Chalga ("Чалга" in Bulgarian from "Çalgı" in Turkish) is a Bulgarian music genre. It is a blend of Turkish, Bulgarian, Arabic, Greek and Balkan influences, as well as motives from flamenco, filmi and klezmer music. It is known for repeating musical themes and dance rhythms, which are known as kyuchek in Bulgarian.



The name Chalga is derived from the Turkish word Çalgı, meaning "musical instrument". A Chalgadzhia (in Turkish Çalgıcı) was a performer who could play virtually any type of music, adding his or her own distinctive beat or rhythm to the song. Often a Chalgadzhia would not be able to read music, but instead play from memory on his or her Kaval (an end-blown Flute). Playing in groups at festivals or weddings, these performers initiated the popularization of chalga.

Behind The Iron Curtain

During the socialist period, Chalga was viewed negatively by the government for many reasons.[citation needed] When Todor Zhivkov, the last Communist leader of Bulgaria, decided to take a more nationalistic tack in the 1980s, such traditions were regarded as inferior to those with more purely Slavic roots. Chalga also came with a provocative hip-shaking dance and at times lewd lyrics, so it was also considered inappropriate from a moral standpoint. While discouraged in Bulgaria, a similar type of music called Turbofolk was met with less restriction in neighboring SFR Yugoslavia.

Throughout the Balkans, Folk traditions have been modernized. In Greece, pop music incorporated the traditions of Laïko ("Popular"), a genre based mainly on the Melos of Asia Minor Greeks. Many of its tunes were later borrowed by pop-folk musicians in Bulgaria. Laïkó's relative known as "Skiladiko" is close to early Bulgarian Chalga, as exemplified by the Kristal Orchestra and others. In Turkey, Arabesque music, a mixture of local and Middle Eastern influences, has become increasingly popular since the 1960s.

Post-Communist surge

In 1989, when the Zhivkov regime fell, restrictions were lifted. The "new" and "Forbidden" were released. A new generation of musicians grabbed the public spotlight, performing songs that might have led to official sanctions only a year before. Chalga also reached the mass media. Though it was still widely considered degenerate music, it managed to gain popularity in the following decade. After early folk divas such as Toni Dacheva, the singer of Kristal Orchestra, stars such as Rousse-born Gloria, pop-folk legends Konstantin, Desi Slava, Ivana and Anelia came onto the scene. Several recording studios such as Payner and Planeta pump out a steady stream of tracks every week on dedicated TV channels.

Chalga in the new century

By the 2000s, Chalga's popularity increased, overtaking the pop-folk genres of neighboring Serbian Turbo-folk[1][not in citation given] and Greek laika in popularity. Chalga could also deal openly with ideas like sex, money, and even the cross-dressing sexual provocation of Azis.

Among the other styles competing (and in some cases merging) with Chalga (Ustata, a rapper, and Sofi Marinova, an ethnic Roma singer, formed a duet) are most notably rap and hip hop music, represented by artists and groups like Dope Reach Squad, Upsurt, Big Sha, 100 Kila, Spens and Mangasarian Bros. Rap has also gained commercial success in Sofia and Varna, as well as in many televised videos.

Today chalga record companies collaborate and work with partners mainly from the other Balkan countries, making this type of Bulgarian music popular both in Bulgaria and abroad in the Balkans.


Chalga is popular in so-called "chalga dance clubs" and chalga-oriented pubs. Most chalga clubs are called 'клуб' (club). Chalga clubs are sometimes the most exclusive venues in town. For the most popular clubs, tables must be reserved a week in advance, while for most others same-day reservations are common. The popularity of the music among wealthy Bulgarians is a great stimulus for investors, and this results in expensive interiors and exteriors of the clubs as well as an above-average level of service. Although it is widely acclaimed by the masses (and by foreigners[2]) as an interesting modern approach to pop and a great way for entertainment, there is also some public dislike of the genre. It is often criticized by some people for perceived tawdriness,[3] loose morals,[4] the shocking look of its singers,[5] its Eastern and Arabic roots, and its lyrics. Chalga clubs are often places where underage individuals can enter without the need of an ID, where alcohol is sold freely and where sexual relations can be made. There are certain clubs with "childrens' parties" where mainly chalga is played and alcohol and cigarettes are main factors, apart from the sexually provocative dress code and the erotic belly dancing and touching.

Lyrics and Music Videos

Modern day chalga lyrics take advantage of the Bulgarian's unwillingness to speak for himself and the fallen morals of the nation's people. Every new song written post-2010 has strong sexual content without any censorship and is oriented mainly towards underage teenagers and minors, while chalga music videos played nonstop on the only type of music television of Bulgaria - chalga-oriented music television channels have started displaying various sex scenes a few years earlier. There is a tendency for chalga singers to go through extensive plastic surgery procedures before they reach the medias. Most common attributes include breast, lip and hip enhancement and removal of excess fat. In most, if not all, chalga music videos, the women are wearing provocative clothing, heavy makeup and fashionable hairstyles to a point where they cannot be differed from regular Bulgarian street prostitutes (they wear lingire in the videos, if not nude by other means; there are many videos in which the singer is nude or is surrounded by nude men or women, if not within a bathtub or slightly covered by blankets in a bed, often bare naked with a small blurred or pixelized area around the genitals and the nipples in females, excluding Azis, who displays his breasts as a female's, strapping off his bra), thus it is commonly assumed that they have sex with the company owners to get into the business. The most noticeable pop-folk artist, Azis, a cross-dressing Bulgarian gypsy man, touches his genitals in most of his videos and he is shown having sex with other men (in a church in "Азис - Хайде Почвай Ме"). In a song with Toni Storaro, a male Bulgarian-Turkish singer, the lyrics read:

Here's a lady, let's go and do it, the three of us

Other songs of Toni Storaro's include lyrics such as:

Look at these two girls kissing each other for the fifth time; They confused the nation with these new trends - These two sweet girls will receive many sex invitations tonight; I hope I wake up between the two of them; Look how they grind their bodies and they provoke
Look at how she's watching me, I can't stand it; Look at how she's dancing, I wonder what she's thinking and what she will want - she will want for us to stay awake for 2, 3, 4 nights; she will want for us to change 2, 3, 4 sex positions until we reach 100 of them

Chalga texts can be sung in many languages but are often sung in Bulgarian. Sometimes the lyrics contain a mixture of languages – Bulgarian is often mixed with Turkish or Romani, and sometimes with Serbian, English, Spanish, or Arabic. Some songs are sung entirely in Romani or Turkish. There are even examples of Macedonian contemporary (newly-composed) folk songs sung by Bulgarian chalga singers in folk festivals in neighboring Macedonia. These songs are sung in Macedonian and have an arrangement closer to Macedonian folk music, but also contain chalga elements.

Examples of chalga kyuchek lyrics

"The village bathroom"

Oh bathroom, oh joy!

The village bathroom, The greatest joy!
Here is the mayor soaping up his genitals
Here is the lady mayor soaping up her breasts
Here is the pope soaping up his genitals

"Doko Doko"

Doko, Doko, Doko,[6] again you came home after dawn.

Doko, Doko, Doko, you are left with no money again.
Doko, Doko, Doko, you drank it all up.
Doko, Doko, Doko, you wasted it on women.[7]

Pyramids, Pharohs

Pyramids, pharaohs, and stupid people for millions

Dog drags a bus; there is no trace left.[8][...]
He took the money, said "Wait a second," then took the plane.
Catch him if you can![9]

Tiger, Tiger

Eh, Tiger, Tiger! Have you got the money?

When you got the money — got the pretty women
Eh, Tiger, Tiger! Have you got no money?
If you got no money — only grannies

Academic research

The controversy about chalga has led to some musical and linguistic research, and to a great number of public discussions.[10]

Chalga proponents often say it is the new Bulgarian folk music,[citation needed] although it has no connection to the national folklore roots, and its only folklore elements are oriental and Roma.


  • Седемте гряха на чалгата. Към антропология на етнопопмузиката, Розмари Стателова, ISBN 954-01-1536-1 (in Bulgarian) (translation of the title: The seven deadly sins of chalga. Toward an anthropology of ethnomusic, Rozmary Statelova)

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Beethoven, Schiller and chalga, Boyko Penchev (bg)
  3. ^ Is chalga innocent? (bg)
  4. ^ Moral panic during transition (bg)
  5. ^ Politically incorrect 'chalga', Marlene Smits (en)
  6. ^ A personal name.
  7. ^ "Doko, Doko" sang by Kondyo
  8. ^ a modification of a Bulgarian saying: "Dog drags [in the transitive verb sense]; there is no trace left"
  9. ^ "Pyramids, pharaohs" ("Пирамиди, фараони") - from the hit album Pyramids, pharaohs /1996/ of Volodya Stoyanov (Volodya Stoyanov's Biography (bg)). Refers to the financial pyramids from the dawn of democracy in Bulgaria during the 90's.
  10. ^ New Folk: The phenomenon of chalga in modern Bulgarian folk, Milena Droumeva (en)


External links

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