“EUGENIA Georgieva comes from Bulgaria but has lived in London for many years and sung as part of the Perunika Trio. This is her solo debut, and while one might expect some fusion album with London musicians this is an unashamed celebration of traditional Bulgarian music. With Bulgarian musicians on kaval flute, gadulka fiddle, strummed tamboura and double bass, Georgieva arranges songs from various parts of the country.
One of the standout tracks is In the Autumn I Have Taken to My Bed, with a lovely vocal line and clashing harmonies – it sounds gloriously Bulgarian. When the prevailing trend these days is to fuse everything, it’s good to hear a performer with a faith in her native traditions and the talent to bring it off.” Po Drum Mome/A Girl on the Road – Evening Standard, Simon Broughton (4 stars)
“Eugenia Georgieva has made her name as an a cappella singer, both with the Perunika Trio and Yantra, but for her solo debut the Bulgarian-born singer has surrounded herself with trusted friends and relatives to give proper instrumental accompaniment to songs from her homeland, some from her mother’s home village of Blazhievo. Kudos to Georgie- va and kaval player Stoimen Dobrev for the arrangements with their delightfully twisting instrumental lines that showcase both the songs and Georgieva’s beautifully pure voice – nowhere better than on Deno, Sreburno Vreteno, where she has the ideal chance to shine on the slow sections, and takes it.
There’s love, death and travel in the songs; the urgency of the road there in the insistent instrumental lines of the title track, which features all three members of Peruni- ka Trio. It’s beguiling, but on a slow song like Podzim Sum, Male, Legnala, it catches brilliant fire with Georgieva’s voice curling round the phrases of a young woman’s dying confession, capturing the sheer heart- break. It’s breathtaking, it stops time, but it’s simply one triumph among so many here. The virtuosity of everyone involved is sub- sumed into the songs themselves, showcas- ing the wonderful material and also Georgieva’s passion for it all. Hear a track on this issue’s fRoots 69 compilation.” fRoots, Chris Nickson
“A London Bulgarian ‘voix’ with plenty of ‘mystère’
London-based Bulgarian singer Eugenia Georgieva presents an exploration of Bulgarian song with this album, having already established herself as a leading exponent of her genre with ensembles such as the Perunika Trio – a highly acclaimed a capella group that performs Bulgarian and pan-Slavic songs. This, her first solo album, covers the joys and sorrows of village life: these include a rite of passage involving a dragon-like beast, a nightingale that guards a poisoned spring, and a girl who confesses her fears to a rose bush.
She is accompanied by a choice selection of adept instrumentalists on various string and wind instruments such as kaval (flute) and gadulka (a fiddle played on the lap with many sympathetic strings). Although there are a few sparser solo sections, such as on the plaintive ‘Trugnala Rada’, the ensemble create a rich polyphony and, as is typical of Balkan music, the tonal palette comprises many more colours than are often found further west. With microtonal decoration and complex time signatures that people outside Bulgaria might find reminiscent of the legendary 1975 album Le Mystère de Voix Bulgares, this album, with grace and panache, brings the mystery to a fresh audience.” Songlines, Tom Newell (4 stars)
“Bulgaria took the world beat scene by storm early on with the Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares project, which took the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir from national ensemble to global phenomenon. The group still tours, but it often seems their initial concept of bringing longstanding village traditions to a modern world has been overshadowed by the group’s pop career, bringing “exotic” Balkan sounds to the likes of Kate Bush, the Xena: Warrior Princess soundtrack, and countless 1990s Eurodance producers.
That isn’t to minimize the accomplishments of the Choir, but it is where Eugenia Georgieva comes in. A singer from cosmopolitan Plovdiv who performed at festivals in the rural mountain villages of Bulgaria as a child, Georgieva has spent a lifetime learning and performing homegrown folk songs with stripped down arrangements and refreshing simplicity. The name of her new album, Po Drum Mome, translates to “A Girl on the Road”, and when Georgieva performs, she is just that. She sings of joys, sorrows, and stories with grace, but without pretense. Tradition may be on her mind, but it comes second to honesty, a quality abundant in her heartfelt delivery of each song. Both come together in Georgieva’s slice-of-rural-life vignettes.
Pastoral images and metaphors are some of the most important tricks of Georgieva’s trade. She opens the album with rustic “Gyul Devoyche”, a flute-heavy song with a steady pace that tells of a girl confiding to a rosebush her anxieties of an arranged marriage. Later, wistful ballad “Sama Li Si Den Zhunala” sees a man asking a woman to harvest and work by his side for the rest of their lives. Birds even save lives from strategic poisonings amidst political upheaval in bleak, shadowy “Trugnala Rada”. Nature is a constant, as are love, death, and farming – all part of the setting on Po Drum Mome.
Arrangements meant for a modern-day audience merge the old and the new in terms of instrumentation; kaval, gadulka, and tamboura meet double bass and guitar across the album. Tragic “Podzim Sum, Male, Legnala” stands out as having a particularly contemporary sound as gently plucked classical guitar strings and bowed bass move into the foreground to stand alongside Georgieva, while “Buenek” feels firmly set in an earlier era as the three more regional instruments perform a ritual dance. The permutations are endless, giving each track full and distinct character.
The academic world once accepted that culture could be broken down into three spheres: the elite, the popular, and the folk. On Po Drum Mome, Georgieva ably collapses the barriers between them, offering sincere renditions of traditional Balkan songs with the skill of a top-tier chamber ensemble and a style that almost sounds like the popular folk revival movement of 1960s Britain and America. It’s Fairport Convention playing the Pirin Mountains, long-told legends, and new-fangled compositions. Rooted in history, Po Drum Mome nonetheless manages to be a testament to Georgieva’s present as she brings forth her heritage and that of her countrymen to create something meaningful and real for this very moment.” Adriane Pontecorvo, Popmatters.com
“Probably the first Bulgarian folk singers I ever heard (back in 1970) were those on the wonderful ‘Village Music Of Bulgaria’ compilation LP on Nonesuch Records). I played my first vinyl copy of that album so much that I almost wore it out, and then tried hard to track down any other recordings I could find (which was not very many, sadly). After the commercial success in the 1980s of the ‘Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares’ project, Bulgarian vocal music became, for a time, a must-have musical accessory for any major pop stars seeking unusual sound collaborations.
Eugenia Georgieva first caught my attention as a founder member / leader of The Perunika Trio, a rather wonderful Bulgarian harmony threesome, who released albums on Riverboat, ARC, and Sony Music Japan.
For this solo album, Eugenia builds on the previous trio’s musical approach, creating songs that feel folksy, rustic and dig back in to Bulgarian tradition, yet are simultaneously contemporary and vitally alive with new possibilities. As someone who has performed folk songs at rural mountain village festivals in her native Bulgaria, yet hails from the urban city of Plovdiv and now resides in metropolitan London, it’s the kind of cross-over experience that can be the most rewarding. There are eleven songs, among them some highlights.
‘Deno, Sreburno Vreteno / Dena, You Silver Spindle (Northern Bulgaria)’ is sung beautifully, particularly the bridge around 2.27 minutes in to the piece (and, again, around 3.41 minutes) with an almost operatic feel.
‘Po Drum Mome / A Girl on the Road (Pirin Macedonia)’ is outstanding with joyous vocals (Eugenia in a duet with drone effects and Magdalena Stoyanova) set against swiftly played tamboura (a mandolin-like Balkan lute, courtesy of Velizar Madzhovski) and a spirited gadulka (played by Gancho Gavazov) I’m surprised this wasn’t the opening track to the CD as it is so immediate in its impact).
‘Podzim Sum, Male, Legnala / In the Autumn I Have Taken to My Bed (Rhodope Mountains)’ opens with plucked classical guitar (Madzhovski, again) and bowed bass (by Magdalena Stoyanova). The kaval (an end-blown flute) is played by Stoimen Dobrev who uses it to great effect.
On ‘Brayne Le Ivane / Hey, Brother Ivan (Dobrudzha)’ Antonia Keteneva sings along with the whole trio plus Gavazov.
‘Sama Li Si Den Zhunala / Have You Been Harvesting Alone (Thrace)’ reminds me strongly of the kind of music I first heard back in the ‘60s. A searing vocal, sparse instrumentation, and a musical ambience evocative of mountains and far open spaces.” Po Drum Mome Review by John Crosby, May 2018
“The Village in All of Us
Eugenia Georgieva knits together instruments, cultures and generations with her graceful, soul-stirring voice. As a member of two ensembles she has performed Slavic and Japanese folk songs and also fused Bulgarian, Indian and English Renaissance sounds. On Po Drum Mome (A Girl on the Road), her first solo album, she explores her musical DNA. Although she grew up in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second city, and now lives in London, Georgieva’s starting point is Blazhievo, her mother’s village, in the shadow of the Rila Mountains. She integrates traditional songs from her ancestral region—one about a dragon who loved a maiden—into a trove of Bulgarian village tales of love, courtship, celebration, work and death. The value of beauty changes between Brayne Le Ivane (Hey, Brother Ivan), advising a young man to choose a hardworking wife over a pretty one (video 1) and Deno, Sreburno Vreteno (Dena, You Silver Spindle), in which a suitor’s alluring neighbor grips his attention (video 2). In Buenek (Lazar at the Gates), a mother takes her little son to watch young girls perform the ritual Lazarki dance (video 3), while Zmey Lyubi Moma (Dragon in Love with a Maiden) introduces the local mythical figure pursuing girls who avoid the Lazarki (video 4). Accompanied by traditional instruments—notably kaval (flute) and gadulka (lute)—Po Drum Mome is utterly enchanting, but there may also be something deeper at work. As recently as 1960, only one-third of the world’s population was urban; modern cities derive much of their energy from residents no more than three generations removed from a hamlet, pueblo, borgo, selo or shtetl. Are Georgieva’s penetrating voice and evocative songs tapping into something primordial, a universal rural beacon beneath memory’s surface? Dragon and all, she generously lends us her ancestral village—perhaps inspiring others to find their own. (Riverboat Records/World Music Network).” Alan Tigay, WorldListeningPost.com
Eugenia Georgieva – The Ritzy, Brixton, London, June 17, 2018
London-based and the leader of the a capella Perunika Trio, Eugenia Georgieva has sung on many stages but, until recently, remained committed to Bulgarian choral music. Now, with her debut solo album A Girl on the Road[reviewed in #138], Georgieva is immersing herself in the village folk songs she grew up singing. Recorded in Bulgaria, A Girl on the Road is exquisite and the Ritzy was fortunate to host its UK launch. Here Georgieva was joined by the four musicians who played on the album and what a beautiful sound they created. Backed by Stoimen Dobrev on kaval, Gancho Gavazov on gadulka, Magdalena Madanska on double bass and Velizar Mandzhovski on tambura and guitar, Georgieva opened with “Gyul Devoyche (A Maiden Like a Rose)”, her voice shimmering above the instruments. Immediately evident was how these five Bulgarians played together. The audience sat spellbound and silent – a challenge considering the Ritzy offers free entry to all – then cheered as every number finished. On “Trugnala Rada (Rada and the Nightingale)” Georgieva was backed only by Dobrev’s eerie kaval to stunning effect. Georgieva is a charming performer, wryly describing what the songs are about and how she first came to hear them. The encore was “Po Drum Mome (A Girl on the Road)” and, with this performance it seems that Georgiveva is truly on the road to winning over a wide audience with her evocative Bulgarian folk.
Garth Cartwright, Songlines
“Whishaw, Carvel and Kevin Harvey all impress as they switch accents, genders and body language between their various roles. But the secret weapon at the heart of Bakkhai is its 10-strong all-female chorus, fully integrated into the action as they outline major plot points in extended set-piece numbers. Among the stand-out voices in this army of grinning Valkyries are Bulgarian-born folk singer Eugenia Georgieva, classical soprano Catherine May and RADA vocal coach Hazel Holder”. The Hollywood Reporter, Bakkhai at Almeida Theatre (full review), 2015
“Speaking of the Daimon’s devotees, they’re portrayed here by a ten-strong, multi-talented chorus from the folk-pop influences of Eugenia Georgieva through to classical soprano Aruhan Galieva. Their first appearance, as they cast away their luggage and personalities in unison to adopt matching brown robes and crowns made from leaves, is deliberately creepy and cultish and cold. But as the play progresses, more and more of each actor’s personality comes out, supported by Orlando Gough’s beautiful and at times brutal score. By the time the group paint their faces to go into battle against Pentheus, smacking their staffs against the floor in sync with each other while howling for justice, you finally believe the hype and feel quite terrified both of them and the deity they’re devoted to.” Digital Spy, Bakkhai at Almeida Theatre (full review), 2015
“As the action quick-cuts between the three temporal planes there are contrasting sounds to match. For the 2016 sisters, there are individual numbers featuring a percussionist, cellist and violinist but also, most strikingly, bursts of primally moving Middle-Eastern and Bulgarian singing; and Aphra’s final message to the cosmos is a radiant combination of psalm-like ancient strains and otherworldly, smoothly jumping vocal lines.” The Stage, Opera for the Unknown Woman (full review), 2016
“At Toynbee Studios last Wednesday, the Perunikas introduced their new line-up and gave us a wonderful evening. Quite simply a magical combination of supreme voices coming together in one heavenly delight. Perfect voice control and vocal acrobatics from these guardians of Bulgarian folk and polyphonic harmonies. Leader and founder of the Perunikas, Eugenia Georgieva told the story behind each song: the aching heart of a new bride leaving her mother, ritual prayers dedicated to deities, songs in praise of Slavic rain goddess Perunika, ditties about the 17th century invasion of Bulgaria by the Ottomans,…. A rich history and painted very well by Eugenia giving a colourful background in which to root the music. An added bonus was the expansion of PT into a full choir when students from UCL joined the Trio for the last song.
The Perunika Trio’s discography deservedly boasts best-label-signings beginning with World Music Network’s ‘Introducing ..’ series, followed by a delightful collection of lullabies released through Sony Music Japan. Their latest and third album, ‘A Bright Star Has Risen’ is out now via excellent label A.R.C. Recorded in an East Sussex church, the heavens naturally opened for Perunika’s earthly ambassadors and hence, rain and thunderstorms are captured within the CD. On our cold and damp Wednesday evening in East London at Toynbee Studios, three stars rose, and shone brightly.” DJ Ritu, A Bright Star Has Risen album launch at Toynbee Studios, 2013
“A particular highlight of the evening is the Perunika Trio, whose aching and pure voices blend into stunning harmonies and dissonance. The spirit of the songs translates, even though the words do not. That Bulgaria lies on the great divide of East and West shines though the music, as Eugenia Georgieva’s voice rises in what feels like a call to prayer.” Molly Doyle, Fringe Report, London Fringe Festival, 2010
“Eugenia Georgieva leads one of the more unlikely double-lives in contemporary music.
As the founder of the London-based Perunika Trio, she specializes in crafting some of the most exquisite a cappella music you’re likely to hear. (…) Only four of the selections on their splendid, 18-song debut album feature instrumentation of any kind (and then very sparingly). The other pieces showcase their luminous three-part harmonies and intricate call-and-response vocal exchanges, unadorned. What results at times suggests the famed Bulgarian Women’s Choir in a much more intimate, but equally moving, form.
Together, these three singers explore the folkloric traditions of southern Bulgaria and neighboring regions, producing music that is alternately haunting and edgy, rhapsodic and at times almost raucous. Any language barriers for Western listeners are easily overcome through the group’s visceral voices – and by their ability to express joy, pain and a variety of emotions in between with such clarity and depth of expression.
As for Georgieva’s double-life, her MySpace page identifies her as “Eugenie G” and cites her chief musical influences as Queen, George Michael, Tool and Bulgarian singing star Yanka Rupkina. Georgieva’s – make that G’s – solo work ranges from chill-out reveries and percolating dance-pop jams to otherworldly ballads…” The San Diego Union-Tribune, 2008