Our oldest songs reflect the remains of the religiously pegan mindset of the family based community, which mindset after the conversion to Christianity of the Bulgarians is mixed with typical Christian elements. Those songs refer to the former pegan and later Christian rites. The rite does not represent a comlete separation from the labour processes and the production relationships, for they often are present as magical and religious mysteries and actions. The songs liked to the rites have undergone great changes throughout the time; still even now they preserve many ideas based on the pegan mythology and the Christianity that reproduce the naïve ideas of the people of the past centuries. Similar to those songs are the songs that are dedicated to mythological creatures. Most of the traditional baladas count to that type of songs.
Later in the time, we observe the appearance of the songs that describe historical events, feats of heros and men that sacrificed their life for the common wellbeing (“haiduti”), as well as the appearance of the contemporary folk songs.
The issue about the historical development of songs dealing with the country lifestyle, which songs constitute the biggest category of songs, is complicated. The (wo)man in the family and society, the (wo)man and her/his personal and social interactions and relationships constitute the central topic of the songs dealing with the country lifestyle. Those songs provide a vast material for study, enabaling one to understand the economic and social conditions of living, depict the dynamic of the relationships between the members of the society and between the different groups within the society.
The distribution of the songs within those categories is mostly made based on their contents, but the historical principle has priority. In the case of the songs dealing with the country lifestyle, one could see that the contents have lost its initial dependence on definite rites. Within the different categories one has to study the images/figures used, also the lyrical and epical approach toward the reality and of cource the artistic elements used.
The classification we are going to make use of when reviewing the folk songs is as follows:
Songs dedicated to rites
Songs dedicated to rites linked to calendar events and family rituals (such songs are present in the repertoar of the chitalishte /traditional cultural centers/ in Region of Smolyan)
Songs dedicated to Christmas
Songs dedicated to family rituals and weddings
Songs dedicated to myths reflecting the pegan and Christian religious ideas (such songs are present in the repertoar of the chitalishte /traditional cultural centers/ in Region of Smolyan)
Songs about local heros (such songs are present in the repertoar of the chitalishte /traditional cultural centers/ in Region of Smolyan)
Songs about historic events, which cover a vast period of time (XIV-XX century) and concern real historic events and persons, harsh developments during the period of Othoman Yoke, and the struggle for national independence. Those songs are subdivided as follows:
- Songs that depict the Othoman invasion and the suffering of the people (XIV – XVIII century);
- Songs about the struggle for national independence during the XIX century;
- Late historical songs (end of XIX – beginning of XX century).
Songs about men that sacrificed their life for the common wellbeing (“haiduti”). Those songs could also be classified as historical, but due to their ideological content and high poetic qualities played an important role in the people’s life. These songs describe the most important moments in the lifes of the haiduti, like leaving home to live in the woods, the significance of the flag, the role of the woods/mountain, the haiduti’s oath, the gathering of men, the personal moments and the death of the hero. The songs like a classic drama pieces help one to understand better und in detail the struggle of the Bulgarians against the Othoman Empire. There is one more specific aspect covered by these songs, namely the forceful convertion of the Rodopi Mountain’s Chritian population to the Islam and the respective struggle of those people aginst that act of violence.
Songs dedicated to everyday life and social issues (songs that are present in the repertoar of the chitalishte /traditional cultural centers/ in Region of Smolyan):
The thematic of these songs includes family issues, love, labour and profession related issues, social topics.
The socio-economic status of the local population, their everyday way of living and mindset are very well presented in some of the most beautiful songs. The beauty of the Rodpean woman and her high morals form an essential part of the songs. Love finds its place in the songs as well. Listening to such songs, one could see how much the Rodpean wo(man) is ready to sacrificy in the name of love. The craving for love depicted in the songs is so strong, that the people in love can not get over those feelings. Yet, love is a pure feeling and in the songs it is expressed using unobtrusive words.
The mountain /The woods has/have its significant place in the soul of the people of the Rodpi Mountain. It is often refered to as “a soulmate and a sister”. The mountain is the shared home. It constitutes the ego of the locals, and they often emotionally merge with it.
The above listed charactiristics of the songs dedicated to everyday life and social issues are not unique in terms of music and themes covered when compared to the whole Bulgarian folklore. Still they have their specifics that characterize and outline the Rodopean song and reflect the particularities of the life in the Rodopi Mountain. One could find the distinctive talent inherited from ancient times and the desire to live a better life and to overcome the apparent or concealed burdens.
The songs are valuable part of the Rodopean intangible cultural heritage that has been kept by the chitalishta /traditional culture centres/ in the Region of Smolyan. The local folklore contains various signs that the mountain had been inhabited by acient Slavic and Thracian tribes and their beliefs- both pagan and early Christian are interlinked in it. The songs are part of the national folklore song heritage and are perfect example of the most significant and valuable characteristics of the national cultural tradition.
Identification, documenting and research of materials
Head of Regional Expert Consultancy Centre “Chitalishta” – Region of Smolyan