Music » Music Special Issue

Blato Zlato, from the Balkans to outer space



The "Golden Record" aboard NASA's Voyager spacecraft contained Carl Sagan's curated selection of images — people eating and drinking, DNA diagrams, animals and plants — plus sounds and music, from Chuck Berry to Bach to Bulgarian singer Valya Mladenova Balkanska's "Izlel ye Delyo Haydutin."

  "This lady is the most important singer of all time in my country," says Blato Zlato percussionist Boyanna Trayanova, who originally is from Bulgaria. "They are so proud of that song. Everyone knows about it. Everyone knows the whole story. The Voyager happened just before I was born. My whole entire life, it was the most iconic song of all time. ... It's something you don't even touch."

  The band performed the song as part of Biliana and Marina Grozdanova's documentary series Golden Tracks for El Jinete Films, which follows the stories behind 27 songs included on the Golden Record. The filmmakers showed Balkanska a video of the band's performance — she gave them a thumbs up. "It's like if Louis Armstrong told you 'Hey, you're pretty good at that trumpet,'" Trayanova says.

  In December, the band — also featuring accordionist and vocalist Lou Carrig, violinist Ian Cook, bassist Pete Olynciw and vocalists Annalisa Kelly and Ruby Ross — orchestrates "The Discovery of Voyager," a multimedia performance to celebrate the Golden Record's 40th anniversary, with Helen Gillet, Rebecca Crenshaw, Carl LeBlanc, Seguenon Kone and Binky Griptite (of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings). At Music Box Village, the band will transform into an alien orchestra performing its interpretation of the music on the record. The performance accompanies the release of Blato Zlato's Voyage, featuring its rendition of the song along with an original, "Doncho I Stenata."

  Voyage follows the band's 2017 debut Swamp Gold (Blato Zlato, in English), weaving actual bayou sounds into joyous, meditative rhythms and melodies colliding with dense three-part harmonies.

  "The source of what's happening vocally is the polyphonic traditions coming from the Balkans, primarily Bulgaria, and the village-style singing, where there is a lot of dissonance, there is a lot of tension and release. You don't really get that in Western harmony," Carrig says. "We've been going a little further out there and pushing the limits. ... How can I bring in just enough dissonance to give you this visceral experience but not make it sound bad, and then release it, so when that tension releases, it's much more euphoric."

The 2017 Music Issue:
13 Dreams | Blato Zlato | Boyish Charm
Tasche & the Psychedelic Roses | Yung Vul

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