How Balkan throat singing crossed into the Western alternative music scene is an interesting story. That Lisa Gerrard has teamed up with The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voice is an even more promising venture.
First introduced to the West through tapes made by Marcel Cellier, the sounds of the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir were striking. World music had not yet become a major genre, so music from the Balkans was popularised through field recordings collected by folklorists like Cellier or AL Lloyd.
The magic of Cellier’s tapes reached Nonesuch in the US, which licensed the recordings to 4AD, a label better known for Clan of Xymox and Cocteau Twins than rural throat singing. That led to two compilations under the banner, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, sitting in milk crates alongside records by The Birthday Party and Dead Can Dance.
Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance was a fan as well as a label-mate. Fast forward three decades, after the fall of pseudo-socialism in Bulgaria and a break in the activity of Dead Can Dance, to find Gerrard teaming up with the current version of the choir for an album and live shows.
BooCheeMish, a new studio album, features Gerrard on a number of tracks but isn’t a vehicle for the Gladiator singer alone. The music has evolved since the 1980s-including by the addition of beatboxing in one place-but maintains an essential link to the spirit and culture of Bulgarians. The styles and sounds of the voices that make up the choir are given space to breathe but the collective is key to the magic that results.
The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard is live at South Bank Centre in London on Friday, 7 June 2019.