Albums You Might Like: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Back in 1987, world music was just starting to crack the consciousness of mainstream listeners. Music from other cultures and countries wasn’t left to people sitting in libraries listening to old Smithsonian field recordings. Music from Africa and South America was becoming more prevalent –there had been hiccups before with Caribbean, tango, and other forms of music and jazz had always absorbed other forms of music. But thanks to popular artists like Sting, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and Paul Simon, world music was becoming trendy. In fact, “world music” was titled in 1987. Three years later, George Harrison, still fresh off his Cloud Nine and Traveling Wilburys comeback albums, mentioned that his favorite album was a recording of a women’s choir from Bulgaria titled Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. It is now considered one of the 50 best world and folk music events.

But, critics and pop stars comments aside, this is a beautiful, emotional work. The album, titled “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices,” was recorded in 1975 by the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir. It took twelve years to finally become a mainstream recording by Nonesuch Records. These thirteen tracks are folks songs from Bulgaria covering everything from wedding songs, dancing songs, and songs of evening gatherings and harvests. These are songs that are sung loudly over hills and in village gatherings. They are folks songs, but so powerful that they can rattle your car windows and resonate in your chest.

The polyphonic album kicks off with the best three tracks on the album. “Pilentze Pee” shows the vibrato power of the women’s voices in unison. “Svatba” is a forceful wedding processional. “Kalimankou Denkou” is a rapturous, spin-chilling song that is a truly emotional experience. Laster in the album, “Erghen Diado” is an ebullient, joyous experience with clapping and “Schopska Pesen” is an echoing chant.

The entire album lasts 36 minutes, but is such a complete work. There were multiple volumes after this one, but this first edition features the best of the choir’s song selections and works. The CD stayed in my player for the next three months as I gobbled up world music releases from Nonesuch, Peter Gabriel’s Real World, and David Byrne’s Luaka Bop labels. After Harrison’s comment, I was fortunate enough to see the choir in concert perform these songs. It is still one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen and opened a door for me to a much larger world.

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