The Balkan Arts Series is a unique and historic series of thirteen EPs, featuring some of the most exciting field recordings of traditional folk music ever to emerge from Bulgaria, East Serbia, Greek Macedonia and Thrace, and Romania. A joint New York venture between Evergreene Music and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, this remarkable collection opens the vaults to the CTMD’s rich 45-year old archive, and for the first time makes these sonic treasures widely available. Coalescing past and future, analog and digital, traditional and modern, The Balkan Arts Series reflects Evergreene Music’s belief in bringing the latest distribution tools, contemporary design, and cutting-edge technologies to bear on behalf of timeless, traditional, and organic music.
Recorded and curated in the 1960’s and 1970’s by esteemed ethnographer Martin Koenig (some in collaboration with Ethel Raim, some with Dmitri Gesker), the series consists of thirteen state-of-the-art restored digital EPs, as well as a limited number of collectible “new-old stock” 7-inch records. Each unique EP not only presents authentic performances by local master musicians, but also includes a remarkable package of digital liner notes that feature a detailed audio commentary and interview, Koenig’s breathtaking photography, as well as a stunning 12-page digital booklet with essays and more interviews. Together these remarkable materials not only powerfully frame the music in terms of the political and cultural climate of its time, but also evoke the rural emotionality of a bygone era—forever lost to the social and economic pressures of industrial technology, Soviet influence, and Western globalization.
It was in 1966, armed with a single letter of introduction from Margaret Mead, that Koenig set off to the Balkans for the first time. Realizing that the society he had come to study was already in rapid transition, he soon felt compelled to document what was left of the disappearing agrarian life-style and village culture. During his initial trip, and on almost a dozen subsequent trips to Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and former Yugoslavia, Koenig continued to work in the region’s many villages, filming, recording, and photographing the traditional music, dance, and ceremonies.
The original founder and director of New York’s Balkan Arts Center (today the Center for Traditional Music and Dance), Koenig, in collaboration with CTMD artistic director Ethel Raim, produced hundreds of concerts, festivals, workshops, written publications, and documentary films. Together Koenig and Raim also produced two LPs for Nonesuch’s celebrated Explorer Series, which included the song “Izlel e Delyu Haidutun,” the now-famous recording featured on the Voyager Spacecraft’s golden record. Koenig also produced a Yugoslav recording for Nonesuch.
“The Balkan Arts recordings are all old-time music and have the same power as the music from Appalachia—the Doc Watson’s and the like,” explains Koenig. “And I truly believe that we, the West, now have more of an ability to absorb and appreciate this music than we did in the 60s and 70s. Even my 18-year-old son and his friends now respond to it. With so little of this music around anymore, anything that’s this real needs to be cherished.”
Initially self-released via Koenig’s own Balkan Arts imprint, the original records were rediscovered at the CTMD’s headquarters during an early meeting with Evergreene Music’s Label Manager, Mark Roberts. “I was taking a break from listening to the Center’s extensive audio archives and wandered around their office to stretch my legs,” recalls Roberts. “Perched on crammed shelves near the entrance, I noticed a large number of cardboard boxes filled with vinyl of some sorts. It turned out the records had been stored there for decades and, aside from their somewhat yellowed and brittle sleeves, were in absolutely pristine condition. After digging out the Center’s record player and listening to a handful of the records, I knew I had found an exceptional treasure.”
With the decision made to give this historic series its first-ever, wide-scale release, Evergreene Music worked with New York’s Magic Shop studio and vinyl specialist Jessica Thompson to create new masters from these iconic vinyl pieces.
The complete Balkan Arts Series releases this coming June 4th, 2013!