In May 2013 Matt Grimes and I were part of the BCU delegation that went on a mobility to Varna, Bulgaria as part of the IMMHIVE project.
Matt is the Degree Leader for Music Industries here at BCU, whilst I am a visiting lecturer on the same degree course. Our task for the 3-day visit was to undertake an investigation into the music scene in the city, and in particular to explore vocational education, music heritage and tourism, and the music industries.
We were fortunate enough to meet a few people from Varna who were heavilty involved in the independent music scene in the city. They were kind enough to sit and be interviewed.
Maria Grozeva is a music journalist with experience of working in Varna and elsewhere in Bulgaria. She is also a university graduate and had some useful insights into vocational education in Bulgaria.
Kobo Tsetkov is a musician who plays in a number of bands, most notably the Ska-Punk band High 5. In the video he talks about the local music scene, and also how he was taught to play guitar by a famous Bulgarian jazz-man.
As well as being kind enough to talk to us at length about their own experiences, Kobo and Maria also took us on a tour of musical points of interest in the city. This short video is an edited version of what was a fascinating and often very funny tour.
Maria, Kobo and others we met reported feeling ‘outside’ of the dominant culture in Varna. So much so that different sub-cultural groups (punks, Hip Hop fans, metal fans) often grouped together and acted as one larger group, which is interesting if you consider the often tribal nature and behaviour of sub-cultural groups in the UK. The Metal Shop in the city also served as the only dedicated outlet for Hip Hop, which would appear to support this.
Varna is located on the Black Sea and, along with being a port, is a popular seaside resort. Along the beachfront there are numerous nightclubs and bars offering various forms of music-related entertainment. By far the most popular, it would seem, is a form of music known as Shalga. A Bulgarian student here at BCU advised us ahead of our trip that Shalga had taken many of the visually prominent images often associated with certain types of US Hip Hop (expensive cars, jewellery, semi-naked women, etc) as it’s basis. This would certainly seem to be born out in the way in which Shalga is promoted around the city.
Matt and I also had some time during which we explored on our own, and we managed to take a lot of photographs between us. Hopefully these, along with the videos above, convey a sense of what we found during our visit.