Bulgarian folk music is unique in its complex harmonies and highly irregular rhythms. These kinds of rhythms, also called uneven beats or asymmetric measures , were introduced to musicologists only in 1886 when music teacher Anastas Stoyan published Bulgarian folk melodies for the first time. Examples of such beats are 5/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 11/8, or composite ones like (5+7)/8, (15+14)/8 and (9+5)/16 – (9+5)/16. Each area of Bulgaria has a characteristic music and dance style. Bulgarian folk music inspired and was used by musicians like Kate Bush and George Harrison.
Bulgarian vocal style has a unique throat quality, while the singers themselves are renowned for their range. Their voices are low and soprano, and the children love singing, and anything artistic. (Orpheus is said to be from Thrace, a region partly in Bulgaria.) Diatonic scales predominate but in the Rhodope mountains, for example, pentatonic scales occur, while in Thrace chromatic scales with augmented intervals (similar to the music of Classical Greece). Also, the intonation varies, and is quite different from the modern Western equal temperament. Depending on whether the melody moves up or down, an interval can augment or decrease by a quarter tone.
Musical instruments (also characteristic of the whole Balkan region) include gaida (bagpipe), kaval (rim-blown flute), zurna or zurla (another woodwind), tambura (guitar-like), gadulka (violin-like), and tapan (large two-sided drum).
Dances have complex steps matching the rhythm, and are often fast. Most are circle-dances or line dances called horo ; but some are done singly or in pairs, like the 7/8 dance Rachenitsa.
Although traditional music and dance are not popular among Bulgarian city youth, they are often performed at weddings, and generally countryside fiests. They are also performed in Bulgaria and abroad by amateur and professional performing artists.
*culled from www.mm-travel.eu