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50 stories - Duo „Zhiva Voda“

25 July 2022 Events and Discussions


Bulgarian song Down Under: A story about the magic of Bulgarian folklore and the magicians Reni and Ann

Ann Bermingham is an Australian from Queensland, singer, choir director and musical director of musicals in Brisbane. Ann first heard Bulgarian music in the 1980s and soon began singing Balkan songs with an Australian choir in Brisbane. In 1994, Ann heard a performance by folk singer Maria Leshkova at a festival in Melbourne, and this experience changed her life. Literally. For a few minutes, while listening to the incredible voice of the folk singer, Ann experienced catharsis, felt a strong physiological reaction to the music, and decided that she would find a way to connect her life with Bulgarian folk singing. In 1999 she traveled to Bulgaria for the first time. She attended the Koprivshtitsa Folklore Festival, studied folk singing from Bulgarian teachers and performers, and returned home with the intention of continuing to enrich her skills and repertoire of Bulgarian and Balkan music.

The magic of folklore follows her - only two years later Ann met Reni. Not just anywhere, but in her hometown of Brisbane. Reni Bojilova was a singer from Folklore Ensemble "Philip Koutev", who had just arrived in a foreign, completely unknown Australia, both happy to be with her husband (a Bulgarian from Australia) and sad to have parted with folk singing and the ensemble to which she had dedicated her life. Her meeting with Ann was the magical answer to her deepest desire - to continue singing Bulgarian folk songs, even though she was on the other side of the world. In 2001, Ann and Reni started meeting every Tuesday to sing together. This was the birth of the duo "Zhiva voda" (meaning “Living water” in Bulgarian) and the beginning of a wonderful friendship. For 20 years, the two have been singing in festivals, streets and squares of Australia. They have participated in events and given concerts in every major city in Australia, and regularly performed at the largest folklore festival in Woodford, Queensland. They fascinate Australians and international tourists, and warm the hearts of Bulgarians who are lucky enough to hear them.

In 2021, “Zhiva Voda” celebrated its 20th anniversary. During most of this time - from 2003 to 2017 - they have performed together with Georgi Gaidov - an extremely talented instrumentalist who complements the fantastic two-part singing with gadulka, clarinet and bagpipe. Reni and Ann continue to meet every Tuesday to this day, despite restrictions imposed by COVID, and to enrich their repertoire with new songs.

Shivers run down my spine every time I listen to them. I do not miss an event in Brisbane that includes performances of "Zhiva Voda". I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to experience again and again the magic of Bulgarian folk songs so far from home. And I am not the only one. At the concerts of Reni and Ann we often meet fellow Bulgarians and Australians who share the same passion for Bulgarian music and join the “horo” dance, which spontaneously starts with each performance of "Zhiva Voda", turning Reni and Ann into true ambassadors of Bulgarian-Australian relations.


A story by the Bulgarian writer Izabela Shopova.

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