Borislav Petrov is a drummer, composer and teacher. For the last 20 years, he has been exploring opportunities for sharing the beauty of Bulgarian folklore through the means of jazz. He spends much of his time researching the roots of the folkloric drum styles, together with the tradition’s skilled representatives, and the continuity between them. Some of the most exciting musicians on the instrumental folklore scene in Bulgaria are the drummers. Often in the eyes of the audience they are a barometer for the professional level of the orchestra.

In 2020, Borislav launched the "Masters of Balkan Drumming" initiative to give broader publicity to the exceptional skills, musicality, virtuosity, and spectacularity, associated with the folk drumming style – uneven meters, complex rhythmic patterns and highly developed tradition for improvisation. According to Petrov, the constant innovations, the ongoing flux of influences from various contemporary genres and other folk traditions in their style, makes Balkan drummers a worthy contribution to the musical culture of the world.

This is the beginning of a long-term project that visually represents the inspiring research of the Balkan rhythm masters. For now, the photo story covers drummers Paicho and Asan Ivanovi, and Ventsislav Radev, but many others are yet to be photographed.

The photographs were taken in March and April, 2021 in a situation of the pandemic, when the presence of the concerts' audience is banned or severely restricted, and the musicians are actually unemployed.

Paicho Ivanov is one of the living legends of folk music. A total innovator in the Bulgarian drum style – a standard for mastery, exceptional musicality and deep knowledge of the instrumental tradition who mentors and inspires several generations of talented folk drummers. 

Borislav Petrov (right) meets with drummers – father (left) and son (in the middle), in Plovdiv, in Paicho's home

Paicho's son, Asan, is already gaining popularity and respect among folk drummers, despite his young age. A rising star on the Balkan music scene, who, along with many great musicians in Bulgaria, has been working with the famous Macedonian pianist Amza Tairov for several years now.

Borislav Petrov (left), author of "Masters of Balkan Drumming"

To tell the story of his musical path, Paicho opens his valuable briefcase with archival photographs dating back to his childhood

Paicho as a child with his father (on the left)
Paicho as a child with his father (on the left)
Borislav interviews Paicho
Borislav interviews Paicho

For five decades, Paicho has been playing with the biggest names in folk music in Bulgaria – Mladen Malakov, Ivo Papazov, Neshko Neshev, Petar Ralchev, Matyo Dobrev, Theodosii Spassov, Ivan Milev, Sasho Mihaylov, Giurai, Georgi Yanev and others. He has also participated in numerous international projects.

Paicho is recording with Mladen Malakov and Mitko Denev (son of the great pianist Vasil Denev) for Borislav Petrov's project
Paicho and Mladen have been playing together for 43 years. They have amazing musical chemistry. They both say they can't do without each other.

Nadia Petrova (Biseri Orchestra), Borislav Petrov and Nencho Stefanov (producer)

In an interview with Borislav Petrov
Mladen Malakov shares with Borislav about his musical journey with Paicho

Ventsislav Radev is a drummer from a prominent musician family, who has chosen mainly Ethno-fusion and world music for his territory. His style is heavily influenced by jazz and rock-jazz, Caribbean rhythms, but has its deep roots in the folk tradition. He's known for Ethno-projects such as "Ikadem", but also for his long-term work with the internationally recognized virtuoso accordionist – Martin Lyubenov.

With Nencho Stefanov (left) – producer of "Masters of Balkan Drumming"

Recording session with bass player Radi Dankov, virtuoso accordionist Martin Lyubenov and saxophonist Asen Radev (brother of Ventsislav)

Recordings with the master of kaval – Nedyalko Nedyalkov
The project Without an Audience is funded by: