Preaching to the Choir

Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria - Mechemetio
Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria – Mechemetio
Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria

Mechemetio (Intuition, 2000)

Bulgarian choir music and folk dance drew awareness in the West when 4 AD Records released records by the choir phenomenon Le Mystere des Vois Bulgares back in the late 1980’s. While the world music genre was beginning to formulate around that time, it was the alternative music crowd, especially fans of Goth music that embraced Bulgarian choir music. A few years later, Kate Bush invited another Bulgarian vocal group, Trio Bulgarka to lend their talents to a couple of tracks on her release, Sensual World (Bush is one of those artists never mentioned for her contribution to world music).

Seemingly Bulgarian vocal music disappeared from public awareness even though other vocal-centered groups such as the Finnish group Varttina and the Italian a cappella quartet, Fauarella give homage to Bulgarian vocal music on their CDs. The Persian-American vocalist Mamak Khadem of Axiom of Choice studied Bulgarian vocal styles and this adds a unique flavor to her vocal palette. So it comes, as a bit of synchronicity that a CD of Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria, recorded in 2000, would cross my path at a time when I am discovering vocal music.Similar to the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria (I am using the English translation), Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria features a full-fledged choir, including 21 of Bulgaria’s brightest vocal talent. Those folks who have been following Bulgarian music will recognize a few of the names of the vocalists, including Nadka Karadzhova, who once sang with the Mysterious Voices. She of course, appears as a soloist on the disc, but she shares soloing duties with a long list of vocalists. The album, Mechmetio was recorded at Hall 11 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, reminding us that the Bulgarian government still exudes pride in one of their national treasures.

Vanya Moneva conducted the choir and Emil Minev produced the recording. The project pays tribute to the great Bulgarian choir composers and arrangers of the past and especially Philip Kutev (1903-82), the man responsible for the more innovative compositions. However, some of the tracks were composed more recently and by new composers. The performance although haunting to some extent also possesses playful elements. The harmonies add a unique dissonance and the songs are also peppered with whoops and crescendos. It’s a complex music that I won’t even try to explain nor could I without ever having studied it. Yet, I do find that it lends itself to a pleasurable listen. For anyone who wishes to delve further into Bulgarian music, I recommend picking up Rough Guides World Music, Volume 1 and read the insightful chapter on Bulgaria or peruse the liner notes that come with the CD.