|Lilly Drumeva performing in Prague. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber|
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
Congratulations to Lilly Drumeva, the Bulgarian singer and instrumentalist who founded and anchors the Bulgarian country/bluegrass group Lilly of the West, who is in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to study bluegrass music and the bluegrass music industry. She plans to write a book about bluegrass, for publication in Bulgaria.
Lilly has been profiled in or given interviews to several local publications, in which she has described her fascination with American bluegrass and country music and her experience in bringing this type of music to Bulgaria.
Here's an excerpt from her interview with Kevin Willis at Western Kentucky University NPR station:
What made a nice girl from Bulgaria get interested in American bluegrass and country music?
“That’s a long story. It started 20 years when I was a student in Vienna, Austria. I was studying economics, and I heard country music for the first time when Emmy Lou Harris had a concert in Vienna. So I got hooked and started buying CDs.
I had a boyfriend then who played guitar, and he taught me to play a few chords. And I started buying bluegrass and country music CDs, and when I returned to Bulgaria I formed a bluegrass band, and I called it “Lilly of the West”, because Lilly is my name and also my favorite flower. And—for the Bulgarians—I came from Austria, which is in the west, so I was the “Lilly from the West.”
In 1998, we went to the Netherlands where there was a big bluegrass festival and competition. And we won it—we were voted “European Bluegrass Band of the Year.” And since then we started touring Europe, and we’ve released nine albums to date.”
When you gathered these fellow Bulgarian musicians, did you have to explain to them what U.S. country and bluegrass music was all about? Did they have any knowledge about it before you spoke to them?
“When I came back from Austria, I brought lots of CDs, so we had lots of material to learn from. But also, the three guys I found—a banjo player, a guitar player, and a bass player—they already knew a little bit about bluegrass, because in 1990 Tim O’Brien visited Bulgaria. So the American Embassy invited bluegrass musicians from the states to celebrate the fall of communism. So in 1990, the U.S. Embassy brought Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, and Sam Bush who gave a concert. And that’s when my colleagues heard bluegrass music for the first time.”
Another interview with her appears in HispanicBusiness.com
In June, she organized Bulgaria's first country and bluegrass festival, "Country West Fest," in Bankya.
"We had about 300 people," Drumeva said. "It was a little small, but it was great."
This year, she won a Fulbright scholarship to come to the United States to research the history of bluegrass and country music as well as the music industry.
She's been researching in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University's folklife archives. And Thursday and Friday, Drumeva was in Owensboro researching in the archives of the bluegrass museum.
"This is a bluegrass paradise," she said. "These archives are so great."
"Lilly is one of the rare beauties whose music is as gorgeous as she is," said Gabrielle Gray, the museum's executive director. "She has everything it takes to succeed in any form of roots music. She's an extraordinary talent, quite brilliant with a huge heart. She's the total package."
Earlier this week, Drumeva visited Bill Monroe's grave and boyhood home in Rosine.
There was also an article in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
Lilly says she is humbled by all the media attention.
She reports here on her plans for September:
* I will move to Nashville, TN, where I will work closely with the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), researching bluegrass and country music as industries: record labels, promoters, management, publishing, songwriting etc.
* I will attend the Americana Music Conference in Nashville (18-20 Sept.), where I will be part of Aristo Media's international panel. Before that I will make another trip to Owensboro, KY, where I will take part in the bluegrass mandolin camp (13-15 Sept.).
* The main event of the month will be IBMA's annual conference in Raleigh, NC (23-28 Sept.). I am very proud that one of my original songs, 'Turn away', has been selected for the songwriters' showcase on Thursday 26th at 1.00 p.m. I will perform it then, and later the same evening I am part of the 'Foreign affairs' suite with a short set at 11.00 p.m. See this article.