Wednesday, June 2, 2010

10 Days with Europe's Top 10 Pop Music Scenes. #5.

Number 5: Bulgaria. 9.56% GREEN (9.56% of that country's charting songs earned top marks on my spreadsheet)

If this ranking system were based upon each country's pop contributions to the rest of the world, yesterday's number 6, Sweden, would have been Number 1. But that's not how I'm doing things. Instead, I am looking at the entertainment value provided by various countries' pop charts as a whole, and only from the last couple years, based on how the numbers came out on my spreadsheet of 9000 songs. By those measures, Bulgaria and four other countries outrank Sweden.

Not that the Bulgarian music scene needs apologizing for. It's a lively and varied thing, unabashedly fun and astonishingly varied. The rich diversity of sound may be a byproduct of Bulgaria's geography; it lies at perhaps the greatest crossroads of Europe, bordering such varied countries as Turkey, Romania, Serbia, FYR Macedonia, and Greece. All these cultures are reflected in their music.

Bulgaria's artists are willing and able to tackle anything from rap to breakbeats, and their chalga music is one of the catchier forms of the too-maligned turbo-folk offshoots in the Balkans. (Perhaps chalga benefits from direct contact with the neighboring Turkish music scene. It also packs a lot more percussive oomph than, say, Romania's manele scene to the north.) Sometimes Bulgarian artists mash the ethnic and dancefloor elements together with great finesse, as this--maybe the coolest Eurovision song of all time--demonstrates.*

Like the neighboring Romanians, Bulgarians have an appreciation for catchy dancefloor tracks, but whereas Romania has fallen in love with its own style of icy, minimal techno-pop (and lately has put a few too many eggs in that one basket), the Bulgarians seem to be better-rounded music appreciators.

In addition to their own country's music, the Bulgarian music charts also introduced me to such diverse non-Bulgarian fare as Alexandra Burke's "All Night Long (Cahill Edit)" and Kasabian's "Fire." Even a popular South Korean pop star called BoA landed on the Bulgarian chart recently. And despite the usual homophobia one unfortunately comes to expect in Southeastern Europe, the Bulgarian people are not afraid to court a little controversy on their music charts.

Some tracks from the last couple of years:

Deep Zone Project - DJ Take Me Away
Kamelia - Useshtam te oshte
Mastilo - Dumite
Miro and Krum - V Edno Ogledalo (Salma Ya Salama)
Upsurt - Doping Test
Ustata and Sofi Marinova - Bate Shefe

* They came in 5th.

The rest of the countdown so far:

#6: Sweden
#7: Lithuania
#8: Ukraine
#9: Slovenia
#10: The Netherlands

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