2018 Performers

Cherven Traktor

Cherven Traktor (червен трактор) was formed in 2009 to further the preservation of authentic Bulgarian folk music. It is the artistic merging of two couples, Nikolay Kolev (gadulka) and Donka Kolev (vocals), and Belle Birchfield (tambura) and Michael Ginsburg (tupan and vocals). Whether performing at the Brooklyn Folk Festival, at a college campus, or for a traditional dance, Cherven Traktor keeps alive the sounds of Bulgaria and Macedonia under the banner, “Horoto e vechno” — “The dance is forever!”

Nikolay and Donka Kolev were trained at the well-known folk music school in Široka Luka in Bulgaria and have toured world-wide. They are both recognized as world class masters of their art. They have made several tours of the US with the group Kabile as well as with their own family orchestra.

Belle Birchfield has studied tambura with Nikolay Kolev, Todor Kortelev, and Stoyan Kostov. She also plays baritone horn with Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band.

Michael Ginsburg is the leader of Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band, and a virtuoso truba player and percussionist. He is also a well-known Balkan dance teacher and has given workshops around the US and Canada, and in Germany, Austria, Macedonia, Japan, Israel, and Brazil.

Visit Cherven Traktor on Facebook

Cocek! Brass Band

Cocek! Brass Band performs a collection of original compositions influenced by Eastern European and New Orleans dance songs, Afrobeat, Klezmer, and elements of reggae and Western classical pieces. Their repertoire includes dance music for those seeking something new and unique, contemplative Old World melodies that hark back to a lost era, and catchy riffs that will have you singing along and dancing all night long. For Balkan Night 2018, CBB will play a special set with a mixture of original and traditional music.

Check out a cool video of the band.

The members of Cocek! Brass Band are:
Sam Dechenne, composer, trumpet and vocals
Ezra Weller, flugelhorn
Clayton DeWalt, trombone
Jim Gray, sousaphone
Grant Smith, tappan drum

Beth Bahia Cohen and Friends

Beth Bahia Cohen, of Syrian Jewish and Russian Jewish heritage, was inspired at a young age by the music she heard at family gatherings. She later studied with master musicians from Hungary, Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East. She plays the violin, viola, Greek lyras, Turkish bowed tanbur and kabak kemane, Norwegian hardingfele, and Egyptian rababa. A major focus for Beth has been Greek violin, which she plays at dance symposiums, festivals, concerts, and weddings. She performs with Ziyiá, Orkestra Keyif, Édessa, and many others. Her “Art of the Bow” performances explore the violin and other bowed strings in traditional folk and classical music from the Mediterranean area and beyond.

Beth is an Applied Music faculty member in the World Music Program at Tufts University and has been the recipient of many grants, including the Radcliffe Bunting Fellowship. She teaches privately in her studio in Watertown, MA, and gives ensemble workshops in Balkan and Middle Eastern music throughout the US, Europe, and Canada.

Beth Bahia Cohen and Friends will perform Greek dance music from the mountains to the islands. Members of the group are:
Beth Bahia Cohen, violin
Erini Tornesaki, vocals
Vasilis Kostas, laouto
Panos Aivas, kanoun
George Lernis, percussion

Divi Zheni

Divi Zheni (Wild Women) is a women’s Bulgarian chorus and band directed by Tatiana Sarbinska, Bulgarian folk singer and teacher extraordinaire. Formed in 2000, Divi Zheni has performed concert and dance music — ranging from traditional village style to choral arrangements — at festivals, concerts, and dances in the Boston area, Connecticut, New York, and Bulgaria.

Contact: Anna Stevens, annasita2@gmail.com, 508-284-0252

Divi Zheni always welcomes new members. For further information and for details of Divi Zheni’s Balkan Dance Party Extravaganza on May 19, 2018, visit Divi Zheni’s website.

The members of Divi Zheni are:
Suzanne Costanza, voice and flute; Jane Culbert, voice; Karen Edwards, voice; Dima Filipova, voice; Barbara Gottfried, voice and tambourine; Priscilla Howell, voice; Kate Jellinghaus, voice and kaval; Liz Levin, voice; Nikki Mincheva, voice; Amy Bressler Nee, voice; Zdravka Nikolova, voice; Cathie O’Neill, voice; Barbara Pixton, accordion; Michelle Roderick, voice; Anne Rogal, voice; Paula Rosenstock, voice, tupan, and dumbek; Anna Stevens, voice; Svetla Stoyanova, voice; Julie Sussman, voice; Elaine Winic, voice and flute; Mari Young, voice; Marieta Zografova, voice

Instrumentalists from the men’s Bulgarian group Zornitsa will accompany the Divi Zheni performance: Dean Brown, tambura, and Ira Gessel, tambura.


Glas (Voice) plays the soulful roots music of Macedonia. Off-kilter rhythms, unexpected harmonies, and intricate ornaments come together in a tradition born in an older way of living, when life was lived close to the bone. Songs sprang up around the table and in the fields, with friends and family, at work and at play, and spoke to the pains and joys of life lived in hardship. The clarity of a duo creates an intimate connection that is true to the power of the sound and stories of this tradition.

The members of Glas are:
Corinna Škėma Snyder, voice and percussion
Vedran Boškovski, gajda, kaval, and tambura

Glas on Facebook


Gogofski plays music of the Balkans. Not the loud and fast brass of Goran Bregović. Not the massive thirty-voice choir of Mystère des Voix Bulgares. Gogofski brings you other great music from the Balkans, from the complex dance rhythms of Macedonia to the heart-wrenching Sevdah song tradition of Bosnia.

Gogofski plays for a dance evening the way they do in the old country: the musicians on the floor playing right in front of you, to you, for you. A Gogofski club evening gives you a feast of comic songs and intimate ballads, traditional and modern, and brings you to understanding, to sharing, and to feeling. And at an outdoor festival, Gogofski brings a new sound and a new excitement that brings the audience out of their seats to dance in front of the stage.

The members of Gogofski are:
David Golber, clarinet
Henry Goldberg, tapan
Kasia Sokalla, vocals
Gawain Thomas, accordion

Visit Gogofski on their website.

Merita Halili and Raif Hyseni

Merita Halili is one of Albania’s top performers. Born in the capital city of Tirana, her nationwide debut came in 1983 at age 16, when she sang at the National Folklore Festival in the town of Gjirokastër. Soon afterward, she began to perform on Albanian radio and television and as a soloist with the Albanian National Song and Dance Ensemble. Merita is a winner of many national and international awards. Perhaps her greatest recognition came in 1995, when she received first prize at a gala festival held in Tirana in which 90 singers from the diaspora participated.

In July 1995, Merita, with her husband, Raif Hyseni, and their daughter, came to the US and settled in the New York and New Jersey area. Merita has performed in prestigious venues such as Symphony Space, Lincoln Center, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the Smithsonian Institute, the John F. Kennedy Center, and the US Library of Congress in Washington DC; Barbican Centre in London; and at other places in the US, Europe, and Asia. Merita’s voice can be heard in the soundtrack of the Italian production La America, as well as in the successful American documentary film From Refugee to Immigrant.

“[Merita Halili] raised her radiant soprano in buoyant wedding songs, punctuated by speed-demon accordion from her husband and bandleader, Raif Hyseni.” (The New York Times, 2002)

Raif Hyseni is the most famous of Albanian accordion players and has received many national and international awards. Born in the town of Mitrovica, Republic of Kosovo, he went to elementary music school in Mitrovica, and then to music high school and to the Academy of Performing Arts at the University of Kosovo. He graduated from Caldwell College in 1999, and received his Masters in music from Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he is an adjunct professor and heads the Balkan-Albanian Ensemble.

As a young accordion player, he performed for Albanian National Radio and TV, and has performed with legendary violinist Isak Mucolli. Raif has written numerous songs and instrumental pieces for the accordion, including "Fantasy for Accordion", "Traveling through Albania", "One Song Without Words", "Accordion and Three Glasses", and "Pearls". He wrote music for theater, as well as for the documentary film From Refugee to Immigrant. He has performed at the Smithsonian Institute, the US Library of Congress, and the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington DC; at Lincoln Center in New York City; at Barbican Centre in London; and elsewhere in the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia.


Kavala specializes primarily in the brass music from the Florina area of northern Greece, and they also play a variety of other music from the Balkans. They have played together for more than 15 years and have appeared at events in the northeastern US, including the Balkan Music and Dance Workshops in Rock Hill, NY, Balkan Music Night in Concord, MA, the annual Ragoutsia for the Kastorian Society in New York City, and the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival in New York City.

The members of Kavala are:
Lefteris Bournias, clarinet
Michael Ginsburg, trumpet
Catherine Foster, trumpet, clarinet, and sax
Belle Birchfield, baritone horn
Morgan Clark, accordion
Paul Brown, bass
Don Goodwin, bass and tuba
Jerry Kisslinger, percussion
Matt Moran, percussion

Matthew Schreiber and Georgi Petrov

Matt Schreiber (accordion) is one of the few Americans to learn through the oral tradition from some of Eastern Europe’s top accordion masters. He was half of the Maine-based Balkan folk duo Cinder Conk. He moved to New Orleans in 2013 after several years of touring in the Northeast and in Europe, and now lives in upstate New York. He has shared the stage with Petar Ralchev, Slavic Soul Party, Kabilé, and Elitsa Stoyneva. Matt has been featured on Bulgarian national television and placed third in the 2015 competition “New Bulgarian Music in 7/8” in Chepelare, Bulgaria. His expertise also includes jazz, French, Serbian, and Romani accordion music.

Visit Matt’s website.

Georgi Petrov (guitar), a native Bulgarian living in New Orleans, has a background in classical guitar and a Masters in Jazz Performance. He is an established sideman in jazz, gypsy jazz, swing, funk, and fusion, playing with a variety of colleagues including Aurora Nealand, Sasha and Steve Masakowski, Dave Stryker, and Jerry Coker. His solo album of contemporary jazz received a glowing review in Offbeat Magazine. In 2013, Georgi and Matt felt that New Orleans needed more Balkan music, so along with drummer Boyanna Trayanova, they formed the trio Mahala, which became a beacon of Balkan music and culture in NOLA and beyond. Georgi tours actively with The Roamin' Jasmine, a local r’n’b, jazz, and blues band. Recently, Georgi debuted his 10-piece suite of music based on the best-selling novel The Physics of Sorrow by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov.

Visit Georgi on Facebook.


Muscari is a New England-based group of three musicians and friends who have a passion for the music of the Middle East and the surrounding areas. The band's repertoire includes Turkish, Greek, Arabic, Armenian, and Balkan music. Their goal is to share their love for this music with others, to promote diversity, and to bring together the different communities around them with their music.

The members of Muscari are:
Burcu Gulec, voice and zills
Melissa Lund, oud
Panos Aivas, kanoun
George Lernis, darbuka and riq

Burcu Gulec's website: https://www.burcugulec.com
Melissa Lund’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/melissa.lund.925
George Lernis’ website: https://georgelernismusic.com/home

Sarma Brass Band

Sarma Brass Band is the realization of founder Tano Brock's vision to bring traditional Balkan Brass to Boston. They play a variety of music from Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, and Albania, as well as original material.

The members of Sarma are:
Tano Brock, alto sax and clarinet
Andrija Gavrilovic, trumpet
Tyler Hauer, trumpet
Michael Juba Prentky, trombone
Joe Ricard, euphonium
Eric Goode, sousaphone
Alber Basee, darbuka

Visit Sarma Brass Band on Facebook.

Elitsa Stoyneva and Friends

Elitsa Stoyneva is a seven-time gold medalist in traditional singing from Targovishte, Bulgaria. She grew up surrounded with the beauty of Bulgarian folk singing. She learned her first song from her mother when she was five years old and has been singing ever since. Elitsa graduated from a professional music high school and has performed at numerous concerts and competitions in Bulgaria, Egypt, Switzerland, Greece, Canada, and the United States.

After coming to the US, Elitsa continued to sing, representing Bulgaria with passion and heart. She has been a special guest singer in music halls around the world, including the Opera Houses in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, Berklee Performance Center in Boston, and Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, New York. She has participated in many projects promoting and preserving Bulgarian traditions and singing, and supporting people in need. Recently, Elitsa completed an educational project with Chicago Children’s Choir, featuring a book and a DVD.

While completing her MBA in Maine, Elitsa founded and led International Trio Elitsa together with Anne Stancioff Tatgenhorst and Kirsten Stockman, and also initiated and directed a children’s choir. In addition, she organized and conducted workshops with diverse groups, including Yale Slavic Women's Chorus, Pletenitsa Berklee Balkan Choir, and Maine Balkan Choir. Elitsa believes in the power of music as a unique way to connect people, and in the deep connection between music, science, and medicine. Currently, she lives in the Boston area with her husband, Dr. Plamen G. Krastev.

Contact information: e.stoyneva@abv.bg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqCqIDnJNFc

Elitsa will perform with Anne Tatgenhorst Stancioff and Erica Weiss.

Anne Tatgenhorst Stancioff is the director of the Maine Balkan Choir, an ensemble of 15+ women and men who have been singing Eastern European music for nearly 20 years. Anne was part of the trio Sviata Duma. Later she joined Trio Elitsa with Elitsa Stoyneva and Kirsten Stockman, performing concerts in Maine, Washington DC, Toronto, and Bulgaria. She learned her first Bulgarian song as a child from her uncle Ivan Stancioff, who currently resides in Varna, Bulgaria.

Erica Weiss fell in love with Balkan women's music and singing styles while in college, where she sang and taught with the Yale Slavic Chorus for five years, serving as director for three years. She has since shared her knowledge and enthusiasm teaching singing workshops in many settings, including TradMaD Camp at Pinewoods and Summer Acoustic Music Week in NH. Her current passions also include performing on guitar with Cajun band Jesse Lége and Bayou Brew; playing guitar, fiddling, and singing in various Appalachian music ensembles; calling square dances; and writing and recording original songs. Her most recent EP of all originals is Erica Weiss and The Louisiana Shindig, So Fine.

Visit Erica’s website ericaweiss.com.

Sandy Theodorou and Friends

Sandy (Matoula) Theodorou is a vocalist, accordionist, and laoúto player who specializes in traditional Greek regional music and Rebetika (Greek urban blues). She is a core member of the bands REVMA (traditional Greek regional music), REBETOPAREA (Rebetika), and OINOS (laika [popular music] of the 50s and 60s and the compositions of Makis Emmanoulides).

Sandy was nominated for Best Sound Designer by the New Hampshire Theatre Awards for her design and performance of music for the theatrical production The Burial At Thebes. She was a performing dancer with the Boston Lykeion Ellinidon and currently serves as chairperson for the BLE’s Traditional Greek Music Department. She was born in Pireas, and was musically inspired by her family roots in Epiros and Kefalonia.

Find out more about Sandy and her upcoming gigs at matoulamusic.com.

The members of Sandy Theodorou and Friends are:
Rohan Gregory, violin (with the band REVMA)
Panayioti Vorvis, bouzouki and vocals (with the band OINOS)
Georgios Galanakis, guitar (with REVMA and OINOS)
Maria Laini, vocals (with OINOS)
Sandy Theodorou, accordion and vocals (with REVMA and OINOS)

Bashkimi Dance

Bashkimi Dance, the premiere Albanian folk dance troupe of Massachusetts, is dedicated to keeping alive the tradition of Albanian dance and music in the heart of the Albanian communities in Massachusetts and across the United States. To do this, the group continuously works on enriching its repertoire from the abundant resource of Albanian folk culture with its great variety of folk dances.

Bashkimi Dance was established in 1996 by the well-known Albanian choreographer Bashkim Braho, who had just moved to the US. Upon his arrival in Boston, Bashkim perceived the newly-formed ethnic community’s need for communal expression. He soon formed the troupe with talented and enthusiastic Albanian students and graduates from various universities in Boston. The group also welcomes American-born dancers who show love and appreciation for this Albanian folkloric art.

In 2010 Bashkimi Dance joined with the Massachusetts Albanian American Society “BESA” (MAASBESA) to better serve the Albanian community of Greater Boston. This merging resulted in the Albanian folk dance class for young children under Bashkim’s direction, and in the Bay State’s first Albanian Folk Festival with dance groups and various Albanian folk performers from Boston, New York, and Detroit.

Visit Bashkimi Dance on their website.

Mladost Folk Ensemble

Established to honor the legacy of Marianne and Conny Taylor, Mladost Folk Ensemble is 11 years young this year. The group received its name, which means “youth” in many Slavic languages, back in 2006, and we continue to bring youthful energy and spirit to dances from around the world. Under the direction of Andy Taylor-Blenis, we enjoy learning dances from many different countries and learning about the cultures they came from, while getting to know each other and our different learning styles in a non-competitive environment. We have performed at outdoor festivals, including Riverfest and Dance for World Community, and at many long-running community events such as NEFFA, the Folk Arts Center's annual gala, the All Girl Band and Friends' “Nutcracker" at the FAC Friday dance, and of course Balkan Night. We also enjoy performing and leading participatory dancing at school festivals, so that we can bring our shared values of community building to neighbors of all ages and abilities.

Visit Mladost on Facebook.