Many of my friends back in the States have not yet been exposed to Bulgarian Chalga music, a fusion of Bulgarian folk music, pop beats, and horrible lyrics. For a lot of my friends here in Sofia, both expat foreigners and Bulgarians, Chalga is either a guilty pleasure as a BBC journalist mentions in her online report OR strongly disliked for everything that surrounds it and its popularity. I willfully admit that I enjoy the middle-eastern melodies and rhythms for dancing, but when I go out on a weekend I definitely don’t usually suggest a Chalga Club.
Chalga music is primarily about sex & money. In this sense, its quite similar to how rap music is perceived and viewed by many in the U.S.A. Despite the over sexualization and emphasis on money people still listen to it because they like the beats in the music and honestly could give a crap about the lyrics. I know that is how the feminist in me can enjoy some types of rap music. As a foreigner I can’t really understand the lyrics of Chalga music, but I recently went out with friends to a Chalga Club in Studentski Grad (Students Town) and a friend of mine told us the words to the songs we were dancing to. This eventually lead to some hilarious moments of unstoppable laughter – like this fabulous and romantic lyric “My heart beats like a Rolex.” Below is one Chalga star, Kamelia’s concert if you want to take a listen for yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t have a translation.
Now, that being said its actually the Chalga Club scene that actually bothers me. Though it’s fairly entertaining at first for someone who is not from here, it is not an environment I would pay to go to often. Most of my friends didn’t even want to go to a Chalga club last week when I wanted to show a visiting friend what it was like. Lucky for them we couldn’t even get in, because despite how empty it was at 11pm on a Thursday night the bouncer said we could not enter unless we paid for a table. And by pay for a table I mean, pay 100 BGN ($70) for a bottle of vodka and a mixer. In Chalga clubs there is no dance floor because the entire space is filled by lounge booths and high top tables that guests must pay to sit at. For most people like myself who go to clubs to dance – this is considered absolutely ridiculous, but it does play into the concept of money and showing that you have it. The Chalga club owner wants to make as much money as possible so they fill the club with tables people need to buy and for the guys who purchase the tables its a status symbol and a way to show wealth. Its practically standard and assumed that if you go out to a Chalga club you buy a table because that’s they only way you’ll have some space to dance and for guys its more about having a seat for the view. All Chalga clubs have dancers who are paid to walk around in lingerie and basically give lap dances to male patrons, while all the female bartenders tend to get up on the bar and shake their tail-feathers.
You can see inside a Chalga Club for yourself by viewing the BBC’s report on “Bulgarian Pop Folk” (Def take the time to watch). I’m not sure why, but they never once refer to Chalga music by its actual name and insist on calling in “pop folk.” There is even an interview with one of the most famous Chalga stars, Azis, a Gypsy/Roma Transvestite. His popularity is absolutely fascinating given the Bulgarian culture’s blatant homophobia and bigoted views against the Gypsy/Roma populations in its borders. Below is a 2008 Music Video of him and fellow Chalga Pop Star Malina. Hope you’ve enjoyed having your Chalga cherry popped ;p – Leka Nosht!