KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words


Her bulgar obsession stems from her brother paddy, multi-instrumentalist and student of ethnic musics and musicians.

He had this tape of Bulgarian voices, three years ago, just when we were finishing Hounds of Love. It was the most incredible thing I've ever heard, beautiful. So I decided I wanted to work with them in some form in the future... But it takes me a long time to digest ideas - even if I read a book it maybe won't come out into a song until four years later. So I wrote a track with a choir-synthesiser sound hoping that if we could get to work with them, they would take the weight of the song from the synthesisers. (1988, NME)


I first heard the Trio Bulgarka when I'd finished the last album, and I was devastated. I think everyone that hears it for the first time is; it's *INCREDIBLY* powerful music. I listened to it for a long time, and started thinking how nice it'd be if I could somehow work with them.

I worked with Irish musicians before, and Irish music I think is in my blood. My mother's Irish and my brother was always playing it when I was a kid. I feel a real affinity for Irish music, and really knew nothing about Bulgarian music until a few years ago. But when you hear it, and you relate it to something like Irish music, there are a lot of similarities. (1989, YTV)


I think the hardest thing about working with the Trio Bulgarka was just having enough courage to go ahead and do it. Once I actually did that and I met them I and worked together, it was heaven. It was so easy, we had fantastic communication. You know what the language problem is like. But in terms of music it was no problem. We just communicated emotionally and just kind of cuddled each other and sang to each other. It was just the most incredible experience to meet them as people as well as musicians, and to work with women like that - on a creative level. The whole thing was very exciting.

Also what was extraordinary was the arranger that we worked with, Dmitr Penev. Without him I don't know if it would have been possible. Although communicated directly with the girls, he was really the one who pulled all the arrangements together. He was just fabulous, so enthusiastic! I'd say to ``I want something like this...,'' and he'd think and go work on it, write something out, and get the girls to rehearse and come back in ten minutes. He'd come back and ask, ``Do you like this?,'' and he'd get the girls to sing thing and I'd say, ``Yes that's absolutely brilliant,'' or ``we've got to work this bit here.'' Again, the communication with him was extraordinary. He didn't speak English either. There was just a tremendous musical chemistry I'd love to work with them again. (1990, Option)


She made contact with trio bulgarka through their british producer/promoter/friend/bragg-associate joe boyd of hannibal records, who released the balkana compilation in '87 and the trio's own the forest is crying lp earlier this year. Two weeks ago kate visited bulgaria and returned with the trio to record two tracks in london.

I was very worried because chances were it might not work, particularly because they're so good. It might just sound like we'd bunged them in a Western track. I really didn't want them to be dragged down to my level. I was worried that they wouldn't want to get involved with Western pop music, because it has a bad name and a lot of people are initially scared of it... I don't blame them at all.

We had to get a special arranger (Dmitr Penev) because the beauty is not just in the voices but also in the ancient arrangements. He was brilliant, it couldn't have been better, the way we managed to communicate exactly what we wanted despite language problems...It sounds corny, but I do feel very honoured.

The raw results of these sessions which I hear by accident, sound impressive. Any fears that bush might be dabbling in some sort of bulgarian ``duck rock'' or even graceland territory are dispelled by the true spirit of the recording; The emotion of the trio's traditional singing is beautifully complimented by kate's distinctive vocal. The trio sing bulgarian words, so perhaps the azanian chorals of gabriel's biko would be a closer reference point, although there's not quite such a potent message here.

You're not distracted by words, all you're picking up are the emotions that they're translating to you. It feels like very deep information. There's one point when Yanka's belting it out, really fantastic, yet she's singing something like, ``Marco sits down with his mother and has some bread and jam!"

That's one of the strange things about bulgarian music. You find yourself sitting, listening, awe-struck, lump-throated, only to find you've been moved to tears by a song about a bumble-bee or a mosquito playing the bagpipes or dark-eyed yanka's marigolds ("I mislaid my kavals by your gates last night, elenke, did you see them?"). Whatever they sing about it always comes over as powerful, spine-tinglingly heartfelt (particularly their lament for the bulgarian robin hood indje voivode). Just listen and it's easy to understand why kate bush and others have been drawn to this music, this antithesis of producer pop for inspiration.

If they sing ``Strati Angelaki'' to me I can't take it. I have to leave the room, it just makes me cry and there are very few things musically that affect me like that.

Rather than increasing the difficulties, the language barrier between kate and the trio seems to have promoted their personal and working relationship.

I've been so excited doing it and it's so lovely for me to work with women as well, a tremendous difference. And because we can't talk intellectually - we can't talk about the state of Bulgaria or even what the shops are like in London - our whole communication is totally emotional.

It's an incredible experience, the warmth they give you, you don't often get it from Westerners. Here it's very much a communication of ``I have this, you don't have that'' or ``I don't have that and you do,'' whereas they want to know what kind of person you are... you can feel them probing your heart.

Bush has, of course, experimented before with global ideas on odd tracks: ``egypt", ``kashka from baghdad", the aboriginally-inspired `` the dreaming,'' greek rhythms and portentous use of bulgarian teppan (drum) on `` jig of life.'' here, the bulgarian singers are playing a more central role than previous ethnic musicians (esmail sheikh, donal lunny, liam o'flynn, rolf harris), employed to compliment kate's attempts to create lasting pop rather than quick cash.

It's been a strange experience for trio bulgarka, who are more used to the familiar string drones of the gadulka or the strummed tambura or the piping gaida than to bush-style pop experimentalism. They seem, however, to have adapted with remarkable ease.

Yanka rupkina through interpreter borimira nedeva: Kate's very popular in bulgaria, young people like her very much. She sings emotionally. There's lots of lovely thinking in her writing and she's a very good musician. It is our first time with such a famous singer, and we hope we'll work with her in the future, if we haven't caused her too many worries.

There's the distinct, appealing prospect of bush (in full bulgarian gear?) performing live with the trio; It's been donkeys since the theatre of kate was last seen onstage (benefits aside) but, she says, if anything could make me tour again it would be the people in this studio. (1988, NME)


They couldn't speak a word of English and I couldn't speak a word of Bulgarian. Everything went through translators and it didn't matter at all. Lovely working with women, and especially them, they're very affectionate. We tended to communicate through cuddles rather than words. In fact, we could get on perfectly well without the translators. At one point we were talking away in the studio when the translator walked in and we all shut up because she'd suddenly made us self-conscious about what we were doing. (1989, Q)


She speaks in awe of all the musicians who support her, but none more so that the trio bulgarka, whom she feels are working on a higher plane of creation. We are talking big music here. We are talking real music, that goes back so far. I can't imagine who would have put music like this together. Way beyond me.

I suppose the main thing was getting up the courage to actually approach the Trio. 'Cause I wanted to work with them so badly. But I was also very scared that I wouldn't do them justice. Particularly in the context of contemporary music. I really didn't want them to be belittled into pop music. The kind of music that they are working with was in touch with something that I think we've lost touch with. And it's very rarely now that you are affected that powerfully by music, like that. Contemporary music occasionally hits you in the heart and very, very rarely reaches your soul. But music like that is so old, intense, powerful and spiritual - instinctive music, almost. You know, I'd like to see anyone who could stand in the room with those three women singing for more than twenty minutes and not cry. (1990, Musician)


Gaffaweb / Cloudbusting / Story / 1988