I understand you are from Bulgaria, and you have a love of Balkan Folklore?
Believe it or not, I am not from Bulgaria! I was born in the United States, in New York City. My dad (who is deceased) was from Puerto Rico. My mother’s family is also from Puerto Rico, although she was born in New York. My love of Balkan folklore started many years ago. I used to listen to shortwave radio in the 1970’s, and in New York there were many foreign radio stations that played music from all over the world. My favorite music was from Latin America and Eastern Europe. My relatives got together on holidays, danced, and played music from Latin America. They had a collection of old LP’s (records, remember those?) My first excursions into folk music outside Latin America were to Germany, Hungary, and what used to be Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. I didn’t discover Bulgarian folk music until much later, when I started dancing.
I enjoy your blog where you share Bulgarian Folk Music and all sorts of interesting things that are included with it, the costumes, and the instruments.
I love it when people read my blog. Maybe because my goal is to make a relatively obscure subject accessible to everyone. I have read blogs on folklore that were scholarly and downright boring. Don’t get me wrong, they provide valuable information the problem is how it’s presented.
I have been writing about Balkan/Bulgarian folklore since 2008. The blog started as a private journal that I kept on the computer. It went public in February 2010. The first few posts were rather silly, I wasn’t taking it seriously. I take it more seriously now, although my funny side always comes out. My family called me the “Alien” because my taste in music was definitely unusual. So I called my journal “Alien from the Planet Bulgaria.” Later when I created the blog I named it “The Alien Diaries.” At first people thought it was about extraterrestrials and UFO’s! Those are on my blog, too, the Bulgarians have an avid interest in these things. There is even a Bulgarian folk song which went into outer space!
You also dance don’t you? Could you tell us more about this, and how long you have been dancing?
I’ve been dancing since 1984. During that time I was working in Manhattan. A friend and colleague of mine used to go to folk dances held every summer in Central Park and she gave me the name of a place downtown where I could learn to dance. The class that best fit into my schedule was the beginner Balkan class on Friday nights. The first time I went I was hooked. Being part of the folk dance community was very rewarding. I had a lot of fun and made a number of friends. Three of us get together almost every Friday night for the dances in Amherst Massachusetts, and there is another group of friends that get together every summer to go to ethnic festivals in this region. When I visit family in New York, sometimes I go to the dances there. I have been amazed at how many people remember me even though I haven’t seen them in years!
Do you have a favorite song, instrument and dance?
Now, that’s a tough question. One of my favorite Bulgarian folk songs went into outer space on the Voyager spacecraft back in 1977. The song is Izlel e Delyu Haidutin, sung by Valya Balkanska. My favorite instrument is probably the gaida (bagpipe) although I couldn’t play one to save my life. It requires a lot of lung power. I like the accordion and the clarinet, too. I played the clarinet for two years, it was part of a course required by my school. Because of this I have a basic grounding in music theory. When I transferred to another school, I never took it up again and haven’t played clarinet in many, many years. My favorite dances are Dospatsko and Mitro from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria. I am also very fond of rachenitsa, of which there are many different varieties, my favorite in this group is one from Kyustendil.
Why do you find Bulgarian music so attractive?
I find Bulgarian music attractive because of its unique sound and unusual rhythms. It is definitely an acquired taste, and many non-Bulgarians love it (except for my family). For a small country, Bulgaria is quite musically diverse. There are seven folklore regions.
Unfortunately I have never been to Bulgaria. A trip there is definitely on my bucket list. I did live in Germany many years ago, before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Back in those days, there was an “Iron Curtain” between the West and the communist controlled Eastern Bloc. My husband was in the U.S. military and in a field where it would have been difficult, if not impossible to visit the Communist-controlled countries, of which Bulgaria was one. My German co-workers, many of who were from East Germany, discouraged my from visiting the East, and told me a number of horror stories, so I never went. I like to visit places off the beaten path, and in Eastern Europe tourists weren’t allowed to do that. When the wall fell, I had three small children. I haven’t been to Europe since. I’m hoping to go back when I retire.
Thanks so much Katley for taking time out of your busy life to give us a look at your passion! If you, our readers, would like to see more of Katley and find out more about her blog "The Alien Diaries", please follow this link.
*** All photos provided by Katley Brown