Roza Bancseva &
the Slavia Orkestar,
(XenoMusic, 2001)

Music is always personalized. When the lyrics are clear, the listener may be forced to cooperate with the artist's vision, but plenty of heartbreak songs have a joyous memory attached. I listened to the songs of Roza Bancseva and the Slavia Orkestar with no clue of their meaning beyond what the title and tune suggested, and found that my mind turned them into a tale of courtship.

In fairness, I think anyone would weave a story out of Jana-Janica. Bancseva's voice is so versatile she sounds like a theatre full of characters, and the Slavia Orkestar creates worlds with their evocative and unusual instrumental ensemble. The album opens with ", Nedo!" as a high, wailing voice winds around the notes of a challenging flute. "Horo ln tncol Angelina (Angelina leads the horo)" changes the pace to what almost sounds like a salsa beat, except for Bancseva's winding, even voice. "Elaludt Jana-Janica" begins the narrative proper with a more sedate, almost conversational tune. The slower pace is dramatically interrupted by "Fj a szivem -- My Heart is Aching," a percussion-driven, heartbeat-pounding tune, with Roza singing a song whose pacing and key suggest lament, but which somehow still sounds joyful -- a fine tune for someone falling in love. "Szerelmes lett Georgi (Georgi is in Love)" seems to answer this, with a tune and an upbeat vocal track that would leave it at home with any head-in-the-sky love song you might know.

This joyous turn of tune and word is brought to full celebration with "Amikor lsz Neda-Nedka (When You Sit Neda-Nedka)," a loud, shouting song that opens with the Bulgarian equivalent of "Yeehaw!" There is the suspiciously narrative "Megtetszett nekem Jagoda (I Have a Crush on Jagoda)," followed by "Fogadst ktttek a legny s a menyecske (The Boy and the Bride Have Made a Vow)," which at least sounds like a triumphant ending song.

But Jana-Janica doesn't end, and that's where my story begins to fall apart. If this really is a story album, it then takes off into following the lovers through married life, a rather uncommon twist. It seems more likely that I'm just wrong, but my brain can only hear one story. If you'd like to figure out what they're saying for yourself, listen. What do you hear?

[ by Sarah Meador ]
Rambles: 10 August 2002