October 23, 2016 at Ashkenaz in Berkeley.
In its first Berkeley visit in two years, the internationally renowned Balkan band Bulgarika maintains the hauntingly expressive melodies, irregular rhythms, and fiery dance tempos that Bulgarian music is known for. It features music of cultures from the East and West that have met and meshed in various isolated villages in the mountainous country, giving rise to unique regional blends of music and dance. Alison Fensterstock wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Bulgarika… [is] the real deal. Bulgaria prizes its indigenous folk music as a high art [and] Bulgarika hews faithfully to tradition. Bandleader Nikolay Kolev, a mustachioed virtuoso on the bowed fiddle known as the gadulka, leads a family band as well as Bulgarika; both play traditional and original string music that often recalls Appalachian reels and ballads at their strange, keening best.”
Bulgarika is gadulka (traditional Bulgarian bowed string instrument) maestro Nikolay Kolev, internationally renowned singer Donka Koleva, world-renowned kaval (end-blown flute) player Temelko Ivanov, and tambura (long-necked, two-course fretted lute) player Nikolay Kodzhabashev.
Nikolay Kolev, a native of the Thracian Rose Valley village of Karavelovo, has been playing gadulka since age 10. After graduating from the National School of Folk Arts in Shiroka Luka, Bulgaria, he performed for three years with the Sliven Folk Dance and Music Ensemble. In 1984 he founded the orchestra Sopot, in 1985 the wedding-music ensemble Rozova Dolina, and in 1992 the prize-winning ensemble Balkanski Glasove. In 1994 and 1995 Balkanski Glasove took first prizes at the Varna Festival. In 1999 Kolev was the first Bulgarian to be recognized by the Slavic Heritage Council of America for his outstanding contributions to music.
Donka Koleva is a native of the village of Tuzha in the Stara Zagora region of Thrace. She graduated from the National School of Folk Arts in Shiroka Luka, Bulgaria, and performed for three years with the Sliven Folk Dance and Music Ensemble. She was director of the Folk Song Chorus of Sopot, has been a featured soloist on Bulgarian Radio-TV, participated in numerous singing competitions in Bulgaria and Europe, and has been featured on numerous recordings. In 1997 her recording of “Javore” was named Song of the Year in the Bulgarian national radio competition. Since immigrating to the U.S., she has taught and performed widely across North America, both privately and at numerous camps, festivals and other events.
Temelko Ivanov has been a musician with the State Folk Ensemble Trakia’e since 1996. He graduated with honors from the National School of Music and Dance “Philip Koutev” (1990) and the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts – Plovdiv (2000) with specialties in conducting and music pedagogy. He subsequently received a Master of Arts degree in Performance Arts (2008) from the Academy in Plovdiv. He has served as a lecturer and jury panelist at multiple folklore seminars and competitions in Bulgaria.
Nikolay Kodzhabashev is a soloist with the Sliven Folk Dance and Music Ensemble and a member of the Perla folk band. He graduated from the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts – Plovdiv (2010). He received a Master of Arts degree in performance arts (2011) from the Academy in Plovdiv. He received multiple awards in youth music competitions and First Award of The National Folk Competition for Tambura Performers Rusko Stefanov in 2007 and 2009.