Go to this link for a fun and entertaining interview with and a live performance of 3 tunes from the members of OBI, or Orkestar Bez Ime (from the Bulgarian). It aired last week on M(innesota)PR (the link to the interview is on the upper right hand corner of the page).
I usually mention concerts if they involve beloved friends or something really worth seeing. Well, I forgot to post about OBI's concert last week in Minneapolis at the locally cherished Cedar Cultural Center, the best place to catch real folk troupes from around the world playing in Minneapolis. For example, over the years a number of Hungarian ensembles have toured the US and stopped by there. Some of those troupes had members who were real, village-based players with no university training in music at all; otherwise, all of them had members who had trained in villages with real village players as part of their schooling. Hungary is one country whose presentation of folk dance and music was transformed by a back-to-the-village /authenticity movement (i.e., they threw out the Bullshitski-style or the formalism that had made folk dancing into character ballet). Ensembles in Bulgaria--from the state ensemble on down--also have a strong, village-based style, and Hungarian and Bulgarian troupes continue to be exemplary for authenticity enthusiasts who like to see staged performances of folk dancing.
However, there are some real hard-nosed authenticity-folk for whom going to a show is frivolous: either you participate in the music-making and dancing, or you watch real people in real settings really doing it all, or you just forget about it. That's not me, but I understand the impulse to participate and have it be real rather than sit back and consume. I guess that's why I am a performer. They are a minority within a minority.
(For me, the real test of a troupe's value is this: Do I feel like I am watching people in a village or at a wedding dancing, albeit in a village or at a wedding where everyone is a really good dancer? If there are pointed toes and obvious ballet moves, or if it is all too obvious that the dancers have lots of ballet training, I feel cheated. If this does not help explain things, then you really have to watch either the state ensemble of Hungary or Bulgaria to get a sense ofwhat I mean. Unfortunately, no Ukrainian troupe that I have seen has matched this style; however, I have certainly not seen every troupe there is to see. . ..)
All of this stuff that I have talked about on this blog about authentic v. the kitch of the Sovietski-Bullshitski style is true about American folk music, too. Bluegrass is the American folk music version of Sovietski-Bullshitski (since we are talking about a process of modernizing the peasants and making kitch of their culture for a broader, bourgeois audience that took place everywhere throughout the 20th century). There are plenty of olde-tyme music enthusiasts who don't care much for Bluegrass (while there are plenty who like both styles). The real thing from which both olde-tyme and Bluegrass music derive is often called the "American-primitive style" by knowledgeable folk music lovers in the US. (Olde-tyme music, however, is incomparably closer to real, so-called "primitive" playing than flashy and schooled Bluegrass stuff.)
Anyhow, those Hungarian shows were fantastic, as was OBI's. . .lots of great playing and dancing.
Personally, I am enthusiast of Carpathian Mountian region dances, while Hungarian- Transylvanian and Hutsul music and dance are my true passion and first love(s).
PS--If you are in Kyiv, ask around for info about where and when you can catch a show or a folk dancing night at which either Buttja or Bozhychi will be playing. Also, there is a place in Kyiv to go recreational folk dancing with live, real folk music every Friday (or at least, it used to be every Friday). Email me and I will tell you where it is (the locale is small, and I don't want to send anyone there who isn't serious about wanting to participate in or learn more about real Ukrainian dancing and music). There are a few other music troupes out there that I know about and lots of other ways to experience real folk music and dance in Ukraine, but I am tired of writing for now. . .