The Bulgarian people's folklore world is unique. And no matter whether it is associated with songs for weddings, grape picking or harvesting, with cradle songs or working bee refrains, with a quick Ruchenitsa dance, slow Horo ring dance or Koukeri masked dancers' games, with a bird, engraved on a heavy belt buckle, with a painted earthenware pitcher or an exquisite wood-carving, this world has always been alive and captivating.
The striking, life-affirming and expressive sounds, rhythms and colours of Bulgarian folklore transcend differences, state frontiers and language barriers, and as every true work of art, touch the heart, arousing amazement and admiration, gratitude and reverence for the creative genius of the people.
The Bulgarian folklore is rooted far back deep into the past. It has preserved the customs of one of the oldest European peoples. In this sense, Bulgarian folklore is a gene bank of the Paleo-European cultural heritage.
Having inherited age-old traditions, inspired by the native landscape and carrying the rich mentality of generations of Bulgarians, the works of Bulgarian folklore come to life naturally, like the breathing of people, whose life passes in these wonderful native places. The popular creative person spontaneously shares the quivers of his heart with friends, relatives and neighbours, and often confesses to himself, too, his joys, fears and his hopes. And employing the entire strength of his creative nature, he puts together a moving and influencing world, touching by its frankness, beauty and simple truths of life: about loyalty and striving, about sadness and love, about power and beauty, about everything that the eyes relish or that shakes the soul. Shining in this captivating poetic world are cherry eyes, and basil-like eyelashes, quivering under woollen braids-like outlined eye-brows; braids of hair, like snakes, swing on the lovely body of maidens, or hair spreads like golden wheat in the moonlight. And when the people sense that love and sadness become intolerable to man, that the passions are not subordinate to anything earthly, with the amazing simplicity of the creative men of genius, they populate their works with unearthly beings and cosmic forces. And the Sun brides start shining like gold; a wonderfully beautiful girl sighs after a horrible dragon; valiant young men compare their strength with heaven and the stars. The wooden kaval pipes lovingly play next to dark nightly wells, and ethereal wood nymphs steal male shirts and fascinate men's hearts.
The Bulgarian music folklore, produced as a result of the tradition and the overall development of the common Bulgarian folklore style, is characterized by exceptional wealth of metre and rhythm. Sound-making, specific for folk singing, is unique, as well. The Bulgarian singing in two voices, as part of the multi-voice music performance, singing with an "open" throat, the calls, the making of an Oh-sound, the slow trembling of the voice, the interflowing, "the shaking" (an original melody decoration with the involvement of the throat, whereby the tone is split into pieces) and many more ornaments, amazing the hearer, continue to impress the world to this day, too. A true mystery these Bulgarian voices are...
What draws the attention both in the songs and in the dances are the mixed rhythms and uneven times. The complicated intonations and rhythms, combined with a great diversity of movements, steps, leaps and dynamic contrasts arouse admiration in everyone, having got in touch with the musical and dancing wealth of the Bulgarians. Quite a few of the steps, movements and postures of the body recreate the movements of the animals in Nature and are evident even in the names of the dances (A Bear's Dance, a Hare Game, Beetle Perching). Others include certain motions, related to the working activities of the Bulgarian people (digging, harvesting, cutting wood, sowing) or are imitations of crafts (a Potter' Horo Ring Dance, a Butcher's Horo Ring Dance). Still others are associated with various rites, rituals and customs (the Peperouda [Butterfly] Dance, the Nestinari [Fire Dancers] and the Koukeri [Masked Dancers] games).
As soon as they have come into being, the songs and dances of the Bulgarian people have been a means of communication. Their folk art has been closely connected with their way of life and with the world and the people around. Having recreated what he has experienced in a song or in a dance, in a character or a colour pattern, man is in a hurry to share it with the rest, preserving his individual, characteristic way of expression.