If you thought that seeing a premier Bulgarian wedding band would bring people dancing an ethnic electric slide, you may have been somewhat right. You may have even guessed, since this band is touring the States from a small, Eastern European country, that they are an entertaining group of entrancing performers playing on exciting instruments. Perhaps you would not have seen yourself being so engrossed in the performance, the atmosphere, and the lovely nature of the evening.
Kabile arrived with just minutes to perform, but when you make your living playing weddings and other high-pressure events, chances are you know exactly what to do to make your band sound the best in any given situation. In fact, it took less than 10 minutes to finish a sound check, including fine-tuning the EQ. For those of you who do not sound tech as an evening job, this is a feat for any band, especially one with five uncommon instruments and two vocalists. One of the pre-show highlights was finding out Croatian words for "high" and "middle" in reference to their preferred sound.
In the same spirit, they wasted little time getting into high energy songs, which quickly got the growing audience up and dancing. The first line-dance was one which anyone who could stand could readily understand. Many of the dancers seemed closely descendant from Eastern European heritage, while many were distinctly American.
As the music played, the dancing got more complex, and was a good litmus test to see who the best dancers were. I could imagine a wedding where the last two co-eds standing would be similar to the results of garder/boquet toss.
The part of the audience that was not dancing seemed entirely engrossed with the musicians and the jovial atmosphere they brought to YIV. While some seemed to inherantly understand the music, others may have been engrosed simply in the ability of these super-capable musicians.
The most locally-common instrument in the bunch - the guitar - played an entirely different role in the band then our US ears are used to. With the bass notes emphasized, and the rhythmic strumming patterns soft in the mix, the guitarist acted more as a liason between the melody instruments and the percussion. The role of lead guitar was picked up by the Accordian player, who not only played the accordian in a masterfully interesting and coherent manner, but he also sang!
And what powerful voices we heard! The male accordianist had a voice as strong as any I'd heard singing this music, and one so provocative and gutteral that it could wind your heart around the center of a yo-yo and toss you out the same way. The low, gutsy female vocalist had the air of wisdom in her voice, as well as a sometimes flirtatious and always sensual element that had me longing for more. A young lady - the guitarist's local daughter - got up on stage a few times during the evening and shared a youthful take on these songs with a voice that had tastefully innocent qualities, which showed serious potential for the future of her singing.
The highlight for me were the melody instruments, particularly the Bagpipist and Flautist. I was blown away with their speed and the character of the tones they could release from their instruments. The piper could bend these notes directly or subtly, and knew when to do each. Likewise, the flute had a dynamic range far beyond seasoned, which could play a primary role in the melody or back into a supportive spot.
On Kabile, from Noel Kropf:
Traditional Bulgarian folk music has attracted worldwide attention and scholarship for its incredible virtuosity and musicianship. Varied rhythms combine with gorgeous harmonies, ancient instruments with modern, and traditional styles are rendered with a modern sensibility to produce an exquisite musical brew that is bound to enthrall roots music enthusiasts and novices alike.
Kabile is a top favorite in the south and east Thrace regions of Bulgaria for weddings, baptisms and other cultural celebrations. Dzhenko Andreev, Ivan Handzhiev, Angel Krastev, Nikolay Doktorov, Nikolay Kolev and Donka Koleva are excellent representatives of this traditional style. Mr. Andreev plays the gajda (bagpipe), Mr. Krastev the tapan (double headed drum), Mr. Doctorov the kaval (shepherd's flute), and Mr. Kolev the gudulka (lyra). Mr. Handzhiev plays accordion and is a vocalist in the traditional Thracian style. Ms. Koleva is also a vocalist in the traditional Thracian style. Individually, each member of the band has an exceptional history of scholarship and performance. Collectively they form one of the most respected ensembles in Bulgarian Thrace.