The Flying Bulgars

The Flying Bulgars is a folk band renowned for its presentation of Klezmer-inspired music. Originally known as The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, the group was founded in Toronto in 1987 by composer/trumpeter David Buchbinder.

The Flying Bulgars

The Flying Bulgars is a folk band renowned for its presentation of Klezmer-inspired music. Originally known as The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, the group was founded in Toronto in 1987 by composer/trumpeter David Buchbinder. The original members were Laura Cesar (acoustic bass); Evelyn Datl (piano and accordion); Allan Cole (piano); Anne Lederman (violin, kaval, mandolin); John Lennard (percussion); Allan Merovitz (lead vocals); and Martin van de Ven (clarinet and tarogato). The "Bulgar" in the group's name stemmed from a dance-form rather than the ethnic group. Never a Klezmer band in the strictest sense, the group has always drawn from other sources, such as Latin music (particularly Cuban), jazz, and rock. This initial interest in outside influences paralleled trends in Klezmer music during the late 1980s. At that time, Klezmer artists were also drawing from funk, rhythm and blues, and new music, resulting in a movement known as the "Jewish New Wave." The unique sound achieved by the Flying Bulgars is largely owing to its highly creative outlook on music-making, one where new boundaries are continually being sought. Buchbinder explained: "We're always evolving into something (new) but still rooted in a Jewish sound" (Canadian Jewish News, 7 Feb 2008).

The Flying Bulgar band released its first (self-titled) album in 1990; this was followed by Agada: Tales from our Ancestors in 1993 (reissued 2001); Fire in 1996 (reissued 1999); Tsirkus in 1999; and Sweet Return in 2003. The 1990, 1993, 1996 and 2003 albums were recorded for Flying Bulgar Records; Tsirkus was on the Traditional Crossroads label. From the beginning, the group enjoyed huge success with audiences, and eventually earned a reputation as one of the world's leading Klezmer ensembles. It undertook its first European tour in 1993 and has played often at folk festivals there and in Canada. The group was nominated for three Juno awards - in 1992, for The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band (best world beat album); in 1994 for Agada (best global album); and again in 2004 for Sweet Return (best world music album).

Now magazine described the ensemble as "an internationally respected combo, committed to revitalizing the traditional Yiddish roots music with a mix of high-wire precision and inspired improvisation" (Now, 20 Feb 1997).

Personnel Changes and New Directions

The Flying Bulgars band has had numerous changes in personnel over the years, among the most notable being the addition of award-winning singer and songwriter David Wall in 1997. He eventually assumed the role of co-director along with Buchbinder. The year 2007 marked the ensemble's 20th anniversary; at that time the name was officially changed. Members in 2008 included Peter Lutek (clarinet); Tania Gill (piano); Victor Bateman (bass); and Max Senitt (drums). The group began heading in a new direction, one focusing on original material written by Wall and Buchbinder, and sung in English, with considerably fewer outside musical influences.

See also Jewish Music and Musicians.


Further Reading

  • Katz, Sheri. "Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band," Chart, Dec 1993

    Woods, Lawrence. "Flying in the face of klezmer tradition," Words & Music, Jun 1994

    Galloway, Matt. "Feisty Flying Bulgars conquering klezmer," Now, 20 Feb 1997

    Levy-Ajzenkopf, Andy. Canadian Jewish News, Vol. 38, No. 6, 7 Feb 2008