Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares

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Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares
4AD reissue cover
Studio album by
Released1975 (1975)
GenreBulgarian folk music
LabelDisques Cellier
CompilerMarcel Cellier
USA release (1987)
Nonesuch Cover (1987)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic link

Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (translated as "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices") is a compilation album of modern arrangements of Bulgarian folk songs featuring, among others,[1] the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir, with soloists Yanka Rupkina, Kalinka Valcheva and Stefka Sabotinova; and the Filip Kutev Ensemble.[2]

Background and history[edit]

The album was the result of fifteen years of work by Swiss ethnomusicologist and producer Marcel Cellier and was released in 1975 on his small Disques Cellier label. Some of the recordings he made himself; others were taken from the archives of Radio Sofia.[2] The album won a Grand Prix du Disque award.[2] The album drew on an earlier release, Music of Bulgaria: Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic, conducted by Kutev (credited as Philippe Koutev), which was released in 1966 by Elektra Records (EKL282), and which itself was a reissue of Ensemble de la République Bulgare, recorded in Paris in 1955 by Le Chant du Monde.[3]

In the 1980s, Ivo Watts-Russell (founder of the British 4AD label) was introduced to the choir from a third or fourth generation audio cassette lent to him by Peter Murphy, singer from the band Bauhaus. He became thoroughly entranced by the music, and tracked down and licensed the recordings from Cellier.[4] It was re-released in 1986 by 4AD in the UK, by the Nonesuch label in the US in 1987, and appeared on the Philips label in other territories.

Subsequent albums were released with similar titles: Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Volume 2 (1988), which won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1990;[5] Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Volume 3 (1990); and Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Volume 4 (1998).

NPR ranked Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Volume 1 the 78th greatest album ever made by women.[6]

Reception, influence and legacy[edit]

The music has been acclaimed by various artists such as Paul Simon, Kate Bush, George Harrison, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Bobby McFerrin, Medwyn Goodall, Enrique Morente, the Grateful Dead, Robert Plant and has prompted worldwide interest.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

The American artist Linda Ronstadt stated that the music was "some of the most beautiful [she's] ever heard".[13] The British-American musician Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young declared after listening to the album: "Every musician who considers himself accomplished should listen to (this group's album) and rethink everything he knows (about singing)."[13] Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead: "They're like angels... exceptionally pure, really polished. Our song 'Uncle John's Band' was inspired by the village music of Bulgaria."[14] Dead Can Dance's singer Lisa Gerrard was so inspired by this album, she declared: "If anybody is changed by this, it's me..."[15]

The soundtrack for the film Ghost in the Shell (1995) by Kenji Kawai was inspired by the music of the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.[16] The track "Polegnala e pshenitsa" features in the soundtrack for the film Skeletons (2010).

Composer Joseph LoDuca wrote the theme music and incidental music for Xena: Warrior Princess; The theme music was developed from the traditional Bulgarian folk song "Kaval sviri", sung by the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir. The original "Kaval sviri" can be heard when Xena races into battle in the Hercules episode "Unchained Heart".

The song "Parasite Eve" by Bring Me the Horizon starts with a sample from the song "Ergen deda". Their vocalist Oli Sykes shared in an interview for Kerrang! that he chose to include the snippet from "Ergen deda" because it felt euphoric but at the same time foreign and instilled a sense of panic and chaos.[17]

It was ranked number 10 on Spin's list of "The 35 Best Albums of the Last 35 Years".[18]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Pilentse pee" (Пиленце пее) [Birdie Sings] – 2:31
  2. "Svatba" (Сватба) [The Wedding Procession] – 1:27
  3. "Kalimankou Denkou" (Калиманко Денко) [The Evening Gathering] solo: Yanka Rupkina – 5:06
  4. "Strati na Angelaki dumashe" (Страти на Ангелаки думаше) [Haiduk Song] – 2:37
  5. "Polegnala e pshenitsa" (Полегнала е пшеница) [Harvest Song from Thrace] – 2:02
  6. "Mesechinko lyo greïlivka" (Месечинко льо грейливка) [Love Song from the Rhodopes] – 2:31
  7. "Breï Ivane" (Брей Иване) [Dancing Song] – 1:31
  8. "Ergen deda" (Ерген дядо) [Diaphonic Chant] – 2:50
  9. "Sableyalo mi agontse" (Заблеяло ми агънце) [The Bleating Lamb] solo: Kalinka Valcheva – 4:31
  10. "Prituritse planinata" (Притури се планината) [Song from the Thracian Plain] with orchestra – 2:45
  11. "Mir Stanke le" (Мир Станке ле) [Harvest Song from Thrace] solo: Stefka Sabotinova – 3:10
  12. "Schopska pesen" (Шопска песен) [Song of Shopsko] – 1:27
  13. "Polegnala e Todora" (Полегнала е Тодора) [Love Song] – 3:38


  1. ^ Burton, Kim (November–December 2010). "Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares" (PDF). Songlines. pp. 66–67. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Buchanan, Donna A. (2006). Performing democracy : Bulgarian music and musicians in transition. Chicago, Ill. [u.a.]: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 346. ISBN 9780226078267.
  3. ^ Buchanan, 2006, p.488
  4. ^ Troughton, Richie (1 December 2011). "4AD Founder Ivo Watts-Russell On Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares". The Quietus. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Past Winners". Grammy.com. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014.
  6. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (24 July 2017). "Turning The Tables: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women, No.78". NPR. p. 8.
  7. ^ Robin Denselow (June 6, 2019). "We fell like cosmic rain': how the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices became global stars". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  8. ^ "The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices - Biography". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  9. ^ Neil Johnson (June 6, 2018). "The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard". WithGuitars. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  10. ^ "New single from the legendary choir The Mystery Of the Bulgarian voices". Concertzender. December 11, 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  11. ^ Len Righi (March 31, 1991). "Bulgarian Singers Bringing Black Sea Magic To Broughal". The Morning Call. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  12. ^ Richie Troughton (December 1, 2011). "4AD Founder Ivo Watts-Russell On Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares". TheQuietus.com. The Quietus.
  13. ^ a b Robert Hilburn (November 19, 1988). "It's Still the Universal Language : Bulgarian State Radio and Television Choir". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  14. ^ "The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Unveils Its 2007-2008 Season". iBerkshires.com. August 8, 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  15. ^ Jim Farber (May 28, 2018). "An Unlikely Union Between an '80s Rock Star and a Folk Choir Blossoms in Bulgaria". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  16. ^ "The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices". Viavox Production. Retrieved 9 July 2020. A Swiss ethnomusicologist who traveled to Eastern Europe at the time of the Cold War, Marcel Cellier, was the first to record them, and to publish an album on his own label in 1975. But it's about ten year later that the choir reached global success, when the English label 4AD released the record produced by Marcel Cellier. The musicians recognize and love to get lost. Kate Bush, Gorillaz or the Cocteau Twins are swooning. U2, Drake or last year Ibeyi samplent. The music of the Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices has also inspired the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack, among many others.
  17. ^ "Oli Sykes: "I've realised that what Bring Me The Horizon do is special and we shouldn't lose everything"". Kerrang!. 25 June 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2021. It starts with Bulgarian choir vocals, which is something I really got into at the start of the year and listened to a lot, appreciating the history behind it. In some regions it's closely linked to ceremonies involving walking over hot coals and they go into this trance. When I hear vocals like that – maybe because it's sung in different scales and rhythms to Western music – it has this euphoric feeling, but also because it's so foreign to me it has this feeling of panic and chaos. It felt like the perfect way to open a song that is about essentially that.
  18. ^ Spin Staff (December 6, 2020). "The 35 Best Albums of the Last 35 Years". Spin. Retrieved 21 December 2020.

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