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Bulgarian Chalga Music

Music plays an important part in Bulgarian history and culture. It is a vital part in the history and entertainment of the country. Bulgaria has

many national holidays that are widely celebrated in Bulgaria. Celebrations often include traditional Bulgarian folk music and dancers, who dance the traditional style of folk dance, known as Xopo, or Horo in English.

Today chalga is favoured amongst many of the younger generation in Bulgaria. The word 'chalga' is derived from the Turkish language and means 'musical instrument' in Turkish. Chalga is also known as pop-folk in Bulgaria. Chalga is formed from a mixture of Greek, Turkish, Arabic and Roma (gypsy) influences. The style of music and dance is called kyuchek, which is again taken from the Turkish language and is a style of dance and music. The kyuchek style of dance involves a lot of hip-shaking like that of belly dancing.

Chalga has developed through the years and incorporates parts of the traditional Bulgarian folk-lore. Many of the lyrics used in chalga music today are modern, alternative versions taken from traditonal Bulgarian folk-lore, Greek and Turkish music.

During communism, the earlier version of chalga was discouraged; penalties were often issued to those who disobeyed this rule. The provocative style of dancing and its lyrics were seen as controversial and vulgar. Chalga was allowed in Yugoslavia, where the laws were more relaxed, whilst in Bulgaria, the people listened to Serbian and traditional folk-lore during these times.

Following the fall of communism chalga became more popular. People were eager to listen to this modern, controversial exciting music, which just one year before, was considered to be dirty and forbidden.

Since the fall of communism in the 2000's, chalga became one of the most listened to music in Bulgaria. As the lyrics became more open, so did the fans. People generally became more open-minded to events in society. The lyrcs today express feelings about once forbidden topics and openly mention many modern subjects in society today.

Although very popular with the younger Bulgarian population, Chalga has caused a stir with others. Some traditionalists believe that chalga is a tacky, cheap way of expressing the countries life, society and morals. Many have taken a strong dislike to the fact that it is supposed to be an updated version of traditional folk-lore, as well as the artists who dress provocatively and the messages they address to the public.

Modern chalga contains very few similarities to the traditional folk-lore. One of the few connections between the two is the oriental influences and sound, which come from the 'end blown flute' also known as the kaval. The kaval is the main instrument in both traditional folk-lore and chalga.

The kaval or the end blown flute is the main sound heard in modern pop-folk and folk-lore. The instrument has a distinctive sound, which is different from the average flute. The kaval is open at both ends and therefore is played differently to the usual flute.

Chalga or pop-folk as it is also known is now enjoyed by Bulgarians and those from surrounding Balkan countries. Much inspiration is taken from other countries from around the world to create new tunes. Bulgaria also team up with other artists and bands in the world to form potential hits.

Night clubs in Bulgaria often combine a mixture of house music, rap, R&B and pop-folk. Some clubs that only play pop-folk can be very busy, as they are extremely popular. If visiting a chalga club, expect to make reservations in advance or on the day, to ensure a seat or space in the club.

Other music such as rap and house music is becoming increasingly popular in Bulgaria, especially in bigger towns and cities. A variety of Bulgarian, American and other European music is often played in bars, on the radio and on music channels too in Bulgaria.