"The Nightingales of the North"



Boris Mashalov is a Bulgarian folklore singer, famous performer of songs from Northern folklore area. He was born on 30 January 1914 in the town of Sevlievo in a family of craftsmen and singers. The family name comes from the honors they receive as fighters from their recognition as a notable craftsmen, traders and singers. Travelling and trading across Bulgaria, his father Nikola Mashalov learns favorite folklore songs from different parts of the country that would later become the core of the musical repertoire of his son. The singing talent of Boris Mashalov was evident very early in his high school years, when he and his sister participated in the celebrations of the school, where they study.

At age of 12 Boris left his hometown and with his family moved to Sofia. He and his four brothers learn how to become painters. While doing his work around the streets of Sofia, Boris sings – perform equally well folklore songs, Italian songs, songs of urban folklore. This causes many curious passersby to stop and listen to his performances, often they encore his songs and ask him not stop singing. Thereby he met with the opera singer Sabcho Sabev who teaches him the foundations of vocal singing, and later gives him advice to deal only with folklore singing.

In 1937 Boris Mashalov made his first recordings of urban songs and folklore songs for a gramophone company „Simonavia” and was invited by the director of Radio Sofia – Sirak Skitnik to sing folklore songs on the radio. Listeners of the radio were impressed by the impressive performance of the songs „Dencho bulya si dumashe”, „Zableyalo mi agantse”, „Zan, zan Ganke le”. This radio debut makes Boris removed from the urban songs from his repertoire and focus on folklore songs. This marked the beginning of his creative career as a singer of folklore songs. In 1949 Boris Mashalov joined the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the National Army as a soloist. With this ensemble he makes concerts in Bulgaria and many other countries – the USSR, China, Hungary, Germany and many others. In 1954 he toured Urals – Siberia – China. For one of the participations in Beijing Mashalov learns „Zableyalo mi agantse” in Chinese and then sang it in front of 50,000 people. When the performance ended, the whole stadium was standing on. Later Boris Mashalov leaved the Ensemble and became a member of the group „Our Song”. With it he makes concerts in villages and towns.

Boris Mashalov is a singer with a unique voice – high and soft with a pleasant tenor timbre. He established himself as a crowd favorite because of his dedicated, inspired and enthusiastic singing, because of the emotional devotion to listeners. At many of his participations he sings songs chosen by the audience. He sings without a microphone because of its strong, impressive voice.

The repertoire of Boris Mashalov has about 400 songs, where prevalent are rebel and family-household songs. About 60 of his songs have been recorded and stored in the „Golden Fund” BNR.

The activity of Mashalov as a performer of folklore songs is inseparable from his work as a collector. During his travels, on business or personal, he is always looking for songs, records them, and is diligent at learning them immediately. By memories of his contemporaries Mashalov recorded „Zableyalo mi agantse” from Gypsy bear-leaders in Northern Bulgaria. In his personal archive he has hundreds of letters with lyrics songs sent by fans of the beloved singer.

For his exceptional talent Mashalov Boris was awarded the title „Master of the Pop Art”, he was also awarded with the medal „Cyril and Methodius” II-nd degree, and posthumously with „Cyril and Methodius” I-st degree. His best songs are included on the CD of „Balkanton” „Zableyalo mi agantse”. Three documentaries have have been made about Boris Mashalov: „The Legend Boris Mashalov” and „Sing My Song” by BNT; „The unique Boris Mashalov” by TV „Scat”.

Boris Mashalov died on 14 July 1962. Today he still remains a favorite folklore singer for generations of Bulgarians, evidenced by the unfading youth of his songs, his many followers and imitators, and last but not at least – the completion competition „Boris Mashalov” which has been helt in Sevlievo since1990 – turned into a traditional national competition.

The most popular songs of Boris Mashalov are:

„Zableyalo mi agantse”
„Atmadja duma Strahilu”
„Mika mama duma”
„Mama Elka budi”
„Nedo le, Nedke hubava”
„Radka platno tache”
„Zasvirili sa Doine”
„Kehaq vika iz selo”
„Vino piyat petdeset iunaka”
„Dedo ore na mogile”
„Zan, zan Ganke le”
„Nigde se bolyast ne chuva, maino le”
„Kitka ti panda, Deno”
„Myatalo Lenche yabalka”
„Proviknal se Nikola”
„Dencho builya si dumashe”



Ivan Panovsky is one of the most popular singers of folklore songs from Northern folklore area. He was born in 1921 in the village of Borovan, Vratsa. From his early childhood he acted as a singer in the Junior High School of Borovan „Otets Paisii”. Later in Beloslatinskata High School, his teacher of singing and music is a Bulgarian composer Svetoslav Obretenov.

In the period 1942-1943, as a soldier in the school for reserve officers in Veliko Tarnovo, Panovski met with the composer and conducter Todor Popov. There for the first time he heard his voice on the radio as a soloist in radio Sofia and as a individual performer of folklore songs. For some time, Ivan Panovski worked as an officer in the Bulgarian army garrisons in Belogradchik, Vratsa and Pleven. But during that time he did not stop singing. Later on he was a teacher at National border military school.

Since the autumn of 1951 Ivan Panovski has expressed himself as a professional folklore singer. Then he recorded his famous ballade „Yanichari hodiyat, mamo”. He participated in many amateur competitions and festivals, and gained stage experience. In 1954 Panovski auditioned and began to make intensive concert and recordings. This is the golden age of small bands who export thousands of concerts in the most outermost parts of Bulgaria. Ivan Panovski also makes his own band – „Vesela sedyanka”. In this group, except singers are Magdalena Morarova, Kaicho Kamenov, Kichka Savova, Slavka Sekutova, Ika Stoyanova.

The performances of Ivan Panovski excel with their special emotion and depth. His voice is strong and resonant and at the same time soft and exciting – a voice that shines with its special personality and beauty.

Panovski toured the USSR, Hungary, Serbia. He recorded several songs in Bulgarian National Radio, he also published a number of LPs in the studio „Balkanton”.

At the end of his life after losing his son, Ivan Panovski sings in the choir of the church in the neighborhood of Pancherevo. Despite the difficulties, he never stops singing and smiling.

The great singer of Bulgaria died in 1998 in Sofia.

The most popular songs of Ivan Panovski are:

„Yanichari hodyat, mamo”
„Pokani Gendo”
„Libele, libe gengubo”
„Petar Petranki dumashe”
„Stano le mome hubava”
„Dve yabalki”
„Beda bedili Todora”
„Sednal Malko da vecherya”
„Ogreyala mesechinka”
„Yanka prez gora varveshe”
„Provikna se Radin bashta”



Mita Stoycheva is one of the greatest folklore singers of Northern Bulgaria region. She was born on March 22, 1909 in the village of Mekish (now Obedinenie), near Veliko Tarnovo. She grews up in a musical family – her mother and her elder sister often sing. From very young she became to express her singing at rural youth gatherings, and her music teacher Alexander Petkov – Zemni kindle in her true love for music. „She was remarkable among all the other children with her cute melodious voice – remembers the teacher. – It was not hard to point out that she was particularly talented girl because every time she sang we were delighted by the impressive power of her voice.”

Her first recognition Mita gets in front of the rural audience. Her teachers want to send her to study music, but her uneducated father, afraid of the unknown, refuses. He married her before the age of 16. Although the too hard rural labor and the shortage, she never stops singing. Mita sings everywhere – in the field, at home. People like her warm and resonant voice and often stop to listen her.

In 1939, at a large agricultural fair in Veliko Tarnovo is being held a competition for singers. Mita Stoycheva won the first prize – two white copper utensils with pretty yoke and a silver bracelet. This was the beginning of her fame outside his native village.

In 1940 Mita Stoycheva was invited to make records of 30 songs from known then firm for gramophone records „Microphone”. Over the next two years she recorded another 60 songs for the same company.

She collects old songs from the village which she learns only by ear and managed to vary her repertoire with more than 400 songs, which later are issued at the Institute of Music where they process the text and melody. Mita Stoycheva is the author of melodies and lyrics of dozens of folk songs, though few know that. She also recorded dozens of songs which are masterpieces from North Bulgaria for the Fund of Bulgarian Radio.

In 1942 Mita Stoycheva sings for the first time at Radio Sofia and four years later becomes a regular contributor to the radio. She moves to live in Sofia and soon established herself as the most popular and beloved folklore singer. In 1954 it was formed a singing group known as folklore artists who wanted to promote the folklore Bulgarian music. Its director is Mita Stoycheva. The group is „Nasha pesen” (Our Song) and includes Lalka Pavlova, Ika Stoyanova, Slavka Sekutova, Radka Kushleva, Boris Mashalov  and Boris Karlov (accordion). With this group Mita Stoycheva makes over 5000 concerts in Bulgaria and abroad. These are the first performers, ambassadors of Bulgarian folklore song abroad. Serbia, Czech Republic, Germany, Albania are just some of the visited countries.

In 1959 the Department of Folklore Music Radio Sofia organized a celebration for the anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the singer Mita Stoycheva. She was awarded with the medal „Cyril and Methodius” II degree. Later, for her 60th anniversary she was awarded with the title of honor „Zaslujil artist” (Honored Artist) and Bulgarian TV makes a movie about her life.

The voice of Mita Stoycheva is soft, warm and heartwarming, her performance is affectionate and penetrating, her ornaments and singing style are typical of the musical tradition of North Bulgaria.

Her talent is not only the best interpretation of the song, but it is also the ability to build and enlarge the ancient folklore tradition. Mita Stoycheva’s repertoire includes haidouk, historical, love, harvest, family and household songs – a total of about 400. Her haidouk slow songs make the most vivid impression. She has a preference for melodies non graduated measure. The beautiful voice of the singer is expressed in its fullness in the various ornamentations in her songs. The most of her songs are recorded in the Bulgarian Academy of Science, and the best of them are recorded in the collection „Guknali sivi galabi”.

Mita Stoicheva left this world August 20, 1976. But her songs even today are spreading in Bulgaria for the glory of folklore song to deliver joy and pleasure to the people. Today, in her memory is held National Music Competition „With songs of Mita Stoicheva”.

The most popular songs of Mita Stoycheva are:

„Otdolu idat ergenite”
„Avliga pee v gradinka”
„Mari Zlatunke”
„Guknali sivi galabi”
„Snoshti sa turci doideli”
„Izprovikna se Stoyanka”
„Stoyan mesechko dumashe”
„Mama Yana budi”
„Stanio perchem reshi”
„Trima bratia diolgeri”
„Kakvo sei horo izvilo”
„Pohvalil mi se Bobina svekar”
„Snoshti se varna iuzbashi”
„Diliyana moma hubava”



Lalka Pavlova was an unforgettable Bulgarian folklore singer from the Northern folklore region. She was born on April 6, 1910 in the town of Teteven. As a child she learned more than 50 folklore songs from her mother and grandmother; and she became popular as “Lalka the singer” in her neighborhood.

Due to the lack of livelihood she moved to the capital city at age 12. It was very hard for her to leave home with all the memories of Haydushka meadow and Kozur neighborhood. But when singing with her soft and heartbreaking voice, she remembered the dearest home; her life turned into songs, and the songs from Teteven region marked her heart forever.

Meeting the folklore singer Gyurga Pindzhuruva was a life changing event because she discovered Lalka’s talent and motivated her to participate in the song competition in Sofia Radio. After winning the competition in 1945 Lalka Pavlova became regular solo singer at the radio station.

During the war she initiated gift collection and donation for the soldiers and personally delivered them to the front. She sang and encouraged the soldiers while shooting was going on above their heads in the trenches. After the war Lalka toured the country with different performing ensembles. Her first long lasting concert tour was in 1946 with Tsvyatko Blagoev’s group. The folklore singers travelled from village to village in wagons and no luxury. They sang before working groups, hospital and military divisions. From 1957 till 1970 Lalka Pavlova was a part of the folklore ensemble “Our Song” and she visited many Bulgarian cities and foreign countries. Folklore singers Mita Stoycheva, Boris Mashalov, Radka Kushleva, and accordionist Boris Karlov were also in the same ensemble. Throughout the years Lalka Pavlova took part in over 450 concerts. Every year she broadened her song repertoire, but she never forgot the old Teteven songs.

Lalka Pavlova’s voice was gentle and lyrical. Her vitality made her closer to the intimate gathering song, closer to the merry and playful refrains, but she performed easily and gracefully wedding, heroic and rebel songs. Records of her best songs have been played for over 50 years on the Sofia Radio.

Lalka Pavlova died on August 11, 1986 and bequeathed us a precious fortune – her songs and a charming, cheerful smile. In 1990 the town of Teteven dedicated Lalka Pavlova a national singing competition for northern songs called “With Lalka Pavlova’s Songs”.

The most popular songs of Lalka Pavlova are:

“Rano e ranila, Nine”
“Doydi, libe le, dovechera”
“Men mi mama porichashe”
“Stefan Todorki dumashe”
“Rano Rani Bogdan Voyvoda”
“Chichovite sinove”
“Trygnalo e bule”
“Mamina Penka gladna bolyarka”
“Tsone le, lelina”
“Mama Tudoro dumashe”



Kaycho Kamenov was one of the most prominent performers of folklore songs from the Northern folklore region and more specifically from the Vidin area. He was born in 1923 in the village of Vinarovo, Vidin area. As a boy he listened to the singing of the village women and their songs later became the foundation of his own repertoire. Kaycho showed his singing gift early on in his life; as a youngster he sang in the church choir and he also sang at night gatherings and village celebrations.

The music producer Georgi Boyadzhiev introduced him to Sofia Radio. For a short period Kaycho Kamenov became a popular and loved singer in Bulgaria. He was the first professional singer who made Vidin area songs popular. He recorded many songs for the Bulgarian National Radio and released two long-tracked records and several short-tracked records in “Balkoanton” studio.

Kaycho Kamenov dedicated his entire professional career to the Bulgarian folklore music. He constantly travelled with different music groups and had concerts in almost all Bulgarian regions.

Kaycho Kamenov’s singing was specific and typical for the song tradition of Northwest Bulgaria. His voice was high, melodious and lyrical. With an incredible ease the singer created dramatic and lyrical nuances of his singing. The unique ornaments, rich dynamic nuances and heartfelt performance rewarded Kaycho Kamenov with recognition and fans not only in Bulgaria but wherever he travelled with his singing. His interpretation of the Vidin region songs remains unique and unbeatable even today. One of his love songs was very powerful – Danube’s mists are as many as the troubles in the heart of a lad whose loved lady is engaged and married to another man.

Kaycho Kamenov’s repertoire includes folklore dance melodies and slow non-measured songs. Most of his songs are part of the Bulgarian National Radio’s Golden fund and many of them were released to the public in a huge for its time circulation.

Kaycho Kamenov died in 1983 in Sofia, but his songs continue to live on through the voice of his student Lyuben Zahariev and the many other young singers who study and perform the songs of Vidin area.

The most popular songs of Kaycho Kamenov are:

“Chie e tova momiche”
“Kune mome”
“Sokole, sivi sokole”
“Kolko sa magli po Dunava”
“Pesen za Indzhe Voyvoda”
“Snoshti se sedyanka kladeshe”
“Tsvetana na stol sedeshe”
“Dunave, oy Dunave”
“Dunya mela ravni dvori”
“Geno le, konakchiyke le”
“Ya ela brayno pri kaka”
“Nali ti rekoh, Todoro”
“Oy, devoyko, tsarnaoka”
“Shto si, Deno”
“Viknala Gana”
“Zapravil Stoyan vodenitsa”
“Tsoninata mayka”
“Dobra, Dobranke”
“Yanche le, byalo momiche”


Georgi Gorelski was born in Vratsa village Tarnava in 1934. The love of folk songs he inherited from his mother. From the second class he sang in the school choir and from the seventh he was a soloist of it. Despite the offer to teach study at a school for gifted children, he went to seminary, leaving after a year and graduated from high school in the village Galiche. By profession Gorelski is a pedagogue, but gifted with the artistry and voice he initiated his life to Bulgarian folk song.

“He will be my deputy” – says for him the great singer Boris Mashalov. Their meeting was fateful for the young Georgi Gorelski. He applied for the Music Academy, but since he didn’t play a musical instrument, did not accept him. He graduated from teaching institute in Haskovo with specialties “Russian” and “Singing”.

His performances start from the 50s of XX century. He is a soloist of the quartet “Thrace” and Dimitrovgrad factory choirs. His records are in the “Golden Fund” of the national radio and television. He sung over 500 of precious folklore songs. Gorelski has great merit for processing and promotion of good Thracian songs. He is valued by one of our music coryphaeus – Academician Petko Staynov. His repertoire is a colorful palette of different style, nationality, tone and genre songs. With the same ease he sings folklore songs from all over Bulgaria, opera arias, Russian and Italian songs. He sang in Tashkent, in Germany, Turkey, France, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary and others.

“By a better chance the world would enjoy his impressive range” – says in his book “Beyond the limits” Malin Dimovski – a colleague of him. Here is what Zhivka Shishkova shared, a chief curator of a museum: “At the end of each hour he sang and the world became different as we did. So these songs were magical, so profound was this voice, so pure was the man that as I remember him, I always want to be good, in hope my teacher like me”. Svetla Biliarska of the children's department of the library in Dimitrovgrad added: “I've never heard such compelling songs, sang of this ancient Bulgarian Almanac, who we got to know”.

Georgi Gorelski died in 1993.

Among the most famous songs of Georgi Gorelski are:

„Mila mamo”
„Ah kato chuesh libe, Mariike”
„Hodih dolu, mamo, hodih gore”
„Kakvo se horo vieshe”
„Lovchanki momi hubavi”
„Penka za voda otiva”
„Marinchitsa po dvor hodi”
„Sred selo horo igrae”
„Kakvi ovchari sleznaha”
„Mama na Toncho produma”


Marin Ivanov was born in the village of Cherni Vit, Teteven. Perhaps not coincidentally, he was born in the same year when Lalka Pavlova started to sing on the radio – 1945, a contemporary enlightener. Eighteen years Marin Ivanov was a secretary of the library in his native village of Cherni Vit. Then twelve years he organized amateur folklore in Teteven municipality – he toured the surrounding villages, studied his native region, collected songs, and enriched the local folklore collection. From 1995 to 2003 he was a mayor of the village of Cherni Vit and again appears as a folk artist and active organizer.

Marin Ivanov is part of the history of the local folklore festival for authentic folklore, which has been held in Cherni Vit for 30 years. He was untiring until his last days – leading folklore group, helping with  his experience. “Surely the Lord has made me so, that my days pass in continuous, constant meetings with the song”, says the singer.

Marin Ivanov died in 2011.

Among the most famous songs of Marin Ivanov are:

„Q izlez, momkova maika”
„Predete, dyachka”
„Snoshti si minah, tanka Fidano”
„Dei-gidi vino cherveno”
„Slanceto trepti, izgryava”
„Tote, de kak ti”
„Ovchar po bryag hodi”
„U Totini ravni dvori”
„Snoshti, mamo, se zavarnah”
„Izlez, Yanke”
„Sednal mi Bogdan”
„Aide ma libe zavedi”
„Baiova Lale”
„Kakvo mi se tatak chue”