Controversial popfolk rules Bulgaria's dancefloors

Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:55am EDT
 
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By Irina Ivanova

SOFIA (Reuters Life!) - The gilded domes of Bulgaria's largest cathedral reflect the last rays of the setting sun as several thousand people dance to raunchy hits performed by voluptuous and provocatively clad beauties.

The free concert in Sofia marking the 20th anniversary of leading "popfolk" record label Payner stirred public outcry over the choice of the venue, a landmark of democracy where the first rallies after the fall of communism in Bulgaria were held.

Since turning into the cultural phenomenon which Bulgarians love to hate, "chalga" -- as popfolk is derogatorily called -- has attracted plenty of controversy over its influence on the young and is often blamed for a surge of populism in politics.

With its lively dance tunes, catchy lyrics, oriental and gypsy motifs, popfolk is the second most popular music style in the Balkan country, being exceeded only by western pop, a recent survey by independent Gallup International shows.

"This music degrades man to animal. I can't put it in a softer way," said rock-loving Dzhuni Harizanova, 39, who was taken to the Payner concert by a friend. "It can't give anything to young people ... I'm sorry to see so many teenagers here."

Once banned by Bulgaria's communist regime and seen as a revolt against the elite, popfolk has the same anti-institutional flavor which brought straight-talking Prime Minister Boiko Borisov to power.

Platinum blonde Azis, the style's self-made star, rarely fails to shock, be it either by wearing tight dresses and high heels or marrying his boyfriend in an improvised gay ceremony.

"Popfolk is sex, let's speak the truth," Azis, whose real name is Vasil Boyanov, told Reuters. "We sell sex. My female colleagues ... make women dream to look like them, while men dream about such women."   Continued...