Monthly Archives: May 2011

A few words about Bulgarian folk jazz – Milena Karadjova


Bulgaria is probably most popular for tourism and travel and also its graceful folk choirs. However, in this country, like everywhere else in the world, there are different musical genres, but I’m not going to consider all forms of music associated with Bulgaria. I find one particular musical form very interesting, namely folk jazz. Folk jazz is simply a combination of traditional folk music with jazz.

Milena Karadjova (properly Милена Караджова), a jazz singer from the Strandzha-Sakar mountain, is one of those Bulgarian singers whose work and style is not commercial at all, but is worthwhile to paying attention to, though. In 2008 she released her first solo album ‘Awakening’ (‘Пробуждане’), which was in the folk-jazz style with folk songs from Rhodopi Mountain. In 2010 she released her second album with songs from Rhodopi Mountain – ‘Between’ (‘Помежду’) . Generally, for a lay person these works may sound like a very original mixture of Slavic and Balkan sounds. It might remind him of some Polish or Russian work joined with exotic musical ornaments, typical for the Balkans and even for Turkish music. But that’s what Bulgarian folk jazz sounds like.

Those more interested in Milena’s work can visit her website: www.asenmilenagroup.com , where four songs from Milena’s album “In the middle land”, can be found, which she recorded with two other musicians as the Asen&Milena Group: Asen Marinov (Асен Маринов) and Hristian Georgiev (Християн Георгиев).  This album will definitely be a treat for those who are folk fans, as these songs are full of the spirit of Bulgarian countryside:  shepherd’s bells mixed with a mountain shepherd’s flute – a kaval and side-drums can be heard, amongst other different sounds. The whole work is buttered with a classical guitar and a light, delicate and intense vocal by Milena Karadjova.

One day, I hope hear these magnificent sounds live, but I’m afraid it won’t be possible without travelling to one of the ethnic music festivals in Sofia or other cities in Bulgaria.

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Suite Gothique by Léon Boëllmann


Last week, while listening to a BBC Radio 2 programme, I heard a very interesting musical composition, Suite Gothique by a French composer Léon Boëllmann (1862 – 1897). I have to confess, I’ve never heard either about this composer or about this musical piece.

 Unfortunately, this composer seems to be forgotten by those who write musical history textbooks. You can venture to check this, but in books I am familiar with, under letter ‘B’, you can find the surnames of many other composers such as Bach (and his sons), Baird, Bartók, Beethoven, Bellini, Berg, Berlioz, Bizet, Brahms, Bruckner, Buxtehude, but not Boëllmann.

According to  www.classiccat.net,  Boëllmann composed about 160 pieces in all genres and his best-known composition is Suite Gothique, which he composed two years before his death  in 1895. Basically, Suite Gothique is a piece designed for organ and consists of four parts: Introduction – Choral; Menuet Gothique; Prière à Notre-Dame and Toccata.

Toccata in particular is the most absorbing; it leaves the field clear for a good organist, so he can show his skills with as high level of technique and performance. Generally, this piece is very dynamic and might be breathless, especially when performed by good musicians and in a new interpretation. Probably, further contemplation on Suite Gothique is useless. I would only say that Black Dyke Band’s – from Queensbury, West Yorkshire –  version of this piece would definitely suit my idea of a good rendition.

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