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Bulgarian folk songs are sung in a very special type of voice which I have not heard elsewhere. The singers have a normal voice when talking, but change when singing. Can you tell me more about it? Does it have a name, how is it achieved, is it used in other musical traditions?

This video of an interview with a singer has a very good example:

From 0:10 to 0:30, there is a standard recording of a song, as would be heard on an album. You can hear the voice in its most common form.

From 1:50 to 2:42, she's singing live in the TV studio. She's still using this voice, and although it's a bit different than the first recording, you can hear it's something she does, not a special effect added later.

And then the interview starts, and she talks with a normal voice, different from the one she uses for singing. From about 3:30 on, you can hear her talking. They are also using her recording as a background, so the contrast is very noticeable.

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Bulgarian vocal music, like that of many Eastern European countries, is charactarized by a very different vocalization technique than what we in "Western" countries are used to. The Western tradition of classical singing is closely tied to the Italian "bel canto" school of singing, which is all about achieving a much more tall and vertical resonant space in your mouth to create the sound. In traditional eastern European music, on the other hand, resonance is much less dependent on vertical space in the mouth and much more on resonance within the pharynx, which leads to that "pointed", somewhat nasal timbre you are hearing.

Likely due to it's proximity to the Middle East, you can hear some similarities between this style of singing and the vocal styles that are typical of Middle Eastern traditions.


By the way, if this interests you, I would strongly recommend checking out the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir's now famous Johnny Carson performance:

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As far as I can tell she is using an open voiced technique or at least something similar to it.

This being said I am not an expert in Bulgarian singing so I did a little research to confirm my above suspicion. This article/interview confirms that suspicion. Not that one source ever proves something. However, after watching the interview I am pretty comfortable with it.

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This is so-called "white voice", which is/was used in Slavic folk music (Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, etc.). It is an open voice technique based on shouting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_voice

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