The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the onset of tumultuous political, ecomic, and social reforms throughout Eastern Europe. In Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Soviet Union these changes were linked to the activities and philosophies of political figures such as Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, and Mikhail Gorbachev. In Bulgaria, however, these changes were first heralded and even facilitated by particular musicians and shifting musical styles. Based on fieldwork conducted between 1988 and 1996 with professional Bulgarian folk musicians, Donna A. Buchanan's Performing Democracy argues that the performances of traditional music groups may be interpreted t only as harbingers but as agents of Bulgaria's political transition. Many of the musicians in socialist Bulgaria's state folk ensembles served as official cultural emissaries for several decades. Through their reminiscences and repertoires, Buchanan reveals the evolution of Bulgarian musical life as it responded to and informed the political process. By modifying their art to accommodate changing political ideologies, these musicians literally played out regime change on the world's stages, performing their country's democratization musically at home and abroad. Performing Democracy and its accompanying CD-ROM, featuring traditional Bulgarian music, lyrics, tation, and photos, will fascinate any reader interested in the many ways art echoes and influences politics.
Donna A. Buchanan is associate professor of music and director of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.