Simple but sensational

Renowned Bulgarian jazz musician Theodossii Spassov takes the kaval, an early wooden flute, to dynamic dimensions.

Theodossii Spassov 370 (photo credit: Juliana Voloz Rudolstat)
Theodossii Spassov 370
(photo credit: Juliana Voloz Rudolstat)
‘The kaval [Bulgarian shepherd’s pipe] is one of the first European wooden instruments. Its sound is most natural and similar to the human voice. That is what probably draws people around the world to my music,” says internationally renowned kaval player Theodosii Spassov modestly in an interview from his home in Sofia.
Spassov, who has already performed in Israel, returns to appear in The Balkan Pearl concerts, together with Sinfonietta Beersheva, on January 28 and 30 under conductor Ziv Kojokaro.
He adds, “It is probably the combination of this most simple instrument with a symphony orchestra or a jazz ensemble that sparks people’s curiosity.”
Spassov’s way to music was as natural as the sound of his instrument.
Born in a village in Bulgaria, he went to a music school for traditional Bulgarian instruments, organized by his father. “The choice of instruments was a bagpipe, an accordion, a folk violin and a kaval – a wooden flute – and I went for the latter. As a romantic eight-year-old boy, I was totally captivated by the image of a shepherd tending his herds in the plains and mountains – you know, serenity and freedom,” says the 50- year-old. After winning a local competition, he entered the Music School in Kotel and graduated from the Academy of Music and Dance in Plovdiv. “I’ve been playing kaval for more than 40 years,” he says.
Over the years, he has developed his unique style. He admits that music occupies most of his life, and “when I get tired of something, I develop new directions. My approach to music making is not commercial, this all is about my musical interests, about my personal freedom as an artist. I work on various projects – it could be cooperation with classical orchestras, with jazz musicians, as well as solo performances,” he says.
Spassov has developed his unique style of playing on this eight-hole wooden flute, which is rich in tone and technical possibilities. He has toured all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and the US. In 1994 he performed with Sofia Women’s Radio Choir, which was awarded a Grammy for “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares.”
In April of 1995, Newsweek magazine named him as one of the most talented Eastern European musicians in its “Best of the East” article, noting that “Spassov… is not merely surviving the post-communist cultural wasteland. He has actually invented a new musical genre.”
Spassov has contributed to 20 CDs, four of his own, which have been noted worldwide. He has composed and performed numerous film scores, including the 1993 French-Bulgarian feature film Granitza (The Border). He also recorded themes for films by Italian composers Carlos Siliotto and Ennio Morricone in An Italian Story and The Breakout of the Innocent. At the fourth European Jazz Night, Spassov was a featured performer along with other jazz musicians such as Winton Marsalis.
At home in Bulgaria, Spassov is a national figure and musical hero and was honored with the Music Artist of the Year award.
Spassov, who recently performed in Israel as a guest of the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra, has nothing but praise for Israeli musicians: “They are the crème de la crème of music making. And I feel great in your country, not only because it has a huge Bulgarian community but also because Bulgarians and Israelis share the same sense of humor – that is why they understand my music so well!”
Theodosii Spassov performs with Sinfonietta Beersheva on January 28 and 30 at the Center for the Performing Arts (41 Rager Blvd., Beersheba). For reservations: (08) 626-6422.