*S is for Song. So? A song and/or melody has a life independent of whatever dance it may be attached to. Why that’s important is explained here.
According to Dick Crum, as first written in the eefc listserve, May 8, 1998, and revised Dec 2003, My involvement with Arap is as follows: When the Kutev Ensemble first came to the U.S. (I don’t have the date handy – early ’60s), I went to N.Y. to see the premiere at Lincoln Center. I knew some of the singers and dancers, and over the next few days there were a number of dance parties and other get-togethers. Two young men in the group (brothers or cousins) were born and raised in a village near Serres (their word was “Sersko”), present-day Greece, but were Slavs and had emigrated with their parents to Sofia. They showed us this dance from their native village. It was called “Arap”. The music,
which one of them played on a gudulka and, on another occasion, on a kaval, was very monotonous and “minimalistic”, consisting of a 2-measure 2/4-time phrase repeated endlessly with barely perceptible melodic variation (the 2nd measure had 2 accented quarter-note beats, a distinct “bam-bam”, in a way reminiscent of the 3 beats that typically end a passage in a hornpipe). To my inquiries, they stressed that “Arap” was NOT a stage choreography, but exactly the way they had done it in their village. They did not sing any lyrics to it. We liked the dance and I jotted it down; it was an 8-measure dance.
The YouTube below is NOT what Crum heard, but the solo gajda with drum without singing does give one a sense of what a simpler version of the melody might sound like.
Crum continues; Not long after that, I came across Aco Sarievski’s rendering of “Zajko kokorajko” on a Jugoton disk, and realized that it was the same tune as “Arap”. Though it had the vocal, it certainly was the same melody, so I began teaching “Arap” to it. My earliest dated syllabus notes for it are from a workshop I did in Chicago in 1964. During my oral presentation I was careful to mention that the lyrics had nothing to do with the dance, that it was an unrelated humorous Macedonian song about a hapless rabbit would-be bridegroom.
Yves Moreau, eefc ListServ, May 8, 1998 The song Zajko Kokorajko is very famous all over Macedonia. The first recording is most likely Alexander Sarievski’s (late 50’s) on the old Jugoton EPY 3009 accompanied by the (young) Pece Atanasovski on gajda. The record was re-issued in the US for folk dancers on several labels (Festival, Monitor, Mediterranean etc.) Sarievski re-recorded at least 2 other versions with modern orchestras in the 60’s and 70’s. A collection of Macedonian Songs by V. Hadjimanov, Skopje 1964 has the music and words of Zajko. Hadjimanov says his original source was Todor Boshkov of Skopje in 1955. Boshkov is indeed Vaska Ilieva’s father and was well-known as a kaval player in the early Tanec years. It’s interesting that Vaska herself never recorded this song (although she often toured on stage with Sarievski). I even have a version of Zajko on Balkanton sung by Kostadin Gugov, a Macedonian singer living in Sofia, Bulgaria.
An English translation to the lyrics for the Aleksandar Sarievski recording of Zajko kokorajko are here: