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Ivo Papasov

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After a lengthy absence from the international scene legendary Bulgarian clarinet player Ivo Papasov has returned in 2004. Papasov is of Bulgarian Roma (Gypsy) and Turk origin and comes from Kardzali, a city close to Bulgaria's Turkish and Greek borders. He grew up in a musical family and followed the Balkan Gypsy tradition of leaving school at a young age to focus on playing music for a living. Initially he played in local bands that worked restaurants, festivities and the lucrative wedding scene yet Papasov was so gifted a musician that soon he was leading his own band.

Communist Bulgaria was not accommodating to Gypsy culture and it's unfortunate that the young Papasov was not often recorded as legend paints him as the leader of one of the Balkans' hottest bands. Those who heard Papasov largely did so at weddings where he and his band quickly established themselves as the Number 1 wedding band in Bulgaria. Weddings remain a major factor in Balkan life and competition amongst wedding bands is fierce so to be acknowledged as Number 1 means you can out play everyone else. And Papasov achieved this to the point where whenever word got out about him playing a wedding hundreds of uninvited guests would turn up just to hear the great man blow.

Fame as a wedding musician certainly bought benefits yet under communism Bulgaria's ruling party employed a policy of spurious nationalism that tired to crush all of the nation's many cultures into a uniform Soviet approved Bulgarian culture. Papasov's wild clarinet playing and popularity with Bulgarian Turks meant he was an obvious target and in 1982 he was arrested, beaten and taken to prison. There he was sentenced to a labour camp – the kind of place dissidents were locked up in for however long the communists felt they should be kept from the public – yet a friendly prosecutor managed to get the judgement reversed and Papasov became something of a celebrity with Bulgarian students and intellectuals who found in his music a freedom lacking in official Bulgarian culture.

So famous did Papasov got that he managed to secure a recording contract with the UK's Hannibal Records in the late 1980s. He released two albums of Thracian jazz-fusion on Hannibal and played at many world and jazz festivals before concentrating on the Scandinavian jazz market. Now, with "Fairground/Panair" (Kuker) he's made a triumphant return, mixing his Thracian Gypsy roots with ambient flavoured jazz so creating his best album yet.

Garth Cartwright (courtesy of fRoots)
Ivo Papasov at Kuker Music
Your Comments
louis in wales
dat man is a sik clarinetist his bannd is propa sik amazing syncopation

new york, usa
ivo, you are the king. Congratulations... new york loves you.

Janet Breien -Norway
Ivo Papassov's music is a new experience for me and a welcomed one as it gave me a wonderful feeling of being in a peaceful, enchanting, fairly.

Jo Schmid / Augsburg/Germany
I heard him before some years in our town. He and the band played like the devil. It was great!!

Georgi Simeonov/Oslo,Norway
Ivo Papasov is an unique clarinettist with qualities that is hard to describe. He is talking, he is singing with the clarinet. He is sending so many feelings with it. Amazing! Ivo is The One - simply the best! God bless him!

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