Boyanna Trayanova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and came to the United States when she was nine years old. “That was all my parents,” she says, explaining how after the political collapse in Bulgaria, she and her family crossed the border, flew to Italy, and made it into the United States. After moving around a bit more, they came to New Orleans, and that was the place Boyanna would eventually call home. To be fair, she also calls Sofia home as well, but we’ll get to that later.
“My parents were scientists,” Boyanna explains, and that profession eventually led to her mother taking a job at Tulane University. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So there nine-year-old Boyanna is, living in New Orleans, and what does she do? She takes up the drums.
“I’m a New Orleans drummer first and foremost,” Boyanna says. “The New Orleans traditions seeped into my blood.” And those traditions have stayed with her for the twenty-five years that she has been playing. Whether it is with a second-line, with the Panorama Jazz Band, or with a nightly gig that comes up last minute, Boyanna is ready with multiple rhythms under her belt. There was one rhythm, however, that Boyanna wanted to introduce to New Orleans. Balkan music.
“There’s only about twelve Bulgarians in New Orleans,” she explains with a laugh as she plays with her hat, which means there’s not much of a Balkan music scene here. “Seeing that I’m from Bulgaria, I did something about it.”
Balkan music can now be heard on the streets, various groups are forming and playing at events both large and small, and there is a monthly Balkan dance party (on hiatus for the summer) at The Old Firehouse on Mandeville Street in the Marigny. Where there is a Balkan dance party there is also Balkan music, of course.
You would think that spearheading the Balkan music scene here in New Orleans would get Boyanna a lot of attention, but there is one factor that always gets her noticed even more. She’s a girl playing the drums.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Boyanna explains. “I definitely get a lot of attention for being a female drummer, but it’s not the right kind of attention. I’d prefer to be noticed for spending a lot of time with my instrument. I’ve been playing for twenty-five years, and I prefer to be noticed for that.”
A female drummer from Bulgaria helping Balkan music burst into parties and getting people dancing is definitely worth noticing. It’s more than that. It’s worth letting go of any inhibitions and learning some Balkan steps to go along with the music. That’s the beauty of this lovely city. It’s full of culture from all over the world, and Boyanna embodies that concept.
“This [New Orleans] is my hometown, and I’m going to do my best to represent it. I feel a comfort here that I don’t feel in other cities. I feel that same thing when I go back to Sofia where I was born in Bulgaria. I have two hometowns.”