Trio Slavej (“nightingale”) performs Balkan folk music from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, and Romania, as well as the music of the Roma (Gypsies) of the region. This music is renowned for its haunting melodies, dense ornamentation, complex rhythms, and original improvisations. The geographical position of the Balkans in southeastern Europe and hundreds of years of Ottoman Turkish rule have created a wealth of influences from both East and West.
The ensemble plays Balkan village styles on traditional instruments such as gajda (goat-skin bagpipe), tambura (long-necked plucked lute), and various villages flutes, as well contemporary styles such as “wedding music,” featuring clarinet, accordion, and keyboard. “Wedding music” received its name because of its ubiquitous presence at life cycle celebrations such as weddings, circumcisions, and baptisms where dancing and music are a requirement. This style emphasizes virtuosic technique, improvisation, rapid tempos, and eclectic musical literacy. A multiplicity of styles, such as jazz and rock, and a multiplicity of sources, such as Turkish and Indian musics, are combined with Balkan rural and urban folk musics.
The Trio’s program weaves a texture of both instrumental and vocal music from contrasting regions of the Balkans performed in the Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, and Romani (Gypsy) languages. Texts express the experiences of village and urban living and the joys and sorrows of life among Roma. The Romani repertoire highlights the popular dance form “chochek” and songs reflecting the marginalization of Roma from mainstream society. Roma, an ethnic group originally from India, have played a central role in the professional folk music of every country of the Balkans.
The members of Trio Slavej have each have successful solo musical careers. The Trio is available for concerts and dance parties. In addition, ensemble members have a distinguished record of teaching Balkan music both to novices and to advanced performers. The Trio can provide master classes and workshops in Balkan-style accordion, clarinet, gajda, tambura, and singing. Dance workshops can also be arranged. The ensemble also offers educational programs such as lectures, lecture/demonstrations, and pre- and post-concert talks on various aspects of Balkan and Romani music, culture, and history. A demonstration recording and photographs are available.
Kalin Kirilov (accordion, tambura, keyboard, ocarina and duduk [flutes], vocals), was born in 1975 in Vidin, Northwestern Bulgaria, and began singing and playing the accordion at the age of four, He received his first Gold Medal in 1981 at the Koprivstica Festival. From the age of six he studied at music schools in Vidin and Pleven, and he graduated from the Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv in 1998 with a specialization in tambura and music pedagogy. He has performed and toured with many ensembles, has recorded with Bulgarian National Radio, has done arrangements for folk orchestras and choirs, and was soloist with The Danube Ensemble in Vidin. Kalin has received numerous awards, including a Silver medal at the Sixth Republican Festival, two Gold Medals at the Seventh Republican Festival, and a Bronze Medal at the Koprivstica Festival in 1986. His solo CD includes traditional music and songs from diverse regions of Bulgaria (and neighboring countries), as well as original compositions in “wedding style”, all performed by him on fifteen instruments. In 2003 Kalin toured nationally with the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble with guests Ivo Papazov, Neshko Neshev, and Salif Ali; their CD is currently in production. Recently Kalin earned an MA in Folklore at the University of Oregon is currently a doctoral student in Music Theory.
Mark Levy (clarinet, gaida [bagpipes], frula) has been studying, performing, and teaching Balkan folk music for over 30 years. He is a professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Oregon School of Music, where he teaches courses in world music and directs the UO East European Folk Music Ensemble. He also coordinates the UO School of Music’s World Music Series, which includes concerts and lecture-demonstrations for the general public, given by visiting artists from various cultures. In the 1970s Mark created the East European Folklife Center, a non-profit corporation which continues to sponsor annual summer Balkan Music & Dance Workshops in California, Maryland, and Oregon. He has made numerous research trips to Bulgaria and Macedonia, and has performed gajda, clarinet and other wind instruments with the Aman Folk Ensemble, Pitu Guli, The Balkantones, and Slavej.
Carol Silverman (vocals) has been involved with Balkan and Romani music and culture for over twenty years as a researcher, educator, and performer. An award-winning professor of cultural anthropology and folklore at the University of Oregon, she teaches about Balkan culture, ethnographic theory, and human rights issues among Roma. She teaches Balkan singing nationally and was the educational coordinator for the 1999 “Gyspy Caravan” tour. She has performed with Zenska Pesna, Slavej, and Izgrev, and since 1994 she has sung with the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, with whom she recorded two CD’s on Traditional Crossroads, “New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music” in 1997 and “Balada” in 1999. With the Yunakov Ensemble she has performed at the Clearwater Festival, WOMAD (Australia), Folk Parks (NYC), and the Telstra Adelaide Festival, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the July 4th Concert at the Washington Monument, the Lowell, Massachusetts Festival, the National Folk Festival in East Lansing, Michigan, the Chicago World Music Festival, and the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, as well as at many universities and clubs. In 1999 she performed throughout North America with the World Music Institute’s “Gypsy Caravan,” and in 2003 she toured with Ivo Papazov.