National Folklore Festival of Rozhen
Every 4th year in August, Bulgarians of all over the country gather below the peak of Rozhen for a festival, where singers and instrumentalists sing and play on several scenes.
The tradition of Rozhen Fest dates back to a hundred years ago. The first Festival was held in 1898. The idea was given by father Angel Indzhov – a priest of the village of Sokolovtsi. He appealed to all his parishioners to honor all the saints of the Rozhen chapels on the day of St. Panteleymon – the 27 July, near the Chapel “St. Kirik and Yulita”, where the Festival is held to the present day. At those times the border between Bulgaria and the Ottoman empire led through the mount of Rozhen. There gathered the inhabitants of three artificially divided surrounding villages – Progled, in Bulgaria, and Momchilovtsi and Sokolovtsi on the Turkish side of the border. They gathered for family meetings and sang folk songs in the accompaniment of bagpipes, baked the traditional Bulgarian Lamb dish – Whole Lamb on the Fire.
After the year 1912 (liberation of the Rhodope mountain from Ottoman dominion), the Rozhen Fest lost its political meaning, but retained the spirit of tradition, the time and venue as a forum for the people from the middle Rhodope mountain. More and more family and friendly meetings of the Rhodopeans inside the country were held.
Nowadays, a symbol of the festival is the distinctive orchestra called Sto Kaba Gaydi (One Hundred Bagpipes), founded in 1961. The bagpipers, who participate in the orchestra, are from various villages in the Rhodope mountain. They gather on the eve of the festival and make a single joint rehearsal.
The Rozhen festival allows artistic expression of numerous known and unknown performers from the Rhodope mountain. The song Izlel e Delyo Haydutin (Delyo the Haidouk Came Out) originates from Rozhen and was performed by Valya Balkanska, to land on the board of the space station Voyager, along with the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.
Over the years the Rozhen Festival became a nationwide singing competition festival for Bulgarian folk music. Folk singers and instrumentalists from all over the country gather to sing and play on the scenes of the biggest festival of folk songs in Bulgaria. The fest lasts for two days. The anthem of the Rhodope is its opening song – Bela Sam, Bela, Yunache (I am White, White, and My Hero) under the accompaniment of One Hundred Bagpipes. The culmination of the competition is the gala show Zvezden Rozhen (Star Rhozen) in the evening of the first day.
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