Bulgar – Yiddish music

Bulgar is a type of Yiddish music.  Originating in Bessarabia (now Moldova), where northeast Romania meets Ukraine, Bulgar has a distinctive rhythm that is supposed to be “Bulgarian” (not a common Bulgarian rhythm, to be sure, though a significant Bulgarian minority lived in southern Bessarabia).  It’s tempo is a medium to fast 8 beats to the bar, broken up into Slow, Slow, Quick; 123,123,12, 123,123,12, etc.

Below is Itzhak Perlman displaying his Yiddish roots playing with the pioneering revival group the Kezmer Conservatory Band.

Bulgar became the most popular style of Yiddish dance music among immigrants to the USA.  Here’s Naftule Brandwein in a late 1920’s? recording made in New York.

Bulgar even got a shot at mainstream American popularity when former Klezmer clarinetist Benny Goodman and his band had some Yiddish hits.  Benny’s trumpeter Ziggy Elman had written a tune called “Fralich in Swing” (Freylekh in Swing).  Johnny Mercer later wrote lyrics, changing the title to “And the Angels Sing”. It became a hit in 1939.  Listen for the Bulgar rhythm after Martha Tilton’s singing, and Ziggy’s Klezmer trumpet.

Nowadays it seems the distinctive Bulgar rhythm is not connected to dances with the name Bulgar.  Many modern Bulgars are played in an even 2 or 4 beats.



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