My name is Angel Dobrev and I am 46 years old. I was born in the picturesque village of Yamna (Northern Bulgaria) which is huddled under the high peaks of the Balkan Range. My childhood was accompanied by the songs of innumerable sweet-voiced birds amidst tall woods and beautiful flower-studded meadows. My parents noticed my musicality relatively early. I used to take pleasure in listening to folk-music programmes on the radio. Then I would run outside and whistle what I had just heard. I used to try making music instruments out of wood generously assisted and encouraged by my grandfather. I used to dream of playing the accordion, by my father was categorical that I had to study a Bulgarian folk instrument. So I chose the gadulka (rebec).



     I have graduated from the Folklore Music School in the town of Kotel, Northern Bulgaria, majoring in gadulka. Surrounded by many talented children and experienced teachers, I got to discover the beauty and richness of Bulgarian folklore. Being an active and enterprising person, in the third year of my studies at the school in Kotel, I formed an instrumental group performing on typical Bulgarian instruments such as shepherd’s flute, bagpipe, gadulka, pandore and kettle-drum. We used to take part in all school celebrations, as well as in the International Folklore Festival in Strazhnitze, the Czech Republic.

     I continued my education at the Music and Dance Academy in the city of Plovdiv, Southern Bulgaria, majoring in Bulgarian folklore. I was lucky to be tutored by such distinguished pedagogues like choir conductor Krikor Chetinyan, composers Bozhidar Spassov, Nikolay Stoykov, Milcho Vassilev and many more. All of them have contributed greatly to my maturing as a musician. This was when I made my first attempts at orchestrating folk music.

     I have been working as an orchestrator at the Folk Music Orchestra with the Bulgarian National Radio since 1982. This formation is unique in bringing together traditional folk instruments to the purpose of performing and recording authentic and orchestrated folk music.



     The gadulka is one of the most popular folk instruments in Bulgaria. It is a stringed bow instrument making a beautiful intimate sound. It is used to the accompaniment of singers, as a solo instrument and as part of instrumental groups and orchestras.

     There is a stylistic difference in the manner of playing the gadulka in the different part of Bulgaria. A solo performance of mine demonstrates the traditional gadulka melodies from the region of Mid-Western Bulgaria. It is entitled sound.gif (1242 bytes) My grandfather’s gadulka and is included in “The Voices of Bulgaria” CD-album, produced by me in cooperation with “STEFKOS MUSIC” record company in 2002.

     The small instrumental groups consisting of a gadulka, a bagpipe, a shepherd’s flute and a pandore are typical of Bulgaria. This is exactly the nature of the orchestra named “FOLK” which I formed to the purpose of performing authentic Bulgarian folk music. Together with “FOLK”, we have taken part in different folklore events both in the country and at international folk festival where we have won a number of awards.

     I am also the founder of the “ETNOS” chamber formation consisting of a gadulka, a double-bass and percussion. Its repertoire features folklore-based works composed by me.

     As a gadulka-player, I have also been taking part in jazz-concerts together with the “JAZZ TRIO +X” formation headed by Simeon Venkov. The latest tendencies of using traditional Bulgarian folk instruments in jazz-pieces have stretched the limits of the genre and have created new forms of expression for folklore. My piece sound.gif (1242 bytes) Kopanitsa, orchestrated by Simeon Venkov, is included in the jubilee CD of great Bulgarian saxophone-player and jazzman Yuliyan Yanoushev and is produced by DS MUSIC 2001.



     Apart from performing as a soloist and a member of the Folk Music Orchestra with the Bulgarian National Radio, I have also been working as folk music orchestrator. The music fund of the Bulgarian National Radio features more than 100 pieces composed by me. They can often be heard on the wavelengths of the three programmes of the National Radio: Horizont, Christo Botev and Radio Bulgaria, the latter being broadcast abroad. The Bulgarian National Television has shown many films featuring my music.

     Examples to listen to:

              Thracian ruchenitsa performed by a solo gadulka, music and orchestration by Angel Dobrev, accompaniment by Folk Music Orchestra with the Bulgarian National Radio;

              5 Angel earned a name: soloist Hristina Boteva, orchestration by Angel Dobrev, performed by Folk Music Orchestra with the Bulgarian National Radio;

              5 Fourfold Chain-Dance: music and orchestration by Angel Dobrev, performed by Folk Music Orchestra with the Bulgarian National Radio.


     I believe teaching is my vocation. I have been occupied in this kind of activity ever since my school years. I kept on teaching young children how to play the gadulka when I was studying at the Music and Dance Academy in Plovdiv. For 20 years now, I have been a part-time gadulka-instructor at the National Palace of Children in Sofia, where I also happen to conduct a training orchestra. I have been teaching the gadulka and conducting a students’ folk orchestra at the Teaching Studies Department at Sofia University “St. Kliment of Ochrida” too.

     I have been taking part in international folklore seminars held both in Bulgaria and abroad in my capacity of gadulka instructor and conductor of Bulgarian folk music orchestras. I have students coming from all around the world: USA, Japan, China, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, and more.



     The material used for making the body of the gadulka is from hard wood species, such as sycamore, mulberry tree, and locust, while the resonant board is made of spruce. There are three major stings, made of metal, which are to be tuned in the following tonal sequence: la (first octave) - mi (first octave) - la (small octave). There are 11 additional strings which are tuned in a chromatic sequence. These are not to be touched with fingers while playing. They resonate, adding specific richness to the sound.

     I have been making my gadulka-s by myself. The living contact with wood gives me some divine peace and fills me with positive energy. My students in Bulgaria and abroad also use instruments made by me. Some of these are Dayan Strickland from the US, Cornelia Vogel, Christoff Chekala, Michael Friedman and many more from Germany, as well as Cornelia Arn from Switzerland, Penny Auborn from Australia, Hiroshi Sato, Satono Takasaki, Maiko Takanohashi from Japan, Moni Ovadia from Italy and more. Besides gadulka-s, you can purchase any kind of Bulgarian folk instruments from my workshop.



     The “FOLK” Orchestra was formed in 1992 in Sofia by professional musicians. It includes some of the most popular traditional Bulgarian instruments, such as the shepherd’s flute (played by Aleksander Donev), the bagpipe (Ventsislav Andonov), gadulka (Angel Dobrev) and pandore (Valentin Yankov). The orchestra’s main goal is to interpret and popularize the authentic Bulgarian folk music. It has been working actively both in Bulgaria and abroad. Its repertoire features folk music from all parts of Bulgaria.

     Some of the more significant performances of the “FOLK” Orchestra: 1992 - a three-month tour of Europe together with “The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices”, under the baton of Ivan Topalov. Countries visited: Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Italy and more; 1992 - joint performance with “Zornitsa” dance ensemble in Belgrade, Serbia; 1994 - joint performance with “Zornitsa” dance ensemble in Belgium and the Netherlands; 1997 - joint participation with “Zornitsa” dance ensemble at the international folklore festival in Dijon, France; Laureate of the “Golden Necklace” award; 1997-2000 - participation in concerts and teaching activity at the “Balkanfolk” international seminar.