The Bistrishki Babi Performers

The Bistrishki babi (Grannnies of Bistritsa) are the best known women from the village of Bistritsa. They have earned world fame with their performances of an archaic singing typical of the Shopp folk region alone. Their group, formed 66 years ago, consists of 9 women.

In 2005, the Bistrishki babi group was added to the UNESCO list of masterpieces. They became Bulgaria's first nomination under the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces of oral and intangible human heritage as “Bistrishki Babi – archaic polyphony, dances and ritual practices” (September 2004) - a project headed by Prof. Mila Santova, Institute of Folklore, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The Bistrishki babi were the first nominees from South-Eastern Europe and competed with performers from all over the world. Among the other world masterpieces then proclaimed there were such belonging to the cultural heritages of Japan, China, India, Peru, Bangladesh, Columbia, etc. The requirement was to demonstrate an authentic and living folklore tradition.

The singing of the Bistrishki babi is unique, for it comes from ancient, pre-Christian times. Experts define it as unique three-voice polyphony. Polyphony is an archaic style of singing having a characteristic melodic structure preserved over the centuries. The three-part singing is solely typical of Bistritsa, it is found nowhere else in the Shopp area. The higher voice is called 'okane' - it is sung by one woman from each group. Two other women 'drone evenly', i.e. they keep up the main tone as second voice; the other two women in the groups 'drone unevenly' - perform the third part.

The 'old ladies' are dressed in authentic folk costumes and perform traditional local dances.




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