Valya Mladenova Balkanska (born January 8, 1942) is a Bulgarian folk music singer. She is most famous for performing the song Izlel je Delyo hajdutin, which was sent to space on board the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes in 1977.
|Birth name||Valya Mladenova Balkanska|
|Born||January 8, 1942|
|Origin||Arda, Smolyan Province, Bulgaria|
Valya Balkanska was born in a hamlet consisting of seven houses near the village of Arda in the Rhodope Mountains. Since her childhood years she has been singing Rhodopean folk songs, which she learned from her mother and grandmother, as well as at work-bee parties. In 1960 she became the main soloist of the Rhodopa State Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances. She was only 18 years old at that time. Up to this day Balkanska has performed more than 300 folk songs, having been accompanied by the bagpipe player Petar Yanev for the last 14 years.
The most important moment in Balkanska's career came with the folk song Izlel je Delyo hajdutin, which she recorded together with the bagpiper Dimitar Petkovski. In 1972 it became part of the Voyager Golden Record, a collection of songs, sounds and images from our planet, which also contains works of famous composers such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Stravinsky. NASA put copies of the record in the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes and launched them on August 20, 1977. According to Carl Sagan, one of the creators of the Voyager Golden Record, only advanced alien civilizations would be able to play it.
In 2004 Balkanska released an album called Glas ot vechnostta (Voice from the Eternity), comprising some of her most popular songs such as A bre yunache ludo i mlado, Goro le goro zelena, and Maychinko stara maychinko.
Balkanska received numerous awards throughout her career as a folk music singer. One of her favourite recognitions is a golden statuette from the Art Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1997. In 2002 the Bulgarian president honoured her with a Stara Planina medal, considered the highest national award. In the same year she also received the Golden Lyre award by the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers. Balkanska became an awardee of the Golden Phenomenon prize for helping the popularization of Bulgarian folk music and culture and for the same reason she was the first Bulgarian to be honoured by UNESCO as a "citizen of the planet". According to Time Magazine she is one of the people symbolizing the future of Europe, stating that apart from being "a legend in her own country, Valya Balkanska is very much a legend in space, too". Since December 2005 she has her own star plate on the Bulgarian Walk of Fame. In 2005 Balkanska was also one of the nominees for the St. Paisiy Hilendarski national award for notable artists and performers. In May 2009 the Bulgarian Association of Regional Media chose her as The Most Exceptional Bulgarian Woman.
In 2008 Standard, a Bulgarian daily newspaper, conducted a survey on what Bulgarians consider as their most important symbol of national pride. Nearly 22 thousand readers of Standard's online edition from more than 10 countries around the world took part in the poll. Among the 23 possible choices, Valya Balkanska came in first with 9.46% of the votes. She ranked higher than the inventor of the computer John Atanasoff, the world record holder in the women's high jump Stefka Kostadinova, and even the declaration of independence of Bulgaria in 1908.
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