In Bulgarian language, the suffix “nitza” at the end of a word usually implies a female gender. Many common words have it. Some are connected with popular food, such as “lyutenitza” (a tomato-paprika spread), “nadenitza” (sausage), some are words for activities and games: “krienitza” (hide and seek) “gonenitza” (tag) and a few name popular folk dances in irregular rhythms, such as “ruchenitza” (in 7/8) and “kopanitza” (in 11/8).
The world “jazzanitza” gives “jazz” a Bulgarian appearance in a way, and this is exactly the idea behind the music of Jazzanitza, composed by drummer Borislav Petrov.
Jazzanitza is a collective of Bulgarian jazz musicians, whose individual musical searches gravitate towards combining contemporary jazz with elements of folk music from Bulgaria. The musicians belong to the first generation of Bulgarian musicians after the democratic changes (1989), who had the opportunity to receive their jazz education abroad and carry over the acquainted knowledge to their homeland.
Borislav Petrov took the initiative to bring these musicians together and let them dive into thе brave musical endeavor to combine the harmonic structure and stylistic competence of various jazz styles, while carefully intertwining them with the rhythmic and melodic flavor of the Bulgarian folk traditions. Jazzanitza follows the footsteps of giants in Bulgarian instrumental folk and jazz music, such as Ivo Papasov, Peter Ralchev, Milcho Leviev, Theodosii Spassov, Antoni Donchev and many others, who’s creations through the years have given the undeniable proof, that Bulgarian folk music and jazz can live together successfully. Bulgarian jazz musicians now have a rich tradition to build on, by also adding their individual signature to it. Furthermore, Jazzanitza offers a fresh new way of blending the two musical languages. One of the most significant elements in the music of Jazzanitza is the usage of the Bulgarian asymmetric rhythms, but the main characteristic of odd meters from Bulgaria, distinguishing them from other rhythmic traditions, is what Borislav Petrov calls „the Bulgarian groove“.
„The Bulgarian groove“ is the natural, dance-like way some Bulgarian rhythms get their assimetry. The long and short beats, are directly corresponding to dance steps and have become somehow a part of the nervous system of Bulgarians. Every Bulgarian, musically educated or not, feels this groove. In most other cultures rhythms are constructed over a regular, evenly spaced basic pulse, over which a lot of rhythmic layers can be build (as in the centuries old Karnatic tradition of South India). In Bulgaria, the basic pulse can be asymmetric and irregular, so it is all about feeling the inflections of those long and short pulses, which is something Bulgarians do on an instinctive level. Nowadays jazz uses a lot of odd meters and rhythms, but in the music of Jazzanitza I wanted to exclusively implement and emphasize „the Bulgarian groove“, Many of the compositions are based on the popular odd meter dances – ruchenitza (7/8), kopanitza (11/8), buchmish (15/8), as well and mixed meter dances.“ – shares the composer, Borislav Petrov.
The improvisations playfully outline the contours of different jazz and folk idioms, simultaneously focusing on the unique artistic personality each band member. Balanced between purposeful compositional manner and spontaneous ensemble improvisation, the music of Jazzanitza generates a smooth blend of diverse musical inheritances, while remaining true to the essence of the of the musical elements it combines.
At the beginning of 2016 Jazzanitza released their debut album “Jazzanitza”. Here is what Borislav Petrov shares about it:
“The journey towards this album began about 16 years ago, when I met the saxophonist Dimitar Liolev, who opened my eyes and heart to the magic of Bulgarian folk music. After many years of investigation, exploration and experiments, I finally got the courage to write music and assemble a band, which reflects my ideas in the direction of blending jazz and Bulgarian folk music. I am honored to have some of my best friends in that band , people along side whom I have the fortune to walk the road to musical growth. On the other hand, we are all honored to have as a special guest one of the pioneers of Bulgarian folk-jazz, brilliant pianist and composer, Antoni Donchev, who completes the bridge between the generations of Bulgarian jazz musicians. Every composition from the album is dedicated to a specific person. “Gagarin” is inspired by one of my musical heroes, drummer Stoyan Yankoulov, who is one of the innovators in Bulgarian drumming. “Culture Differences” is dedicated to kaval player Theodosii Spassov, who ones told me: ‘there is something in Bulgarian folklore music that cannot be cultivated, something that is a true enigma to none-Bulgarians’. “Acikbas” is for a friend from my past, who is a talented singer from Turkey. We travelled the world together. There also compositions, written for the band members. “Pravo Kato Magistrala” is for Ludmil Krumov, “Ti Si Znaish, Maina”, for Dimitar Liolev.
Borislav Petrov – drums/compositions
Dimitar Liolev – alto saxophone
Vladimir Karparov – tenor and soprano saxophone
Ludmil Krumov – guitar
Boris Taslev – bass