The Bulgarian Chalga is a music genre from the Balkans which has been largely regarded as low culture with its scandalous videos and provocative lyrics. However, it is an invaluable part of Bulgarian culture and history.
In the web archive, a massive collection of over 8000 songs opens up the ‘chalga universe’. Aesthetically tickling the viewer with a mix of camp neon and blinding lustre, it welcomes anybody in a party mood or on the lookout for specific piece of information.
With this gesture chalga acquires a new status in Bulgarian culture: one of rich legacy with various context, history and quality.
The very core paradox of chalga music is that while it beautifully captures Balkan culture and history, it is resented. The public perception is deeply burdened by the inferiority complex coming from associations of ‘Balkan music’, a much deeper problem of disturbed national identity. The music serves as a vent to release everyday pressure and there is a great need to normalise this culture in order for Bulgarian Identity to be understood, accepted and transcend into something new.
For more than 30 years, chalga has been recording history and naturally there are websites that one can explore. However, these resources are vastly disorganised and most importantly incomplete. Here, one can browse by categories, titles, themes and other metadata such as beats per minute, duration, songwriters, etc. And when a selection is finished, a playlist could be generated to suit the user’s choices.
The Home page welcomes the user every time with a random result from the collection. Immediately sucking them in with a marvellous video clip and lyrics on display.
The Search page can be accessed at any moment from any page and be modified by Filters in the menu. All kinds of search combinations are possible and it will be stored in the url. This way one can share their search with others. The resulting page shows all the songs that match the criteria and lays them out for exploring.
From there the playlist could be loaded with various songs and later on played. As a real Balkan party, it never stops and loops back to the beginning once the selection is done.
The Archive page has records of all the songs in the collection. They can be sorted and organised. Each entry is a page in itself so it can be referenced or shared with others.
Immense gratitude to all who helped me do this project: Merel Boers, Claire Levy, Gancho Kamburov, Tony Chervenkova-Kamburova Stilyana Kamburova-Milcheva, Nadezhda Angelova, Melina Koycheva, Ivana Dimitrova, Iliyan Popov, Alexandra Shopova, Kalina Stefanova, Kylièn Bergh, Rafael Colmanetti Correa, Edward Dzulaj, Pavel Pavlov, Atanas Stefanov. And all my classmates and friends who had to listen to me going on and on about this music.
And the support from: Donna Buchanan, whose work opened so much knowledge for me. Jivko Darakchiev, whose film Popfolk (2018) served as a springboard for my work. Mitko Dimchev, who doesn’t know, but his YouTube archive of chalga music videos is an integral part of my work.