Interviews & Articles


Rhythms of the World
March 11th, 1988

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From: Neil Calton <mcvax!inf.rl.ac.uk!nbc@UUNET.UU.NET>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 89 13:40:52 GMT
Subject: Rhythms of the World BBC 2 8.10 pm March 11th 88

The piece on Kate was quite small and the Radio Times copywriters had obviously seized on it as a selling point. Anyway, here's my review (!) of the programme.

Rhythms of the World - BBC2 8.10pm 11/3/88

The Music of Bulgaria

This programme in the series Rhythms of the World looked at a number of Bulgarian musicians/singers. The commentary was provided by The Ranking Miss P and started by looking at the Stara region, and a female singer Yanka Ouchinkova performing an open-air rendition of a song called "Go Harvest Bride". Next was the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble singing "Do You Love Me", followed by a gadulka player (Volchev?) performing a folk dance. Then came the section featuring Trio Bulgarka.

Miss P: Rhythms of the World filmed Trio Bulgarka at work in the recording studio with singer-songwriter Kate Bush. We talked to them about this collaboration and asked them to perform some traditional Bulgarian songs.

Cut to the Trio Bulgarka performing "Tregnalae Malika Moma" in a studio The Trio are dressed in regional costumes. (This studio was presumably the one off Upper Street, Islington). Each of the Trio were then interviewed (now dressed in casual clothes) in turn and asked about their home region, its costumes and songs. Each member sang a short song to illustrate the typical music of their region.

The programme then cut to a scene of Kate Bush and an engineer at a mixing desk (still the same studio from what I could make out). They were listening to the Trio adding vocal backing to a track. Yes, here it was ... a piece of KBVI! The short extract featured drums to the front of the mix, with guitar, sax and fairlight also distinguishable (about mid-tempo I would say - sorry I am hopeless at describing music). Yanka was singing (in Bulgarian naturally) with Eva and Stoyanka providing fill-in harmonies. Too short to say much more, but definitely promising! The scene then cuts to Kate (wearing the white pullover shown in the NME photos), and talking to an unseen male interviewer.

Kate: I first heard their music about three years ago when I was just finishing the last album, through my brother Paddy who has always been interested in, in ethnic music and collected instruments--since he was a kid really. And he played me a tape and I couldn't believe how beautiful it was. I listened to it all the time and thought how lovely it would be if perhaps on the next album I'd be able somehow to work with them; somehow incorporate their music with my own.

So then we had to find out how to best approach it so as not just to use them in the music for the sake of it, but to make the most of what they do. Because what they do is so special. And, really through a process of elimination we decided the best thing to do was actually to go to Bulgaria and to meet them and to work with them there with their arranger and work out the process there in Bulgaria.

So we went over there last weekend and we met for the first time. And we worked the whole weekend with their arranger Dimitar and Borimira translating, and between us as a group we actually pulled together all the work that we've been doing the last two days on the record.

Male: Can you tell me, if you're working in a studio with western musicians, normally there's ... there's a common language: go back to the middle eight, cut, take two, whatever. Do you find the process more difficult, trickier, interesting, when you actually have to go through ... everything through an interpreter.

Kate: It takes longer maybe to actually communicate but in some ways it's the most exciting communication I've ever had with musicians because we can't communicate intellectually because we don't have the language. So we speak to each other emotionally really. We ... we sort of feel each other. That's what it feels like.

The programme cuts to Kate and Yanka (without her regional costume) arm in arm and recording a song, while Eva "conducts" Kate.

Kate [in voice over]: This is a traditional song that Yanka wanted me to sing with her. I just hold a drone underneath while Yanka solos. Eva's showing me how to come in with a ...

Here the tape seems to go haywire and there is an odd squeaking noise which was supposed to be an "eeeyah" kind of sound but came out as if the edit had been totally screwed up The song finishes with the "eeeyah" sound, with Kate coming in when Eva signals, and Kate and Yanka turn and smile broadly at each other. The next cut is to the Trio singing "Dva Kornie" (in their regional costume again). (This features some of those "eeeyah" noises). This is followed by a cut back to the three members of the Trio being interviewed.

Eva: [translated] Music does not recognise the existence of two systems. Music travels around the world without a visa, without a passport. Music is international. The opportunity our Trio had to record with Kate Bush was very important to us and we consider it a great honour. I think that everything went well. We coped well with the variety of rhythms and our composer [sic. probably arranger was the correct translation] Dimitar Penev was a great help. I think that Kate Bush was satisfied with the work we did together. I think she chose to work with Trio Bulgarka because we are folk singers with strong musical roots and able to meet any musical challenge we are faced with.

Cut to the Trio singing "Strati Angelaki". The rest of the programme featured the clarinet player Ivo Papasov. There was no evidence from this programme that Kate had recorded with the Trio at her own studio. Kate mentions the work they have been doing "the last two days" but does not say whether it was at this studio or her own. Certainly, the programme gave the impression Kate was recording the Trio at the Islington studio. However, it is possible that her studio resembles the Islington one sufficiently for me to get confused (I will need to see the tape again). The KBVI piece could have been set up for the TV cameras but I think this is unlikely.

As for the piece of music itself, then, I would say that it definitely had a feel of a "choir-synthesiser sound" as described in the NME interview (and so this suggests it indeed was a piece of KBVI). Since the Trio were definitely singing in Bulgarian on this piece one must assume that it was their choice rather than Kate's. There were definitely "lyrics" not just open-throat sounds. The overall feel of the rhythms was however definitely western and was not a westernised version of a Bulgarian tune.

Sorry I am such a complete flop at describing musical sounds. It sounded good to me anyway.

Regards. -- Neil

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