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Led by master Bulgarian musician Nikolay Gueorguiev (gadulka/bowed folk-violin), the members of Traki have dedicated their lives to the study, practice and sharing of folk musical traditions and have created an educational package that is concise, packed with relevant core-curriculum and brimming with brilliant vocal stylings, vibrant strings and reeds, and scintillating rhythms.

The core ensemble includes top local musicians Natalie Nowytski (vocals), Jim Parker (tambura/Bulgarian folk lute) and Eric Ray (accordion), and often expands to include master Bulgarian musician Nikola “Kolyo” Nikolov (gaida/bagpipe) and Tim O’keefe (percussion).

More About the Artist

A performance by Traki will spotlight unique characteristics of Bulgarian folk music (including odd-meter time signatures and non-Western modes and harmonies), placing those characteristics within appropriate cultural and historical contexts and offering examples of how folk music is interwoven into everyday life in Bulgaria.

Program Offerings


Music & Mathematics

We further enrich the learning experience by teaching students how to count/clap in complex rhythms (e.g., 5/8, 7/8, 11/16, 15/16) and how those beats are organized in Bulgarian folk music so they can identify those rhythms in the music we play in performance. For audiences interested in more advanced mathematics, the gadulka (bowed folk violin), with its 11 sympathetic strings, is an excellent instrument for demonstrating the relationship between low prime ratios (2:1, 3:1 etc.) and the overtone series.

Seasonal Celebrations

A performance by Traki can also be readily adapted to the changing seasons. The Bulgarian folk music repertoire is intimately entwined with the fabric and rhythms of daily life, and as such, the repertoire is full of songs that celebrate the work and bounty of the Autumn harvest, the coming of Spring, and key life events (births, weddings, etc.).

Additionally, if you find this music compelling and have an idea not presented here about how we might incorporate it into your school’s curriculum, we’d love to hear from you!

The Music of Bulgaria

Land of the Bulgars, the Thraceans, the Macedonians, and other ancient tribes, Bulgaria is a country rich with exotic folk music that has captured the hearts of listeners across the globe. In our performance, Traki will present folk music from the main ethnographic regions of Bulgaria, highlighting unique features for students to listen for—meter/rhythm, scale, vocal style, ornamentation—and noting how the music has been influenced by the region’s geography and by neighboring tribes and countries (Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey) over the centuries.

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COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.