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Mellow or wild - Bulgarian folk music has it all

Sometimes it is sweet and gentle, then it makes you want to dance, says Ingrid from the Netherlands

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

She is retired employee of the Netherlands Post Office, free now to dedicate her time to her great passion - Bulgarian folk music. Ingrid Veeninga, 77, is Dutch. She lives in Amsterdam and never skips a rehearsal of Chubritsa - one of the most popular Bulgarian folklore choirs outside of the country.

The singers in the amateur choir Chubritsa (Bulgarian traditional spice) have different occupations and come from various nationalities, but are united by their love for Bulgarian folklore. "I have been part of this ensemble for 8 years. Before that I sang in a Balkans choir," Ingrid says, adding that ,,It is a feeling that rises from deep within my soul! I must have lived in Bulgaria in a previous life" - this is how Ingrid explains the incredible feeling she gets when she performs Bulgarian songs. And more about the magic of Bulgarian music:

"It touches my heart. Sad and mellow, then wild, it has it all! Sometimes it is sweet and gentle, then it makes you want to dance... It has many faces, one can discover so many things in it! Our choir has 28 members. We also have three instrumentalists. Surprisingly enough, we have a male choir, too. We all sing together, but they have their own repertoire."

Ingrid has visited Bulgaria many times to sing with Chubritsa. Her most recent appearance was at the National Folk Art Festival in Koprivshtitsa in the summer of 2022. Then the choir won the audience's applause under the baton of Bulgarian Svetla Anastasova-Klein, its long-time conductor. But the Dutch singers face a serious challenge - their language differs radically from Bulgarian phonetically. Ingrid explains:

"Your pronunciation is very difficult with these foreign sounds, like the vowel 'a' for example," Ingrid says. "The Dutch language has hard, guttural sounds, unlike yours. I don't speak Bulgarian, I don't understand Bulgarian, I dont read the language. But we have four Bulgarian women in our choir who translate the lyrics and explain to us how to pronounce the Bulgarian words. They are very strict about it and constantly correct us. So when there are Bulgarian spectators in the audience, they say it's amazing how accurate our pronunciation is!"

Ingrid's compatriots often ask her, "Why do you sing in a language that is so difficult and no one understands?" But for her, this music is a vibrant part of the colourful mosaic called Bulgaria. Because:

"There is a lot of colour here, every night there is music coming from outside. And no, I don't think it's too loud, because that's what we miss," Ingrid says. "We Dutch are too austere and boring - not to make noise, lest someone might accidentally notice us... But to live like this is monotonous, flat, just like the topography of our country is flat. Besides, I like that Bulgaria is not as populated as my country, which is swarming with people and traffic. We have too many inhabitants for such a small country. And your nature is so beautiful, you have everything - mountains, fields of grass, beautiful coastline..." says Ingrid Veeninga in conclusion.

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Photography: Veneta Nikolova

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