Culture and Music
The diversity of Rhodope culture and music is enormous. Many civilizations have lived in these mountains and the Rhodopes as we know it today consists of a mixture of cultural and musical heritage inherited from the Thracians, Greeks, Byzantium empire, Ottoman Turks and domestic people who lived here throughout the centuries.
The Thracian culture was hugely dominant in the Rhodopes; proof can be found by studying the many archaeological sites that have been discovered throughout the years. The 6,000 year old Perperikon sanctuary is just one of these ancient sites: The Rhodopes were also considered sacred mountains by both the Greeks and the Thracians. Many sanctuaries have been built here, and there is a legend that there is a Dionysos sanctuary hidden somewhere in the region. The Byzantines left behind monasteries that were built in traditional Byzantine style, and the Ottomans also brought their culture and way of life. The Rhodope Mountains have stayed a multicultural place, where in one place you can find Greeks, Muslims, Turks and Bulgarians, all living together and respecting each other.
The spiritual culture of the Rhodopes varies as well. Rhodope folklore contains a lot of songs, dances, lyrics, and melodies that honor a variety of traditions and beliefs. Beliefs in mystical and natural powers still have a large influence on many people, and many myths and legends are from this area. Today there are many festivals and events dedicated to the natural spirits that are believed to exist in the Rhodope Mountain region, which are attractions for many tourists and explorers.
The architecture of the Rhodopes is unique: the main components are stone and wood and the buildings are something that is not often seen. They are very practical and well thought out, combining living, storage, and animal breeding space in small but separate areas. Most of the inhabitants are goat and sheep breeders and this is the reason why they developed such an agricultural solution for their homes.
Music is probably the most popular aspect of the Rhodopes: many songs, lullabies, and melodies are part of everyday life here. After all, legend says that mythical singer of God, Orpheus, was born here and sang his most beautiful song in the endless forests of Rhodopes. The song, “Izlel delio e haidutin”, is the most traditional song from Rhodopes, and is included in the list of songs on Voyager’s mission of searching for other civilizations through space by playing music and traveling for next sixty thousand years.
The most important part of Rhodope music is the lyrical nature of the songs because most of the songs were sang quietly because Ottoman Turks had forbidden singing in public during their rule of the Rhodopes. An instrument that is most common is bagpipe, or “gaida” as it is called domestically. Many festivals in this region are in fact bagpipe contests where locals gather and compete. On the first weekend of August, every year, the national bagpipe festival takes place near the Village of Gela and that is something you have got to see.
The culture of Rhodopes, although it presents a merge of many civilizations, has its own specific style because the people who lived here in past took all the best things from the cultures surrounding them and created the Rhodopes that we are familiar with today.