I heard this song on the radio the other day and it blew me away much in the same way it had when I first heard it way back in 1997. Yes, like a lot of other folks at the time (late 90s), I was crazy about jungle and drum n bass. Roni Size was one of the best of the DJ/producer bunch and the fact that this song still sounds somewhat fresh is a testimony to his talent. It’s a shame that drum n bass came to be associated with car commercials and other despicable things. Still waiting for the jungle revival. For more on the origins of this beat, check the post on “Amen Break.”
For so long I’ve wanted to share my love of Chalga here on this blog but I’ve always felt that it needed a proper introduction so for the past two years I’ve put it off. I kept thinking I need to re-read the Bulgarian chapters of Princes Amongst Men: Journeys with Gypsy Musicians so that I have the proper references to describe this musical style. It is this book that has the only English language research on Chalga, the Gypsy/Roma derived pop music of Bulgaria. (I approach these blog posts seriously, often doing more research for some of these posts than I would for my own papers in college and the sources for information are difficult at times to find.) I wanted to write the definitive English language reference for Chalga on the internet. Ah, what aspirations! They’ve kept me from sharing these videos all these years, despite my obsessive viewings, circle of friends chatter and Bulgarian correspondences.
Finally tonight, after a couple of glasses of my favorite wine (Marques de Riscal Rioja from Spain) I decided WTF, let’s just post up some videos of good ol’ Azis and let the mouths fall open as they may. Also, as Youtube moves on in years, more and more videos are being removed due to some kinda jerky violations and hence my grand plan of a series of Chalga video roll-outs is dwindling before my eyes. With that in mind, let’s all watch Chalga Bulgarian superstar Azis strut his stuff, shall we?
Tochno Sega by Azis and rapper Ustata
This would have been my first Favorite Video of the Week oh so many years ago but whenever I showed this video to straight male friends of mine, they freaked the f*ck out. Yes, it’s a dude who looks hot in heels and has a beard. It’s gender fuck at it’s finest and he even seduces the hip hop dude while dressed as a manly bouncer. In Princes Amongst Men, author Garth Cartwright talks about the interesting approach to sexuality in Bulgaria. Apparently, according to him, it should be obvious why the term “buggering” comes from Bulgaria. How awesome and mind blowing is it that this country, so maligned and dismissed has such a progressive perspective of sexuality which includes a significant Muslim population. Even more amazing is that it’s most beloved star, Azis comes from a Roma/Gypsy background. He has challenged not only the boundaries of his gender but also of his culture.
It is true that Chalga is not considered “serious” music, much in the way urban music like hip-hop is treated in this country. Much of this disrespect is due to the Roma origins of Chalga and it’s move away from traditional folk styles. I think similarities can be made once again with African-Americans and hip-hop. I’m not saying Chalga is even at the level of hip-hop, much of it truly is cheesy music but it does have a certain pop charm sensibility that makes me listen over and over again. Basically Chalga is a cross pollination fusion of traditional Roma ethnic music, Bulgarian folk music and Western influenced hip-hop, Reggaeton and pop styles. It started off being more rooted in the folk and ethnic styles and has gradually moved into the more Western sounding styles.
No Kazvam Ti Stiga by Azis
Phew! Is it getting hot around this blog? Don’t worry straight fellas, wait till we get to the female Chalga singers. Soft core porn is the norm for some of these videos and I’m sure they would get more risque if they could.
“only in my dreams have i had you, only in my dreams did i feel alive, only in my dreams i felt you inside of me, only in my dreams was i able to laugh”
Kazvash Che Me Obichash by Azis and Desi Slava (another famous Chalga star)
Here is small taste of the kinda cross gender sexuality that infuses Chalga videos. Wait till we get to the super hot singer Reyhan (RIP) in Chalga, Part Two!
Antigeroi by Azis
Azis has said in interviews he has great admiration for the women of Bollywood, both their singing and dancing. This video is a tribute to them and it’s a pretty catchy song too!
Teb Ochim by Azis
One of his latest songs.
In the end, this quote from one the comments on his videos sums it all up:
Many anti-gay folks have fear of their own homosexuality.
Azis is Azis.
No one can take the credit, or be ashamed collectively for him.
I am proud that Bulgaria has the open mind to accept such a crazy character. Only in a civilized culture.