Occur Goes Global - The Music of Bulgaria

A crossroads of Slavic, Turkish and ancient Greek cultures, this European country of 7 million revels in Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions and earthy instrumentation. Bagpipes known as gaidas entrance as fire dancers and masked “mummers” chase away bad spirits. These spiritually tinged rituals creep into modern art and carve a unique niche in the EU music scene. Let’s explore more with these five recommended Bulgarian musicians:


Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria

This expansive choir makes joyful chamber music. Emoting through stunning (often a capella) versions of time-honored Bulgarian folk songs, the collective has been casting a spell over the planet since 1994. Cosmic Voices have starred as the subject of numerous films, offering a glimpse into the region’s heritage. Though music of this sort can be dour, these sounds are radiant— as are the aproned costumes (ednoprestilchena) of the vocalists.




Vice calls the gender-fluid maestro the “Gaga of gulag.” This singularly named Chalga performer blends pop with politics, riling the right wing with his public displays of gay affection and running for parliament in 2005. Songs like 2015’s “Habibi” wrap a double helix of Roma gypsy banging with the frenetic beats of someone like Pitbull.



Opposite Effect (Обратен ефект)

Fans of Madness and Fishbone, these goofballs are for you. Balkan ska goes bananas on tracks like “Моля Ви, Мадам,” all playful horns and chucking guitars. Bringing the laughs and the circle pits since 2000, their smiles, charm and wit make Opposite Effect the life of the party.




Beatboxing is an awesome talent in the most literal sense. Those blessed with the gift can bring a house down with their ability to mimic percussion and scratches. Wunderkind Skiller takes his flow one step further by acting as a DJ and remixer to his own vocalizations. His prowess has led to affiliations with Shaggy, Stereo MCs and more of hip-hop and dance music’s notables.



Hayes & Y


Sludgy and sexy, Hayes & Y sound an Arctic Monkeys that started as a Nirvana cover band (not a bad thing). Singer Blagoslav Anastasov’s throaty vocals and drummer Georgi Deyanov’s metallic finesse make for beautiful bedfellows. And the wailing guitar riffs from Radoslav Lozanski form an effortless secret handshake with those of bassist Ivailo Delev. Their cheeky new EP is called The Only Thing Worse Than an Overpriced Bottle of Water.

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