Location: New Orleans, La.
Occupation: I am a full-time jazz drummer. I’ve been playing drums for 23 years, professionally for 15.
Connection to Balkan music/dance: I am originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, and have recently become enamored with the folk music of my native country. Feeling that Bulgarian music needed to be represented in New Orleans, a city with an incredibly rich musical heritage, I started a Bulgarian folk band in New Orleans almost one year ago. The band is called Mahala (it means neighborhood in Bulgarian) and you can find us online at mahalanola.com. We perform for folk dancers in New Orleans, and recently got back from our inaugural Northeast tour, where we played for some folk dancers I had the pleasure of meeting at Balkan camp this year! Being a New Orleans band, we are all very accomplished and busy jazz musicians, yet our knowledge of Balkan music is somewhat limited. Personally I’m rather new to Bulgarian folk music, and to the tapan (I’ve been playing it for roughly one year), so it was great to come to Balkan camp and learn from so many great musicians who have a much deeper understanding of it than I have.
Number of times at Balkan camp: This was my first time at camp.
Experience at camp: I was most surprised and touched by the number of Americans who spoke PERFECT Bulgarian to me! I’ve never experienced anything like it, or met so many non-Bulgarians so interested in my native language and culture. When I describe my experience at Balkan camp to my friends and relatives back in Bulgaria, they have a really hard time believing it!