When you visit Bulgaria, you’ll notice a sound that seemingly comes out of nowhere, yet it is everywhere at the same time. It sounds like a mix of oriental and eastern European folk, set to a belly dancing rhythm. It can be heard in restaurants, town centers, and blasting out of passing cars. It’s called chalga.
The sound of chalga can vary from song to song because aside from the oriental and Bulgarian folk elements, there is also a modern component to it. Belly dancing is a must if you listen to chalga. Chalga song lyrics are filled with the typical sexual innuendos, falling in love, and heart break. Chalga seems to resonate with people of all ages because of it’s mix mas of both the new and old world.
Like many musical genres, listeners of chalga have created their own subculture of shiny clothes, lavish vacations, mini-skirts, high heels, and heavy makeup, much akin to the fist-pumping vibes of the Jersey Shore. A stereotype of chalga loving women are not that different from UK chavs, suntans, and breast implants. The men don the usual suspects that come with the GTL (gym, tan, laundry) lifestyle.
Chalga was born in 1989 after the fall of communism. When communism fell, so did the restrictions on broadcasting and pop music. A new, younger generation started performing more sexual-pop songs that would have never been allowed before, and it’s been a hit in Bulgaria ever since.
Chalga has taken over advertising, news, entertainment, schools, and even politics. The pop-folk seems to appeal to a nation of post-communist youth because of its glamorous lifestyle. So if you’re in Bulgaria, make sure you visit a chalga club and throw some napkins in the air, because you can’t avoid it!