Improvisation and Variation: Post-Communist Bulgaria Challenges National Folklore Tradition

Elka Agoston-Nikolova
2008 Folklore  
The paper discusses the tension in post-totalitarian Bulgaria between the national folklore tradition of Communist times with governmentsanctioned state ensembles and festivals and age-old Balkan multiculturalism now represented in a westernized free-market consumer society, where spontaneity and improvisation bridge the urban and the rural, the local and the global. Folk pop, folk jazz or other mixed genres reverberate with humor, parody and, above all, freedom and love of improvisation. Key
more » ... rds: chalga, high and low culture, individual dynamic folklore improvization, national folklore tradition, state folk ensembles, wedding orchestras "Communism was... modernity streamlined, purified of the last shred of the chaotic, the irrational, the spontaneous, the unpredictable." (Bauman 1992: 2) The Communist view on folk and intelligentsia focused on the necessity to preserve and elevate folk culture. This idea was not new. Ever since the 19th century when Herder's theory of Volk und Seehle conquered the National Revivals on the Balkans, folklore traditions became part of the national ideology and great efforts were made not only to preserve the folklore tradition but also to purify it of contamination. The Communist state spent generously on new state and amateur folk ensembles, village music collectives, national folk festivals, building up a wide network of professionally trained folk musicians. In contrast, the 'town culture' of before the Second World War, which developed in a multiethnic environment, was rejected. In the towns Bulgarian folk music mingled with Jewish and Gypsy improvisational talent on numerous occasions: at fairs, markets, birthday and name day celebrations, wedding feasts. Since the 19th century, the town culture of the Balkans has been a meeting point of different music traditions.
doi:10.7592/fejf2008.39.agoston fatcat:azmxnyk3ybgvpgrysx4gzar4bu