*S is for Song. So? A song with a life independent of whatever dance it may be attached to. Why that’s important is explained here.
The Song, Dragana i Slavei
Dragana i Slavei is a Bulgarian folk song. One of many the average Bulgarian woman or girl, back in ‘folk’ times (pre-WWII), would sing while working, or at sedyankas, or dances. There were many occasions for singing, as there were no TV’s or radios or record players or concerts or professional musicians – at least not in the average peasant village (as late as the 1930’s 80% of Bulgarians lived in villages). If you wanted to hear music, you made it yourself. or listened to your friends. There were harmonies, but they were simple 2-part; melody and drone, or, occasionally 3-part; melody, harmony and drone. The songs were melodic storytelling devices – relatively simple melodies with LOTS of verses. For MUCH more detailed information on singing in ‘folk’ Bulgaria, click this article. I have not been able to find a ‘folk’ YouTube or recording of Dragana i Slavei. The closest I could find is this 3-part version sung by members of the 19 voice Pletenitsa Balkan Choir. Since the choir reproduces the concert arrangement by Philip Koutev, I suspect the 3rd voice is singing Koutev’s expanded harmony.
www.folkloretanznoten.de Dragana i slavejat Bulgarien Драгана и славеят Dragana sedi v gradina, mome Dragano, Dragano, v gradina pod bjal trendafil, mome Dragano, Dragano. Gergef šie, pesen pee, mome Dragano, Dragano, nad neja slavej govori, mome Dragano, Dragano, - Ja pej, da se nadpjavame, mome Dragano, Dragano. Ako li me ti nadpeeš, mome Dragano, Dragano. krilcata mi šte otrežeš, mome Dragano, Dragano. Ako li te az nadpeja, mome Dragano, Dragano, kosata ti šte otreža, mome Dragano, Dragano. Dragana nadpja slaveja, mome Dragano, Dragano, slavej si ja žalno moli: mome Dragano, Dragano, - Kračkata mi da otrežeš, mome Dragano, Dragano, krilcata mi ne otrjazvaj, mome Dragano, Dragano, drebni pilci sâm izmâtil, mome Dragano, Dragano. Slavejče le, pilence le, mome Dragano, Dragano, nešta ništo da ti reža, mome Dragano, Dragano. Mene mi stiga hvalbata, mome Dragano, Dragano, če sâm slaveja nadpjala, mome Dragano, Dragano. Source: http://www.folkloretanznoten.de/Draganinata.pdf
Dragana sits in the garden under the white rose bush, embroidering and singing softly to herself. The nightingale hears her and challenges her to a singing contest. “If you win, you may cut off my wings. But if I outsing you, I will cut off your hair.” Dragana wins, and the nightingale pleads, “Don’t cut off my wings! Take my feet instead, so I can feed my family!” Dragana replies, “Oh, nightingale, keep your wings and your little feet. It is enough to know that I have outsung the nightingale.”
The Koutev Recording
With the takeover of Eastern European countries by Communism after WWII, folk culture was rebuilt along the top-down lines of the Soviet Moyseyev model. The idea was to show the locals what could be achieved by embracing the values of the state, and, perhaps more importantly, show the world what this new ideology could achieve. In Bulgaria, for instance, achievement took the form of the Philip Koutev ensemble. The state provided the funds and appointed classically-trained Party loyalist Koutev the director. He scored the music, bulking up simple folk melodies by adding multiple harmonies and scales not used in the folk tradition, created and trained an orchestra of ‘folk’ instruments where previously there was at most a drum and flute, viol, or bagpipe, and expanded two or three singers into a 30-voice choir, supervised the choreography – ran the show. For the story of how folk culture became “arranged folklore”, see https://folkdancefootnotes.org/begin/how-balkan-folk-dances-are-made-arranged-folklore/. Here’s how the relatively simple folk song was transformed by Philip Koutev into a concert-scale show-stopper. The results are sublime and something Bulgarians are justifiably proud of, as it drew the attention of the West to Bulgaria’s achievements. It was Koutev’s recording that first sparked my interest in Balkan culture.
The Dance, Draganinata – A simplified Kopanitsa
Kopanitsa is a rather generic term in Bulgaria for a dance in an 11/8 rhythm, Quick,Quick,Slow,Quick,Quick, (or 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2, which adds up to 11 beats in a measure). Most kopanitsa dances are faster than Draganinata – below is a more typical example. Note how they start by walking in a Quick,Quick,Slow,Quick,Quick pattern – the hop-step being on the Slow beat.
Draganinata, according to the notes below, is a simple form of Kopanica (also spelled Kopanitsa), in which the last two Quick, Quick, steps become one long Slow step. The rhythm is now Quick, Quick, Slow, Slower, or 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, – still 11/8 time.
Steve Ayala wrote:
As you wrote elsewhere – You like a song, you request it, and you dance whatever you want to it.
Here north of San Francisco, our groups have been dancing a two-part pravo (short pattern / long pattern) to Dragana i Slavei ever since Tzvetanka Varimezova organized a group on Zoom to present it a couple of years ago.
In 2021, with COVID having everyone staying at home, the California-based woman’s choral group KITKA and UCLA professor Tzvetanka Varimezova assembled a world-wide group of singers to create a YouTube presentation of the song Dragana i Slavei
Shortly after, several local groups started dancing an escort-hold, two-pattern pravo to the KITKA music – something like might be done by Bulgarian dancers using simple, familiar dance steps – nothing choreographed.