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Written in fRoots issue 357, March 2013

A Bright Star Has Risen

ARC EUCD 2409 (2012)

Itís always tough to review Bulgarian singing in the arranged-folk style when the recordings involving the likes of Yanka Rupkina or Nadka Karadjova can still be heard. But that was then, this is now; much has changed in Bulgaria, and many of the singers have joined the diaspora and brought the formerly mysterious sound to audiences and singers around the world, often setting up choirs, such as the London Bulgarian Choir led by Dessislava Stefanova.
      The core and essence, though, of Bulgarian vocal harmony, with those thrilling close seconds, doesnít need a big choir; itís the interplay between just two or three voices that does it. Trio Bulgarka, three of the finest singers, including Yanka Rupkina, from the big communist-era Bulgarian choirs, made that point internationally, as have the Bisserov sisters from Pirin.
      The Perunika Trio (named after the Slavic goddess of rain and eternal beauty), was formed by three young Bulgarian-born women in London in 2005, and released its first album in 2008. The current line-up comprises leader Eugenia Georgieva, Dessislava Vasileva and from Serbia (which has its own thrilling traditions of hard-edged, tight seconds) Jasmina Stosic. While it does have edgy, wilder moments, in general their sound is softer, sweeter and more youthful-sounding, less epic, than the exquisite, vibrating, heart-rending edge of the justly-famous soloists who so astonished the world a few decades ago. But Perunika are here and now, and in this set of traditional and composed material largely drawing on the traditions of south and south-west Bulgaria, their singing is finely-balanced, their voices blending as one instrument, and their songs so varied and fulfilling in melody and texture that at no point in this whole CD of unaccompanied singing does one feel a need for instrumental input.
      And they live right here in Britain. I hesitate to suggest, but will anyway, that theyíve a thing or two to teach some English folk-singing people about the voice as an instrument.


© 2013 Andrew Cronshaw

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