Bulgaria Bookmark and Share

The musical history of Bulgaria is heavenly influenced by a music tradition which is called the music of Thrace. The Thrace region can be pinpointed as the region in Southeastern Europe spread over southern Bulgaria (Northern Thrace), northeastern Greece (Western Thrace), and European Turkey (Eastern Thrace).

Traditional Thracian dances are usually swift in tempo and are mostly circle dances in which the men dance at the front of the line. In the socialist period, this genre was held in disfavor by the establishment for many reasons. Such a dissipated, oriental, low class music had no place in a forward-looking, modern socialist state. Underground it kept on developing though into Chalga (Чалга) or  Pop folk, incorporating a blend of Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and Roma (Gypsy) influences, as well as motifs from even flamenco and klezmer music. It is known for repeating musical themes and dance rhythms and its style of dancing called kyuchek in Bulgarian. You could say it’s the Bulgarian variety of the Greek laïkó. Many Bulgarian artists adapted Greek music into Bulgarian songs such as the Kristal Orchestra and others.

Traditional Bulgarian music has had more international success than its neighbors due to the breakout international success of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, a woman's choir that has topped world music charts across Europe and even farther abroad.

True popmusic took a long time to get picked up in Bulgaria. A first attempt by singers Pasha Hristova and Mariya Neykova met an untimely end due to a plane crash in 1971. In the seventies an act like Tonika (with slick Italian-styled pop) had some succes. A pop singer starting a lengthy career in the sixties lasting untill today is Lili Ivanova who is considered a pop-icon in Bulgaria. The male equivalent is Emil Dimitrov, who also is a composer himself. Both were wildly popular in the sixties in Bulgaria and across the Soviet Union. Following in their slipstream were singers like Bogdana Karadocheva and Yordanka Hristova.

In the underground prog-rock was made by bands like Shturtzite, Diana Express (whose singer Vasil Naidenov started a solo career in the 80's) and FSB (or Formation Studio Balkantone). The Bulgarian progrock wasn't as psychedelic and heavy as in other countries mostly due to the fact that recording techniques were extremely poor in Bulgaria. This underground scene evolved in the eighties in a punkscene starting with Novi Cvetya (”New Flowers”) performing punk rock as early as 1979. Punk rock didn’t have it easy in communist Bulgaria, a country in which all aggressive rock music was officially banned. Most punk recorded their music in neighbouring Yugoslavia.

It wasn't untill the end of the eighties and start of the nineties that popular music really picked up and then especially the heavy metal side of it. This probably due to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Heavy acts like Epizod, Hipodil and Pantommind originated. Nova Generacia makes more dark new wave. In the new millenium more less-heavy acts like Balkandji (mixing Bulgarian folk with rock), Stratia and 032 appeared. One of the more popular pop-artists in the new millenium is Maria Ilieva who combines urban music with local elements.

Since the new millennium Bulgaria also sees a rice of artist in the Chalga genre, mixing Turkish, Bulgarian, Arabic and Romani ("Gypsy") influences with modern electronics and housemusic. The result has connections with the ‘Turbo-folk’ genre in Serbia and is not without artistic controversy. The purists find it an insult to the original folklore. However , the performers, usually busty ladies, are wildly popular. Gloria, Ivana and Azis are the best known representatives of the genre since the nineties. In the new age Andrea, Preslava and Cvetelina Ianeva take over the helm as the young generation. Meanwhile more sophisticated soft-pop comes from singer Miro.

Odd one out in this genre is Nina Nikolina. Starting in 1996 wit a combination of new age and pop she slowly incorporates folk elements in her music creating a bridge between the genres.

Thanks to Vall from Bulgaria for his initial additions and Ivo of Music of the Balkans for more finetuning.

Zuris wordpress also released a very interesting background story on the Bulgarian punkscene from 1978: read here







Like us on
Your newsletter
Do you want to receive our monthly newsletter? Just tick in your e-mail adress below and stay in touch.

You will receive an e-mail message (sorry, in Dutch) that you have to confirm.

  EUROPOPMUSIC - Eastern Europe