THE BALKAN GENIUS, MILES DAVIS ON THE BALKAN CLARINET
IVO PAPSOV – clarinet
MARIA KARAFIZIEVA – vocals
MATYO DOBREV – kaval (flute)
ATESHGHAN YUSEINOV – el.guitar
NESHO NESHEV – accordion
VASIL MITEV – keyboards, gadulka (violin)
SALIF ALI – drums
As a creator of contemporary Balkan music, he long ago became part of global culture.
Thirty years ago, in 1974, long before Balkan music was discovered on the major music scene, Papazov started his revolution with his Trakija Band. At the time he could hardly have known that he was creating a new movement, later known as wedding band music, a mix of Bulgarian and Balkan folk with contemporary elements. His work changed the face of Bulgarian and world music and developed it in new directions.
No wonder his fans around the world call him the King of Wedding Band Music. In deference to his amazing talent, Bulgarians call him the Aga (the Master). And Papazov really is part of the best moments of their lives. His music resounds not only at major concert venues, but also at the important days of their lives, their weddings and family celebrations.
Ivo Papazov is now 57 with a brilliant musical career behind his back. He appears on innumerable productions and albums. Two of his albums were produced by Joe Boyd (who produced Pink Floyd, REM and others). Global media of the calibre of The Guardian, the The Washington Post and The New York Times write about him in superlative terms. Flattery for Ivo Papazov has come from world-famous musicians like David Sanborn and Frank Zappa and famous and respected experts and connoisseurs like Simon Broughton and Timothy Rice.
Ivo Papazov works with world-renowned musicians like Milcho Leviev, Peter Ralchev, Teodosii Spasov, Antoni Donchev, Johnny Griffin, Hector Zazou, Okay Temiz, Glen Velez, Kepa Junkera, Arild Andersen, Kalman Balogh, Iva Bitova, Sergei Starostin; he plays at festivals in Paris, Salzburg, Tilburg, Krakow, Budapest, the Södra Teatern in Stockholm, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, the Moers Festival, TFF Rudolstadt, Schloss Elmau, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Ronnie Scott’s in London, etc., etc.
His album Fairground (Kuker Music / BBC World Music Award 2005) is a source of what we all love so much: a tender, lyrical and crazily exuberant mix of bright sounds, beautiful melodies improvisations in half-tones and rhythms, so lovingly created that it draws from our hearts what we cherish most.
Here Ivo plays with his wife – the singer Maria Karafizieva – and his old friends from the Trakija Band: Nesho Neshev on accordion, Vasil Denev on keyboards and Salif Ali on drums. But shades of modern Bulgarian music also appear in the form of master musicians like Stoyan Yankulov on tupan drum and percussion, Ateshhan Husseinov on guitar, Vasil Parmakov on piano, Ivo Zvezdomirov and Stefan Marinov on bass.
The beauty of his melodies gives him the force to change us. Enjoy it!
“Ivo’s wedding music, played first thing in the morning, provides thorough and long-lasting attitude adjustment for the busy executive.”
“Once again, Papasov has his band as well as the listener holding onto the tail of a tiger in this incendiary romp through traditional dance styles given a contemporary facelift.”
With a huge gut and unwieldy frame, Ivo Papasov seems an unlikely source for some of the most nimble and virtuosic music you’ll be left in little doubt that he’s one of most interesting clarinettists around. He and his band race through numbers based on the complex rhythms of Bulgarian folk dances, grafting on jazzy improvisations.
SIMON BRAUGHTON editor of THE ROUGH GUIDE TO WORLD MUSIC
If you listen to Bulgarian wedding music you find that these guys are completely out their mind – the guys that play. One band I’m refering to is a band called ‘Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian wedding band’. Their whole frame of mind when it comes to things like creating melodies and playing on their instruments and using times signatures and phrasing is completely alien. I mean they are very comfortable in very odd time signatures although they don’t feel as such. And they’re very comfortable playing in different print modes that basically have no reflection to Western music at all and their phrasing in the way that they hit their notes is very different. In order to find inspiration to apply to this guitar I studied some of this music and came up with some cool techniques.
Although it’s impossible not to admire Bulgarian clarinettist Ivo Papasov’s facility on and consummate control of his instrument, he has never been a particular favourite of mine. Indeed, I’ve always felt that he was something of the Arturo Sandoval, tending to sacrifice feeling to fireworks, and I really haven’t missed him over the ten years he’s been away from the Western market.
Well, I was dead wrong, and this new recording proves it hands-down. From its dramatic beginning with a short duet between keening clarinet and the shattering sound of the tapan drum, succeeded by a hurtling rachenitsa and culminating in a final and moving elegiac clarinet solo, this doesn’t put a foot wrong. Papasov’s band, aided by a series of distinguished guests, slip from the down-home to the cosmopolitan with absolute assurance, and almost absurdly intricate unison passages give way to blistering solos from all participants without anyone seeming to pause for breath. The variety of musical styles – which often follow one another in the same number, yet without any loss of long-term coherence – is breathtaking, and even the excursion into jazzy quartal harmony, unusually, is completely successful.
Both singer Marija Karafizeva’s contributions are of a very high quality and inventively arranged. A special tip of the hat, too, to the Kuker label, who seem to have an unerring knack of hitting on the best, most innovative and most thrilling Bulgarian music around.
KIM BURTON / Songlines