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Culture of Bulgaria

Bulgarian culture is a mix mostly of Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar cultures, but there are Bysantine, Turkish, Greek and other influences.


Each area of Bulgaria has a characteristic music and dance style. Bulgarian folk music is unique in the world, with its complex harmonies and highly irregular rhythms. These rhythms, also called uneven beats or assymetric measures, were introduced to musicologists only in 1886 when music teacher Anastas Stoyan published Bulgarian folk melodies for the first time. Examples of such beats are 5/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 11/8, or composite ones like (5+7)/8, (15+14)/8 and (9+5)/16 - (9+5)/16 etc. Bulgarian folk music inspired and was used by musicians like Kate Bush and George Harrison.

Bulgarian vocal style has a unique throat quality, while the singers themselves are renowned for their range. (Orpheus is said to be from Thrace, a region partly in Bulgaria.) Diatonic scales predominate but in the Rhodope mountains, for example, pentatonic scales occur, while in Thrace chromatic scales with augmented intervals (similar to the music of Classical Greece). Also, the intonation varies, and is quite different from the modern Western equal temperament. Depending on whether the melody moves up or down, an interval can augment or decrease by a quarter tone.

Musical instruments include gaida (bagpipe), kaval (rim-blown flute), zurna or zurla (another woodwind), tambura (guitar-like), gadulka (violin-like), and tapan (large two-sided drum).

Dances have complex steps to match the rhythm, and are often fast. Most are line dances, but some are not, like the 7/8 dance Rachenitsa, done singly or in pairs.

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