Various Artists

Bulgaria: Songs From Nedelino, Tradition of the Rhodopes

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Nedelino is a small town in the eastern part of the Rhodopes range (itself located in the southern center of Bulgaria), 24 kilometers north of the Greek border. Because of relative isolation when Turks Islamized nearby populations, the people of Nedelino developed a distinctive form of popular song, rooted in pre-Islam Bulgarian tradition yet quite original. Often antiphonal (two singers or groups responding to each other), the songs feature a second part that mimics the movements of the main melody, following close but not quite, only enough to create dissonant intervals. This album documents a tradition slowly vanishing. The group recording of six female singers and one male on bagpipe and vocals, all from Nedelino, was recorded in a Parisian studio in March 2001, following their appearance at the fifth Festival de l'Imaginaire. Their repertoire of short songs include love, evening, wedding, and funeral songs, plus a number of dvouglas, Nedelino's unique song form. Not all tracks feature the full choir; many put Svetla Tchakarova and Aneta Emilova under the spotlight. The former is particularly gifted, her warm voice rich with emotion. Bagpipe player Serafim Kafedjiev occasionally provides the second voice or adds a drone that strengthens the dissonances, making the songs sound all the more unusual. This dissonance may be perceived as irritating at first, but after a while it becomes a charming feature (not to mention the technical prowess involved). Kafedjiev sings on two tracks (a solo and a duet with Tchakarova), providing a nice change of color toward the end of the disc. Well recorded and more authentic than some of Mystères des Voix Bulgares and Trio Bulgarka's repertoires, this music speaks to the soul.

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