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The Development of Chalga: A Controversial Cultural Phenomenon in Modern Bulgaria.

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Chalga is only one of several similar types of music found across the Balkans, all connected by certain historical events and musical qualities. This work will deal specifically with the case of Bulgaria chalga. The following paper delves into
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    SUNDAL, Kendra. 2012. The Development of Chalga: A Controversial Cultural Phenomenon in Modern Bulgaria. The Annual of Language & Politics and Politics of Identity, Vol. VI.   Reviewed journal ALPPI is published by Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Political Studies. www.alppi.eu  The Development of Chalga: A Controversial Cultural Phenomenon in Modern Bulgaria Kendra Sundal 1  Abstract Chalga is only one of several similar types of music found across the Balkans, all connected by certain historical events and musical qualities. This work will deal specifically with the case of Bulgaria chalga. The following paper delves into cultural questions about chalga, drawing on the perspectives of ethnomusicologists, historians, social scientists, and  Bulgarian commentators. By exploring historical roots as well as current questions about identity and modernity in post-Communist Bulgaria, this paper seeks to locate the role of chalga in a larger social and political context. The paper begins with a historical foundation, dating back to Ottoman times. Bulgarian perceptions of the Ottoman history play a central role in the way that past and present musical styles are received among the public. The communist and post-communist periods will also be addressed. The history will touch upon ethnicity, and the next section will delve deeper into the interplay between Roma, Turkish and  Bulgarian sounds and musical traditions in Bulgaria. In addition, the tensions and differing viewpoints related to this mixture in music from past to present will be explored further. Characteristics of chalga will be looked at, societal responses will be addressed, and economic aspects will be considered. Finally, the preceding sections will lead up to an analysis of chalga and its connection to modernization. In addition, this section will consider the relationship between chalga and contemporary Bulgarian identity construction, internally and externally. This paper seeks to uncover contradictions and tensions within chalga and as it stands within Bulgarian society. Keywords: ethnomusicology. Bulgaria, Balkans, modernization, identity politics 1   The author obtained her Bachelors degree in Politics at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, USA. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Geopolitical Studies at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, where her research focus is on border issues, such as migration and human trafficking. Other areas of interest to her include politics of identity, feminist theory, and the intersections between music and politics. This article was written as a part of Research Grant of Department of Political Science, Institute of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague.    Introduction Ask almost anyone from the Bulgaria about chalga  music and they will have an opinion. Writer Ekaterina Dikova argues that “Chalga is not subculture, or counter  -culture, not even low culture  –   it is absolutely deprived of all culture ”  (Dikova 2010, 90). On the other hand, historian Rosemary Statelova has said that “…chalga is not a genre of music, but rather a dimension of culture…” (2005, 12). The following paper delves deeper into cultural questions about chalga, drawing on the perspectives of ethnomusicologists, historians, social scientists, and Bulgarian commentators. By exploring historical roots as well as current questions about identity and modernity in post-Communist Bulgaria, this paper seeks to locate the role of chalga in a larger social and political context. The paper begins with a historical foundation, dating back to Ottoman times. Ottoman influence in Bulgaria has played a major role in all aspects of life, and has definitively shaped the musical traditions, including chalga (the name chalga was srcinally a Turkish word for “playing a tune or a musical instrument”  (Statelova 2005, 63)). In addition, Bulgarian  perceptions of the Ottoman history play a central role in the way that past and present musical styles are received among the public. The influence of other Balkan nations will also be considered. The communist and post-communist periods will also be addressed, in order to  point out the different policies and their effects on musicians and to examine the development of music during these years. The history will touch upon ethnicity, and the next section will delve deeper into the interplay  between Roma, Turkish and Bulgarian sounds and musical traditions in Bulgaria. In addition, the tensions and differing viewpoints related to this mixture in music from past to present will  be explored further. Characteristics of chalga will be looked at, and the societal division  between fans and opponents of chalga will be discussed. Related to the societal considerations, it is important to also consider the economy of chalga. Its relationship to media and to the mafia will be addressed, as well as the economic aspects of its production and marketing in Bulgaria. Finally, the preceding sections will lead up to an analysis of chalga and its connection to modernization. Questions about chalga as neo-traditional, modern, pre-modern, and post-modern will be considered. In addition, this section will consider the relationship between chalga and contemporary Bulgarian identity construction, internally and externally  –   with  specific reference to Europe. Bulgaria  –   and the Balkans more generally  –   have long been known for bridging East and West. Chalga seems to embrace this specificity, though some have argued that it is too Eastern  –   in its musicality  –   while others have argued that it is too Western  –   in its capitalist and sexualized messages. This paper seeks to uncover these kinds of contradictions and tensions within chalga and as it stands within Bulgarian society. History of Bulgarian Folk and Popular Music “History in Bulgaria surrounds the visitor on a vast temporal scale; moreover, it threads through people’s conversations, remembrances, and descriptions –   they use it to account for the presence of problems and justify their solutions. ” -Donna Buchanan (2006, 27) The Ottoman Period and the National Revival  In 1389, Bulgaria became part of the Ottoman Empire, and remained so until the Bulgarian National Revival led to independence in 1878 (Statelova 2005, 20). In most instances, Bulgarians view this time period as the “Ottoman yoke,” and construct this history in predominantly negative terms. Furthermore, the term “ Vuzrazhdane, ” or reawakening, is used to refer to the 19 th  century period of nationalist efforts to throw off that “Ottoman yoke”  (Buchanan 2006, 23). Bulgarian anthropologist Rosemary Statelova has written of her own realization, when studying her culture, that the Bulgarian national discourse relating to the Ottoman legacy was almost enti rely painted in “  brutal ”  terms, bringing to mind images such as the “three chains of slaves”  (Statelova 2005, 40). In her book, The Seven Sins of Chalga, Statelova quotes Chavdar Marinov on this issue; his point is worth noting here: In Bulgaria, for a long time, there has not been a living witness to Turkish massacres, but they are a part of our ‘memory.’ Whose is this ‘memory’ –    of the ‘Bulgarian people,’ of the ‘Bulgarian nation’ of its historians and writers or of   all its citizens? Do, for example, Bulgarian Muslims share the same attitude to these so- called ‘traumas of national memory?  (quoted in Statelova 2005, 41) In reality the Ottoman Empire was multi-ethnic and known for its relative religious tolerance and freedom. By 1876, for example, thirty percent of the population was Muslim (Statelova 2005, 41-42). Moreover, many of the best educated Bulgarians spoke or studied several languages, such as Turkish, Greek, Romanian, Italian, and more. In Plovdiv, for instance, there were a number of bilingual people, often from families of a mixed marriage (Statelova 2005, 44-46). In many ways, therefore, life under Ottoman rule was characterized by a great deal of interethnic interaction, and not necessarily negative. In fact, on the contrary, the  existence of mixed marriages  –   as well as cooperation in music, the arts, communication, trade, and other work  –   suggests that relations were at times quite positive (Agoston-Nikolova 2008, 7). Unfortunately, the positive aspects of the multicultural Ottoman legacy have been underemphasized and undervalued since the time of the Bulgarian Revival in 1878. While Bulgaria has remained, de facto, a multicultural state, the nationalist movement sought to establish a strong sense of unity around a singular  –   and monoethnic  –   ideal of nationalism. Even this nationalism, though, began by drawing from the Greeks and their educational and religious influences. Later, this borrowing would be diminished and all but forgotten in the future conflict between the two nations (Statelova 2005, 47). According to historian Maria Todo rova, nationalism involved “a conscious effort to belittle, ignore, distort, deride, and even negate” other Balkan nation’s histories and experiences  (quoted in Buchanan 2006, 23). As a part of this process, nationalists attempted to force minority groups to either assimilate or emigrate, resulting in upheaval for Turks, Gypsies, Jews, Greeks and Armenians in the late 19 th  century. Such attempts to “purify” the nation wer  e only partially effective, though, and into the 20 th  century many ethnic groups remained in Bulgaria. Elias Canetti notes in his memoir that, at the start of the 20 th  century in towns in the northeastern part of Bulgaria, there were not only Bulgarians, but in addition … there were many Turks, who lived in their own neighborhood, and next to it was the neighborhood of the Sephardim, the Spanish Jews…There were Greeks, Albanians, Armenians, Gypsies. From the opposite side of the Danube came Rumania. There were also Russians here and there…  (quoted in Agoston-Nikolova 2008, 8) These groups coexisted then in much the same way as they had before the Revival. One activity which became characterized by the interplay of cultures was the production and  performance of folk music at this time. Elka Agoston-Nikolova writes of this period that, “In such cosmopolite surroundings the popular folk and town music promoted contact and mingling of cultures ”  (2008, 8). Thus, while the nationalists attempted to eradicate traces of the Ottoman past, the multicultural environment and the mixing of cultural products continued into the 20 th  century. Communism Standardizing Culture

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