Political kitsch has rarely known any bounds in Bulgaria, but it seems to be flourishing apace under the current government, which relies heavily on publicity stunts rather than sensible action to maintain its popularity.
The latest gem is an ode to the Bulgarian... police, endorsed by Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said by pollsters to be outdoing even Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in the popularity polls.
The song was written by Toncho Rusev, the 78-year-old pop composer, with text by 77-year-old Evtim Evtimov. The song is performed by Veselin Marinov, known to many as "Sweating Veso," a Bulgarian crooner whose style can best be described as "soft chalga."
Marinov, who has actively participated in Bulgarian cultural politics by performing at various rallies organised by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, exemplifies the eternal adage that art has no political boundaries. Tsvetanov, who describes himself as a Christian Democrat, was his kum, or matrimonial "best man," a peculiarly Balkan family bond that unites two families and is sometimes seen as stronger than blood.
Said to be very excited at the new piece, Mr Tsv. has kept it a secret, allowing his wife to listen to it "only once" ahead of the public premiere on 5 July, the "Day of the Bulgarian Police."
Musically, the piece is unmistakably reminiscent of mainstream 1970s East bloc pop, with a strong beat revealing Soviet marching band influences designed to motivate and uplift. The text is both patriotic and lyrical: "People, present a flower, remember us well! It is an honour to serve in the lines of Bulgaria and the Interior Ministry!"
Evtim Evtimov, a teacher from southwestern Bulgaria who was brought to Sofia where he became a professional poet and a friend of Todor Zhivkov, explains that during the past decades he has often "worked" for the Interior Ministry, turning out commissions for poems and rhymes. His is the latest in a long line of government inspired poetry to which most of the "grand men" of Bulgarian letters have contributed. These include, but are not limited to, Pavel Matev ("A Song for the Quiet Feat"), Orlin Orlinov ("Songs"), Venko Markovski ("Eyes of the Revolution"), Ivan Borislavov ("Ballad for Dead Border Guards"), Angel Todorov ("Frontlines") and many others.
Under Communism, being commissioned to write about the People's Militia was both an honour and a lucrative business. KGB intelligence operatives with "clean hands" and "warm hearts" were by far the most favoured topic, and fearless border guards shooting at defectors came in a close second. In 2010 these have been replaced by traffic cops.
A Facebook group started long before the current police-themed would-be hit calls for "help to make Veselin Marinov quit singing." At the time of going to press, it had over 55,000 members, almost as many as the employees of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry.
It is unclear whether the guys this song is dedicated to are the black-clad antiterrorist units seen on TV arresting vegetable sellers at the Slatina market or the traffic cops who still find it difficult to resist the 20-leva-under-the-table routine for minor offences.
Commenting on www.vagabond.bg