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Chalga (Bulgarian: Чалга) is a popular Bulgarian Pop-folk music genre. In Bulgaria this musical style is also known as ethno-pop or just pop folk, short for "popular folk". Chalga is essentially a folk-inspired dance music genre, with a blend of Turkish, Greek, Serbian, Arabic and Bulgarian music. Primary influences as well as motives from folk and klezmer music. It is known for repeating musical themes and dance rhythms.
The name Chalga is derived from the Turkish word Çalgı, (from the Arabic Tchalgi music style in Baghdad, Iraq), meaning "musical instrument". A Chalgadzhia (in Turkish Çalgıcı) was a performer who could play virtually any type of music, adding his or her own distinctive beat or rhythm to the song. Often a Chalgadzhia would not be able to read music, but instead play from memory on his or her Kaval (an end-blown Flute). Playing in groups at festivals or weddings, these performers initiated the popularization of chalga.
Throughout the Balkans, folk traditions have seen a process of modernization. In Greece, there are similarities with Skiladiko and Laiko Greek music. The eastern music of Byzantine tradition in history, became very close to early Bulgarian chalga music.
In Turkey, Arabesque music, with similar "popular" elements was developed, taking Turkish music elements and lyrics and mixing it more with Arab influences due to religious similarities, with Arabesque becoming increasingly popular since the 1960s and has now become part of Turkish music as well.
In communist era 
During communism in the People's Republic of Bulgaria, Chalga was viewed negatively by the ruling Communist governments. Todor Zhivkov, the last Communist leader of Bulgaria, took a more nationalistic opinion in the 1980s, considering chalga music tradition as inferior to purely Slavic roots music. Chalga often came with a provocative hip-shaking dance and at times lewd sexual lyrics, so it was also considered inappropriate from a moral standpoint. While discouraged in Bulgaria, and not played on official radio stations, a similar type of music called Turbofolk in neighboring SFR Yugoslavia was met with less restriction by the Yugoslav official media.
1990s onwards: Surge urge in popularity 
In 1989, when the communist regime fell, restrictions on broadcasting chalga music were lifted. A new generation of musicians adopted the genre and grabbed the public spotlight, performing daring and overtly sexual songs not allowed earlier. Chalga also infiltrated the mass media with a string of controversial sensational coverage. Though it was still widely considered "degenerate" and "low level" music, it managed to gain popularity in the following decade. In the first years of the rise of chalga the melodies were influenced by Arabic, Turkish and Greek folk music featuring instruments such as zurna, clarinette, accordion and buzuki. The early pop-folk divas and "kings", such as Toni Dacheva - the singer of Kristal Orchestra - Gloria, Valdes, Rado Shisharkata and Sasho Roman, opened the way for uprising stars such as Sashka Vaseva, Desi Slava, Ivana, Kamelia, Reni, Extra Nina, Tsvetelina, Vesela, Joro Lyubimeca. Although, some had only several years of success, many of the stars of the early chalga years became icons for the genre. Several recording studios such as Payner Music and ARA Music, pumped out a steady stream of tracks every week on dedicated TV channels.
By the 2000s, Chalga's popularity greatly increased, in far greater proportion to its neighboring popular traditions of Serbian Turbo-folk or Greek skiladiko. The processes of liberalisation in the country allowed the Chalga genre to deal openly with more provocative displays of sex, money, as well as profanity in general. The early years of the 21st century gave rise to the star of Azis in the Bulgarian musical scene. His provocative and inappropriate public displays of nudity and homosexuality along with the vulgar lyrics of some of his songs and his flamboyant clothing played a great role in controversially popularizing the genre internationally as a typical Bulgarian music. His shocking public behaviour and announcements, alongside his undisputed musical talent boosted his fame and he is considered by many to be the king of the chalga genre. However, constant competition among for media attention singers and reliance on displays of sex, drugs and the use of vulgar language has left the public with negative attitude towards the genre. A particular example of inadequacy in seeking commercial success is the incorporation of the anthem of the Bulgarian army into a song.
Other competing styles made efforts to create fusion using chalga elements in rap and hip hop music, represented by artists and groups like Ustata, by acts like Dope Reach Squad, and Mangasarian Bros.
Today chalga record companies collaborate with various partners, mainly from other Balkan countries, giving in to the popular world trends of RnB and Hip-Hop, as well as dance, techno, house and even dubstep and drum and bass, making this type of music more popular abroad.
Chalga has become popular in "chalga dance clubs" and chalga-oriented pubs. Most chalga clubs are called 'клуб' (club). Chalga clubs are sometimes the most busy venues in Sofia and touristic venues. But this apparent success and upsurge in popularity has invited great controversy about chalga and its quick proliferation and has led to some musical and linguistic research, critical study, and heated public discussions about the subject.
Chalga proponents often claim chalga is the new Bulgarian folk music,, but opponents say it has no connection to the national indigenous Bulgarian folklore roots, and its only folklore elements are Middle Eastern. However, it is widely accepted by the night club DJs and a great attraction for tourists who consider it as a novelty and an interesting modern approach to Balkan pop and a great way for entertainment, the genre meets with distaste and refusal from the more conservative public.
Chalga is often criticized by conservative people for the perceived tawdriness, loose morals, the shocking look of its singers, the genre's Eastern, Arabic, Arabesque and gypsy roots, and its sexually explicit lyrics.
There is also criticism of Chalga clubs accepting entrance from underage individuals, and proliferation of illicit drugs and of sexual activities in the chalga venues.
Chalga also faces heavy criticism from artistic circles who see it as an unworthy genre of music that cheapens music and creativity, replacing it with a formulaic and predictable music with often stolen music from other genres and lewd lyrics and draws the public away from more creative music.
Lyrics and music videos 
Modern-day chalga lyrics and music videos have overwhelmingly liberal sexual content. Chalga texts, although sung primarily in Bulgarian, can be sung interchangeably in many languages and Bulgarian chalga have been subject of covers in a multiple of languages. But even in Bulgarian chalga, sometimes the actual lyrics do contain a mixture of many languages – Bulgarian often mixed with local dialects, Greek, Serbian, Macedonian, Turkish and other Balkan tongues, Arabic, Urdu and more recently with some lyrics in English, French, Spanish and other continental European languages.
Some chalga songs are sung entirely in Romani or Turkish and in Macedonian contemporary folk tradition. Because of its appeal, Chalga has become very popular in folk festivals in Bulgaria and neighboring countries, notably Macedonia and Greece. In Macedonia, arrangements are closer to Macedonian folk music, keeping many chalga elements.
- Седемте гряха на чалгата. Към антропология на етнопопмузиката, Розмари Стателова, ISBN 954-01-1536-1 (in Bulgarian) (translation of the title: The seven deadly sins of chalga. Toward an anthropology of ethnomusic, Rozmary Statelova)
See also 
- Byzantine Music
- Arabesque (Turkish music)
- Music of Lebanon
- Arabic pop music
- Mizrahi music
- Стателова, Розмари. (2003) Седемте гряха на чалгата. София: „Просвета — София“ АД, ISBN 954-01-1536-1
- Димов, Венцислав. (2001) Етнопоп бумът. София: „Българско музикознание“, ISBN 954-8307-14-16
- Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene, p. 144
popular music, in the pages that follow I concentrate on the most popular genre, chalga. In today's Bulgaria chalga is the general name for a new dance music that is a complex mixture of various musical styles and traditions
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- Colors of Enchantment: Theater, Dance, Music and the Visual Arts of the ... - Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- Milena Droumeva (en). "New Folk: The phenomenon of chalga in modern Bulgarian folk". Sfu.ca. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- "Анализи | Бетовен, Шилер и чалга". Dnevnik.bg. 2012-10-15. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- "Вестник "Култура", бр.4, 2 февруари 2001 г". Online.bg. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- byMarlene Smits (2004-09-16). "Politically incorrect 'Chalga' - Life". The Sofia Echo. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- "Malina - Strast (Music Video)".
- The phenomenon of chalga in modern Bulgarian folk by Milena Droumeva
- Claire Levy, "Who is the "Other" in Balkans?" in Music popular culture identities, Rodopi, 2002, p. 215
- ChalgaBox - The newest Balkan pop-folk and chalga music
- Balkania Fanzine - Chalga and Balkan Music Video Culture Blog
- Chalga playlist - Chalga playlist
- Music-Bulgaria.com - List of Bulgarian chalga CDs
- Brigada - Chalga - Popfolk - Mashups
- Chalga music - Everything about chalga music - articles, videos, mp3, mixes
- BIAD - Website of Bulgarian Chalga club