Nikolay Doktorov (Kaval / Bulgaria)


1.     At what age did you start learning music?

Nikolay Doktorov: I was 13 years old when I started to play kaval.

2.      Is music a family tradition?

N.D. My family likes the folk music, songs and dance very much. My grandgrandfather played a wistle. My grandfather played the kaval and my grandmother was a very famous singer in her village. My wife is a music teacher and my children also grew up with music – my daugther used to play the piano and loves Bulgarian folk dances and my son finished high school majoring in kaval. I think that the music tradition has a very special place in the heart of my family and I am very happy for that.

3.      When did you decide to dedicate yourself fully to your instrument/s?

N.D. The main reason to dedicate myself to the kaval is the stong love for the instrument that my first kaval teacher, Tsvyatko Denkov, gave to me. He was a self-educated musician and he learned to play the kaval from other kaval players. He passed on me all his love for the instrument which hasn’t ceased to warm my heart and motivate me in my job as a musician and teacher. At the National Folk School “Filip Kutev” in Kotel and at the Folk Academy in Plovdiv I had fantastic teachers, too. I am very happy that now I can play and show my students everything that I’ve learned from my teachers.

4.      What does music mean to you?

N.D. For me music is everything. It is my life. I can’t live without it. What it gives me cannot be compared with anything else. I am very grateful to my family for the support that it gives me for that.

5.      What importance have you given  to the study of the techniques of your instrument?

N.D. In order to play a beautiful melody it is not enough to just play the tune. It needs to be played in a way that shows all its beauty. That is why it is very important to play it with correct ornaments and technique. Mastering the techniques of the kaval is one of the most important components in studying the instrument. The correct use and combination of these techniques including the sound quality, finger positioning, and different timbers, makes the kaval one of the best flute instruments in the world.

6.      What characteristics of your instrument could you mention and what are the styles you play more frequently?

N.D. The kaval is a wind instrument with very large range – almost four octaves. This is an instrument with three registers, five different timbers and it is a chromatic instrument ( it has a whole note only between D and E in first octave, but with some technics we can separate this note). I prefer to play Bulgarian traditional style and for me this it the best style that has been preserved till today, which shows that it is unique and is part of our folk heritage.

7.      Do you like to be a teacher?
N.K. Yes, for me this is a great profession. I am very happy I can teach my students everything  I have learned throughout the years.
8.      From your experience: What importance does music have in childhood?

N.K. Music in childhood is important as if children grow up with it, it becoms part of them and their daily lives. They learn how to appreciate it and discover its beauty.

9.      What is your teaching methodology?

N.D. For me, learning to play the kaval has three main phases on which I base my teaching methodology: 1) very solid sound foundation and finger positioning; 2) mastering the main notes, measures, and traditional bulgarian tunes; 3) studying the ornaments and the different techniques of playing.

10.   After so many trips and stages, what does the audience mean to you?

N.D. I perceive the audience as one of the indicators of how well I perform a particular melody. If I can’t engage the audience and enthral it with the beauty of the melody, then I need to work more. Thus, the audience motivates me to keep playing and improving in order to give everything from myself on stage.

11.   What sensations do arise within you when you share your music with people?

N.D. I feel that the music is alive, that it is coming out of my heart. This is how the emotional connection between player and listener is established. The goal is to pass on these feelings to the listener so that we can become one whole and enjoy the music together.

Nikolay and Pablo in Mendoza

12.   What new projects are you working on?

N.D. One of the projects I am currently working on is an attempt to introduce my students to all best kaval players in Bulgaria. I want my students to meet these great musicians, talk to them and hear them play.
I am also writing a kaval textbook with my own compositions, together with an accompanying CD that are going to be used as teaching resources for students in Bulgaria.

13.   What kind of music groups/bands do you like best to play in? With what instruments?

N.D. The best band for me is the one consisting only of traditional Bulgarian folk instruments – kaval, gajda, gydulka, tambura and typan. For me this is the band with the most authentic Bulgarian sound.

14.   Tell us any story from your trips or career that you recall more often due to it being important, funny or whatever you find interesting to share with us.

N.D. My most significant and unforgettable experience since I started playing the kaval is my participation in the National Folk Festival in Koprivshtica in 1976. At that festival I played the kaval in a group of 100 kaval players. When we started playing the whole forest where the festival was taking place got filled in with the sound of the instruments, all playing in harmony. This was a magnficent experience and the sound, together with the originality of the performance are something that I will never forget. I have shared this memory with each of my students and it has served as a great motivation for them.

15.   Do you use internet actively in your music development?

N.D. The opportunities that the internet gives us are great in that we can hear other people’s performances and share ours with them; we can find, share and learn lots of information. Many of my students’ performances, for example, get recorded and shared on YouTube. We have a website where we post information for concerts, the students performing and lots of pictures from the events. This motivates the students and makes them feel engaged in their role as musicians. We also have online discussions on the concerts and performances which is great. On all my tours the internet has been the main means of advertising our concerts as well. Email is a great way to keep in touch with other people, learn about new opportunities and coordinate the organization of events.

16.   Our World Flutes Festival highlights the instrument as a bridge between what we call our inside and outside. Do you feel such connection?

N.D. Yes, I feel this connection very strongly.

17.   What did you feel when you travelled such a long way and found many other flute players from around the globe, all of them with the same energy and will to share their music and humanity?

N.D. I was very excited when I knew I was about to meet so many other flute players from around the world. Meeting them in person was a great and memorable experience. I was very happy we could exchange experience and information. I was filled with positive energy. And seeing the kaval as part of this rich palette of different flute instruments was a very special moment for me.

Nikolay Doktorov – Nikolay Doktorov at I World Flutes Festival