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Women Instrumentalists in Bulgaria




Men comprise the vast majority of musicians in Bulgaria. Even the advent of Socialist-inspired state-run folk music schools promoting equality among the sexes has not erased entirely the social stigma among women musicians as competitive in a man's world and somewhat less desirable as wives. This prejudice takes humorous overtones as Bulgarian men try to justify it: "She plays gayda (bagpipes). Do you know what else she would put in her mouth?" They ignore the reflection thus cast on male gayda players.

Kotel and Shiroka Lûka accepted singers and required them to learn an instrument

Among Bulgarian musicians we find:

tambura players - an exception in that many female singers accompany themselves on tambura. For example, Pena Grozeva has been described by Raina Katsarova in "Tri pokoleniya narodni pevitsi" (3 generations of singers).

gûdulka players - two village women encountered by Lauren Brody, one in her 40s and the other in her 70s.

gayda - Maria Stoyanova, graduate of Kotel, teacher at the Higher Pedagogical Institute of Music in Plovdiv, member of the band "Kanarite" (The Canaries), formerly married to Thracian clarinetist Delcho Mitev.

Kotel, the first Bulgarian folk music school, opened in 1970 with many male instrumentalists and a few female vocalists who also studied instruments, primarily tambura or gûdulka. Maria Stoyanova (gaida) and Didi Kushleva (accordionist) were two of these pioneers.