Remember the mellifluously named Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, the a cappella woman's vocal ensemble that thrilled the world music market with its eponymous 1988 release on Elektra/Nonesuch? Remember the group's 1990 follow-up release, the inevitably named The Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, Vol. 2? Remember the 1991 follow-up-up release, the inexorably named The Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, Vol. 3? Remember the 1995 follow-up-up-up release, the thankfully named Ritual? Most listeners don't. For most Western listeners, the appeal of the unbelievable originality, incredible purity, and overwhelming beauty of the initial release seemed to dissipate after the second release and the mysterious world of Bulgarian choral folk music all but disappeared from Western release.
The Academic Folk Choir of the Plovdiv Academy of Music and Dance Arts may not be as mellifluously named as the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, but it is the real thing: an a cappella woman's vocal ensemble with the same unbelievable originality, incredible purity, and overwhelming beauty of its more mellifluously named competition. The same absolutely unexpected but utterly right quality pervades these performances; no matter how strange the music might sound at first, it quickly becomes thoroughly compelling in these performances led by the gifted Vassilka Spassova. The chief difference between the two groups is that the Academic Folk Choir is more willing to take on music that makes more concessions to Western musical tastes. So is most of the music on this epnoymous 2004 initial release on Gega: Mehmetyo, My Love, with its hard harmonies and harsh sonorities, is as sonically bracing as anything by the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria, and Song Improvisation, with its lush thirds and sweet sixths, is as sonically soothing as anything this side of Celine Dion. Gega's sound is deep, full, and real.