During the summer of 2015 adjunct professor Tzvetanka and adjunct associate professor Ivan Varimezov traveled to Bulgaria, taking along several UCLA students, in order to participate in the National Festival of Bulgaria Folklore. The trip was supported by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Student Opportunity Fund.

B.A. ethnomusicology student Nicole Andrews shares her experiences via written and photographic essay.



A pre-concert picture with myself and a member of the Pazardzhik Ensemble, photographer unknown, Pazarkzhik, Bulgaria, 2015.

"Nasdrave i Blagodarya:" Travels to Bulgaria with the Varimezovi and Superdevoiche
by Nicole Andrews
Published: January 6, 2016

I have nothing but great things to say about the trip I took to Bulgaria this summer with the Balkan ensemble (Superdevoiche), led by Tzvetanka and Ivan Varimezov. I have bragged to so many people about the amazing time we all had, from our jam-packed schedule (full of sight-seeing, jamming with local musicians, cultural demonstrations, and more), to the incredible hospitality (not only of the Varimezovi, but from seemingly every local we met), to the natural beauty of the country itself.

We had two primary performance opportunities, the first being in Plovdiv and the other at the Koprovshtitsa Folk Festival, but we also independently found ourselves places to sing (for vendors, under a bridge, at the hotel restaurant, etc.). Both major performances were special in their own way. The one in Plovdiv, where Tzvetanka grew up, felt like we were performing for extended family, since she is so well known and beloved there. Those of us performing remarked later that we wondered who was really being entertained: the audience, or us, since they sang along, clapped, laughed, cried, and showered the stage with flowers (all in the middle of the concert, in between songs). One old neighbor even got up on stage to give the Varimezovi a little flask of homemade spirits!

Our performance at the Koprivshtitsa was equally unforgettable. With an endless, colorful river of vendors, music wafting through the winding cobblestone roads, and stages nestled into the green hillsides, I had many moments of thinking, "Well, I am definitely in Bulgaria!" The radiant pride these Bulgarians have for their music and culture is admirable, and it was a real honor to be welcomed with open arms.

The trip was only a week, and it felt like it happened in a day, but it will no doubt stay with me for years to come. I am forever grateful to the Varimezovi for opening their hearts and their home to us, and for working so hard to make the trip as seamless as it was. I am also grateful to the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music for providing me with a scholarship that allowed me to seize this opportunity to further my ethnomusicological education.


Photographic essay by Nicole Andrews

Women climbing the steep, winding trails of the Koprivshtitsa hillsides, photographed by Nicole Andrews, 2015.
  March of the kukeri just before our performance at Koprivshtitsa, photographed by Nicole Andrews, 2015.


One of the many stages at Koprivshtitsa, many of which were nestled into hillsides or on the edge of steep drops, photographed by Nicole Andrews, 2015.

  UCLA students Nessa Riazi, Nicole Andrews, and Elena Georgieva (all wearing black) posing with a fellow group of performers at the Koprivshtitsa Festival, photographed by Alexandra Grabarchuk, 2015.

Ivan and Tzvetanka Varimezov holding a record the two made decades ago, which we found in a tiny record shop in Plovdiv, where Ivan and Tzvetanka first met, photographed by Nicole Andrews, 2015.
  A traditional neighborly offering from one of Tzvetanka's old family friends, photographed by Nicole Andrews, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria, 2015.

An exchange of gifts and hugs in a moment of cross-cultural camaraderie, despite language barriers, photographed by Nicole Andrews, Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria, 2015.
  A kukeri, Nicole Andrews, and Nessa Riazi, photographed by Nicole Andrews, taken in Koprivshtitsa, 2015.

A hillside scene in Koprivshtitsa, photographed by Nicole Andrews, 2015.
  Festival goers, young and old, at Koprivshtitsa, photographed by
Nicole Andrews, 2015.

Tzvetanka Varimezova, her family friend, and Tzvetanka's eldest daughter, Radka, photographed by Nicole Andrews, Pazardzhik, Bulgaria, 2015.

Members of Superdevoiche posing with the record of Ivan and Tzvetanka in the shop where it was bought, photographer unknown, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 2015.