Since backpacking across Europe this summer, I periodically find myself craving the isolated and anarchic places in the Balkans I was overjoyed to experience. I constantly find myself wishing I could smoke cigarettes indoors. I daydream about the Aegean water and the Greek food and the Turkish music and the Cyrillic alphabet and the people. I'm already planning new journeys in my mind, but I have no idea when I will have the liberty of taking them.
My nostalgia also makes me wonder if being a fragmented, globalized person is a nationality or an allegiance in and of itself. Can one convert to gypsy-ism? Knowing the little I do about Roma from playing some of their music, I'm pretty sure that's impossible, and somewhat naive.
So why don't I just share some photographs instead?
This was taken in the village of Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria at a national folk music and dance festival they host once every 5 years. I'm the dancer in the orange-y red dress towards the right.
A disorganized album with a few of my photos from the Balkans can be found here:
I have an entire memory card full of source recordings from the Bulgarian folk music festival I haven't looked at in months. Whenever I upload them, I'll post a few here.
One of the most sobering aspects of my experience in Bulgaria is the fact that when the next Koprivshtitsa festival rolls around, more Bulgarian dialects and traditional music and dancing will be lost forever. An American musician we met on the train from Istanbul to Sofia put it this way, "Better get good source recordings at Koprivshtitsa, because you are going to hear music that may never be heard again. Someday there will just be the one Bulgarian dance-- the one Bulgarian folk song," which is tragic for an ancient country with incredible diversity in culture, folk art, and dialects.
The locals we met our first night in Sofia were confused about why we Americans were visiting their country. They told us, "we want to go to America-- there is nothing here." When we told them that we came to Bulgaria because of the folk music and dancing, they thought we were crazy. One woman said, "I hate that music," while bad English-language techno ironically played in the background of the club we were in. As the night progressed, the locals persuaded us to sing a Bulgarian song. We sang a three-part arrangement of a folk song called "Melai Doina." The woman who said she hated her own country's folk music started to cry. She told us, "you are more Bulgarian than we are."
And she didn't even see the Japanese Bulgarian Women's Choir perform at Koprivshtitsa.
Globalization is strange. There's infinitely more to be said about that. Throw post-communism into the mix, and it gets weirder and more depressing.