Macedonian and Balkan Folk Music

Dragi Spasovski

Dragi Spasovski photo

Photo by David Bilides

Dragi Spasovski was born in the small village of Studena Bara, near Kumanovo, only 25 km from Skopje. His family moved to Skopje when he was 4, and Skopje is the place where he made his first steps in exploring life, art, music and dancing. He was “the” actor in elementary school drama, then joined the school ballet group, and finally, influenced by his mother’s singing, mostly in their home, he found himself swept away by the folk spirit.

In 1966, encouraged by his mother, Rajna Spasovska, who was already recording for the Macedonian National Radio, he made his first attempt at professional singing. He had a trial recording with Radio Skopje’s Izvoren Orkestar. At the first rehearsal with the orchestra, his life was totally changed. Here’s how he tells the story:

“The guys were rehearsing Čučuk and in a corner I was dancing for my own pleasure. At some point Pece Atanasovski saw me dancing and asked me, “Who do you dance with?”, meaning, “Which dancing group do you belong to?” That same evening he took me to a rehearsal with the Orce Nikolov group, and from then on my life was not the same. I danced and sang with the group many years. It was with them that I had my first chance to see and explore the rest of the world, to see places and meet people of different cultures.”

On one tour with the group, Dragi met some Americans, singers and dancers of the Koleda group from Seattle. In 1970 he joined them in Seattle and lived there six years.

In 1976 he returned home. For a few years he danced again with Orce Nikolov. He also recorded intensively with all three radio orchestras. Singing became a very important part of his life. This was the period when he did most of his radio recordings, eventually completing over 100 songs for the National Radio of Macedonia.

Due to family reasons, Dragi had to retire from the folk music scene at the peak of his career. He did not resume singing professionally until he returned to Seattle for good in 2002. Since that time he has performed with many orchestras, including Dragi Mitev, Goran Alachki, Stefče Stojkovski, David Bilides, Balkan Cabaret, and various musicians from the East European Folklife Center (EEFC). In 2007 Dragi completed a 3-CD and book project produced by Izvor Music. He currrently is working on a series of podcasts with David Bilides.

Most of the songs Dragi has recorded he learned from his mother, “songs which were inside of me since I was a child, songs which I shared with myself and others when I was happy and when I was sad. The song was, is, and will be a description of me, a picture of my soul.” The general editor of the Folk Department of Radio Skopje, in one of the programs featuring Dragi, said, “Dragi Spasovski did not find singing a main source of his existence, rather for him it was a cultural exchange.” To which Dragi adds, “Singing is the voice of my soul.”