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root salad Eugenia Georgieva


It was all back to Plovdiv for her first solo project, she tells Chris Nickson


E


ugenia Georgieva carries Bulgaria in her heart. She might have lived in London for many years, but Bulgaria will always be home: the


city of Plovdiv where she grew up, and Blazhievo, her mother’s village by the Rila Mountains where she first performed. And Bulgaria is the sound that’s at the heart of her solo debut, Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road.


“I always wanted to sing these songs, they’re very meaningful to me. The folk music, especially the lyrics and oral poetry, still resonate,” Georgieva says, “although we live in a different world now. I’m connected to it and I feel an obligation to pass it on.”


She’s been passing it on in the cele- brated a capella Perunika Trio, which explores Bulgarian music, as also as a member of another vocal group, Yantra, which blends different Bulgarian, Indian, and British cultures.


“I’ve been exploring a capella singing for ten years,” she explains. ‘But I come from a rock and pop background, singing in a band at university. So this time I wanted to sing with a band, to express myself with my own music rooted in the Bulgarian tradition.”


Though the band might not be abso- lutely traditional in its make-up, the music certainly is. These are songs of life and love, of death and legend, the stuff of village life for centuries, at the heart of communities, sung at work and at gatherings. Music that’s in the country’s blood


Georgieva comes from a singing family. Her mother is a professional, and Eugenia made her performing debut – with a folk song – when she was eight, at a festival in her mother’s village. More followed, includ- ing appearances in Russia, where she won prizes for her work, before a break until those uni bands. But things changed after she moved to the UK.


“It became more urgent. Folk music helps me develop my identity. I feel happy and honoured to be able to pass on Bulgari- an music and culture.”


The recording location and personnel


on Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road are also equally meaningful. Georgieva knew she wanted to record in Plovdiv, even though “the August temperature was near- ly 40 degrees and we were in a tiny studio, all together for five days of recording, all done live. I only recorded separate vocals in London because the studio was too dry.”


And as for the people: her brother engineered, mixed and mastered the disc, both other members of Perunika Trio con-


tribute (Magdalena Stoyanova plays dou- ble bass as well as sings). The kaval player, Stoimen Dobrev, “is a composer; we did the arrangements together, and he’s arranged for Perunika before. The gadulka player is a teacher and conductor of a Bul- garian choir, and the tamboura player is a virtuoso. I’ve worked with them all, they’re the best band I can assemble to work freely and with love.” Even the man behind the board at her additional London session is a member of Yantra.


The speed of the recording shows not only the closeness of the players and the trust Georgieva put in them, but also the work that had gone on beforehand.


“After I found the people I wanted, and we had the arrangements, I began to work from there, with rehearsals and refin- ing the material. With relatives, good friends and colleagues, all of whom are very close and give me a lot of support, it went pretty quickly.”


tament to the skill of the musi- cians, brimming with the fire of spontaneity, yet always sub- tly keeping the sweet purity of Georgieva’s voice at the front of pieces that satisfy and often surprise. Her versions of these old songs are very much her own vision.


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“Going back to where it all began is a good idea,” she agrees. “But it’s a different reading because the music does evolve. It’s not frozen in time. The songs have a life of their own based on traditional wis- dom. These are a translation of the spirit. It’s the essence of what I feel, the culture, how it shaped me, how Plovdov and the region my mother comes from shaped me. Every time I go back it reinforces that and the distance seems less. I carry it in myself.”


The music on Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road is most certainly at the very heart of Eugenia Georgieva, but recently she’s also spread her wings. In addition to numerous sessions, she leads the Veda Slovena Bulgarian Choir in Lon- don, made her theatrical debut


he music on the CD more than justifies the effort. Often complex and ornate, it’s a tes-


31 f


in a version of Euripides’ Bakkhai in 2015, and more recently performed in two con- temporary operas, Opera For The Unknown Woman and Remnants. It all helps her grow, she believes.


“Contemporary opera doesn’t neces- sarily sound like classical opera,” she observes. “It enhances my polyphonic skills. With Perunika Trio, we worked in close harmony and polyphonically. This is a bigger form, and there are some similari- ties between early Italian opera and Bul- garian singing. Some was strikingly similar, in fact, but in Bulgaria things were pre- served. This other music allows me to see that from a different angle.”


For Eugenia Georgieva, it always circles back to Bulgaria, to Plovdiv and Blazhievo. And on Po Drum Mome/A Girl On The Road, it comes back to the sound of her soul.


You can hear a track on this issue’s


fRoots 69 compilation. eugeniageorgieva.com


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