Karanfil, Karamfil — the Word
The Bulgarian word karamfil (usually spelled karanfil) is of Turkish origin and has many meanings, with several layers. Most commonly it translates as “clove”, but also “carnation”, and “pink”.
Karamfil — the Song
Many Bulgarian songs have the word Karamfil in the title.
The Karamfil known to folkdancers is not “traditional”. Music and lyrics were composed by Dimtar Janev, from Blagoevgrad, sometime after WW2. According to the Tanzrichtung website, in an article published Feb 22, 2016 (Google translated from German), Jaap Leegwater became enamored with the song Karamfil after hearing it on a Balkanton LP released in the 1970’s. [BTA 10329). Its lyrical, complex melody and harmonic structure is typical more of classically-trained composers than Bulgarian peasants, but that was precicely what appealed to Leegwater (and, he surmised, his recreational folk dance students). Here is the recording.
Quoting the Tanzrichtung article: “According to the book “Pirinski pesni” by Dimtar Janev (State Publisher Muzika, Sofia, 1980) the song is dedicated to partisan leader Kosta Mitov from the village Vojnjagovo (near the city of Karlovo in the valley of roses in the Balkan Mountains, not in Pirin!), who died in the fight against fascism in the Second World War. This kind of politically charged songs certainly served a nationalist interest at that time. The carnation (Karamfil in Bulgarian is probably a loan word from Turkish) was a symbol for the partisans and when talking about carnations, one meant the partisan fighters. In the book Dances in the Circle Part 5, the description of the Karamfil wrongly refers to the partisans (haiduci) during the Turkish rule in the Balkans, because this ended in 1912 after the First Balkan War.“
For sheet music, click: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/sheet-music/karamfil-sheet-music/
Karamfil — the dance Širto
Karamfil is not a dance, but merely the name of the song Jaap Leegwater picked to accompany a traditional dance from Pirin, (Macedonian Bulgaria) called Širto. For more on Širto, click https://folkdancefootnotes.org/dance/a-real-folk-dance-what-is-it/about/%d1%88%d0%b8%d1%80%d1%82%d0%be-sirto-macedonian-bulgaria/.
The basic steps are more or less the same as those of the famous Greek dance Kalamatianós. Like Kalamatianós, one can cross at the front or back during each set of three steps. This leads to different variants of the Širto, as can be found in different villages. The above mentioned Tanzrichtung article says Jaap Leegwater “learned the Širto variant, which he used for the first figure of the Karamfil, in 1979 from a group from the village of Debren near the town of Bansko. This variant is characterized by the front and rear crossing during the 3rd and 4th bars (as in a so-called “Mayim step”). The first figure is the traditional Širto from Debren. The second figure (in the middle) is a variant – put together by Jaap – of the way how many Širto variants occur in tradition.”
Traditionally, Širto was danced to the music of a zurna player who plays the melody, a second zurna player who plays a kind of drone and a tapan player. This type of music, ideal for outdoors due to the volume, is very strong and drives you to dance. For more on this pan-Balkan combination, see: https://folkdancefootnotes.org/music/musical-instruments/dauli-zurna-the-most-important-instruments-in-the-world/ Our western sensitive ears, however, have to get used to this kind of music and the first reaction of people (including folk dancers) is mostly not positive.
The Tanzrichtung article again: “The fact that Jaap Leegwater’s choice for the traditional Debren Širto fell on such beautiful, soulful and melodious music as Karamfil turned out to be a clever move and certainly contributed to the popularity of the dance. The dance Karamfil is so well known and popular that it can be seen as a business card from Jaap Leegwater…. Karamfil has now become known worldwide under this name as a dance, while it actually is the title of the song the dance Širto is danced to.”
John Uhlemann wrote: the first video with a song “Karmafil” is in 9/8 and the dancers behind the singer are doing “Dzhinguritsa”, a well known and popular dance in Bulgaria one to several melodies in fast 9/8, although not usually this one. The second Bulgarian video is of the song “Dafino Vino” and is in so-called “Macedonian 12/8”. Iliana Bozhanova has taught a dance to that. The rest is as you say, until, of course “La Bastrigue” at the end. An interesting mix of styles and rhythms…