyond cities in Bulgaria – finding folkloric Bulgarian records in anything above hopelessly worn condition is difficult.

Today’s piece was released on the Radioprom label…but perhaps not at first. The Communist government consolidated (and liquified) the assets of all active Bulgarian independent record labels as part of a nationalization process in the late 1940s, with everything then lumped together under the state-owned label Radioprom. Despite the amount of propaganda released by Radioprom, they did release much folkloric music as well – and re-released material that had previously appeared on other labels. In this case, it appears that Ms Tsekova’s piece originally appeared on the Orfei label, where she recorded a number of tracks in her apparently short-lived career on 78s. And as for Radioprom, it eventually became known as Balkanton in the LP era.

Ms Tsekova sings with the Peyu Budakov brass band (along with a clarinetist, a violinist, a lute player, and an accordion). The exact transliteration of the Cyrillic title, “Kako Todoike, Todoike” may be slightly incorrect. Kako means “older sister” in Bulgarian – and the female name that comes closest in Bulgarian is “Todorke.” I’m reasonably sure this is a song about Todorke, the older sister, though any help is of course appreciated. The equally terrific flip side to this record appears on Song of Crooked Dance, on Yazoo Records. Lauren Brody’s notes for her CD provided some of the information here, as well.

So, here we are with more forgotten sounds, the marks etched in the grooves, as fine as dust…

Gergana Tsekova – Kako Todoike, Todoike

Technical Notes
Label: Radioprom
Issue Number: 1042
Matrix Number: 1610

Parush Parushev – Nazko

In geeky fashion I’m sure, I’ve waxed rhapsodic about the Columbia label’s green “F” series of the late 1920s in previous posts. While a large amount of the Columbias on this series featured music recorded by immigrants in the United States, they also released some incredible imported recordings, perhaps to test U.S. markets out.

Columbia seems to have preferred this method with at least some of the wonderful music of Bulgaria. They released a mere 39 Bulgarian records in the United States (compared to the 500+ Irish recordings they released during the same period). This is one of them, from ca. February 1927.

Parush Parushev (credited as “P. Parusheff” here) was a street singer from Plovdiv, who accompanies himself on harmonium on this track. Street singers with harmoniums were apparently a common sight in Bulgarian cities until late in the 20th century. I’ve listened to this record many times, and it still delights me.

Parush Parushev – Nazko

For more Parushev and incredible Bulgarian music, check out Song of the Crooked Dance on Yazoo (where I gleaned the existing info on Parushev).

Also, I’m going on a much needed break for two weeks, one that will hopefully be devoid of most electronic media. I will be back, however, on the 22nd with more 78s, more special guest posts, and more of what you’ve come to expect.

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: 29004-F
Matrix Number: H1146 (1-B-4)