By AHAD SHAHID
Five Bulgarian musicians with three droning bagpipes, a bass drum, a hang drum and a youthful audience enabled a fun, yet peculiar, Wednesday evening outdoor performance last week.
Brought to campus by assistant professor of music, Mark Snyder, the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria were tasked with performing in the first outdoor concert the Hurley Convergence Center’s courtyard has seen.
Andreev, the bilingual leader of the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria, dressed in traditional clothing from the Rhodope mountain region in Bulgaria, spoke about the group. Andreev, at the event, discussed between songs how tradition is alive and well in the Rhodope mountains.
“We wear the same clothes that the previous generation wore,” Andreev said.
He also spoke about how the clothes were made from materials found locally. Clad in traditional brown and black vests with intricate sewing and coffee colored pants, the traditional clothing allowed the music to be enjoyed fully, with a full performance underway.
Onlookers stopped by on their way down campus walk to peer into the HCC’s courtyard, taking a small break to appreciate the unexpectedness of the performance.
Sonically the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria’s kaba gaidas, the folk bagpipes of the Rhodope mountain region, carried intense reverberations throughout the amphitheater. A helicopter passing by was even toned out by the loud droning of the bagpipes.
Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria’s trio of bagpipes sound like a trio of sheep, in key, yet of different intervals. The bass drum sounds like a marching giant, herding the sheep around. Most of these traditional folk songs begin with a low drone, a sound similar to multiple bass vocalists humming the same note.
When Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria’s vocalist enters into the fray, she sounds powerful and stern, commanding the bagpipes to follow her melody. One song had a duet between two vocalists, a song with quite a traditional theme. The duet was a man trying to convince a woman to dance, and her claiming that she cannot, as it is against her family’s wishes. A Bulgarian “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria’s set concluded with an interactive horo dance, with a group of about 20 audience members following steps led by the female vocalist of the group, Todora Vasileva.
Joined by raised hands like Catholics saying grace, the dancing group dashed in a line and after every few steps kicked low with the left foot, and a complimentary right foot kick on the following beat.
A favorite tune of the audience was a duet between the hang drum player, Peter “Buny” Yordanov, and Vasileva. The duet started off with a hang drum loop spelling chords beautifully across campus, and soon after Vasileva’s voice carried the melody of the song.
Most songs that the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria played had a similar structure. First a droning introduction is played courtesy of the bagpipes, followed by the song’s melody played by the same instrument. The vocalist then enters, doubling the bagpipe melody, and finally the bass drum enters to add motion into the song.
Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria is currently on a tour of the United States, known worldwide for their kaba gaida tutorial videos online.
Drake Dragone, a student at the University of Mary Washington was in disbelief about the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria’s arrival on campus.
“How– how?” said Dragone. “I assumed it happened because of Mark and his many connections. A really big Bulgarian group came here…why? It’s awesome.” Snyder is famously known for bringing strange artists on campus.
Shannon Hauser attending the event said, “Mark is always inviting me to crazy music things. All sorts of weird things,” pointing at and referencing the peculiarity of the Bulgarian bagpipers. Snyder answered Dragone’s question on how the bagpipers arrived on campus. “There are a ton of people out there that do amazing stuff, and so whatever they’re doing you say yes to.”
Snyder was contacted by Multiflora Productions promoter, Jim Thomson. Thomson sent Snyder audio recordings and videos of the Kaynak Pipers of Bulgaria and Snyder decided to host the Bulgarian pipers for a concert and a masterclass the following afternoon.
Multiflora Productions is a D.C. based showcase of international and local artists, dedicated to hosting multicultural concert experiences for both performers and listeners. Thomson has been offering Snyder many hosting opportunities, and will most likely bring more people to the university.
“Love is something that our bagpipes bring,” said Cvetelin Andreev, one of three master bagpipers and the translator for the touring group.