Bitz and Bobz

Milky For Four People

This charming Bulgarian folk song tells the story (in the first person) of the day to day life of a young working girl. For an explanation of this translation please see the footnotes. If you have any more information about this song, please do not hesitate to pass it on to Baz.

Milky for four people.
'My tea!', now a piano,
'My tea!', now a piano,
Dat old 'the same' piano 1

Brother, does he face his sister? 2
(Though witty sister,
Though with his name)3.
He's up-o-stair, he's .... 4

Mother telling me "Oh no," though
Ran a doidé 5.
Mother ran a doidé.
Ché 6, he's now my Moshté 7.

Mother telling hero 8, "No go!"
Ran a doidé.
Mother ran a doidé.
Ché, he's now my Moshté.

Reason I cross motto 9
(Suck my narrow nose hole 10,
Suck my narrow nose hole).
Take me now as I am 11.

Mother telling me "Oh no," though
Ran a doidé,
Mother ran a doidé.
Ché, he's now my Moshté.

Milky for four people.
'My tea!', now a piano. 12

  1. The first verse sets the scene. It becomes clear that the girl works in a doidé, a uniquely Bulgarian sort of teahouse cum brothel, for which there is no convenient English translation. As well as preparing the tea for the customers ('Milky for four people'), and putting up with their impatient demands ('My tea!'), she also entertains them on the piano. The tedium of this mindnumbing drudgery is summed up in the closing line of the stanza with the colloquial 'Dat (that) old 'the same' piano'. Tea was introduced to Bulgaria by the Ottomans following the fall of Sofia to Bayezid I in 1386.

  2. 'face' here is idiomatic Bulgarian and means to offer familial support and respect. Does the girl's brother support her?

  3. She is clearly an intelligent girl, and as they are blood relatives (sharing his name - familial surnames are passed along the male line), it might be expected that he should help her out in the tea making, serving and piano playing departments.

  4. He is however 'up-o-stair', that is entertaining himself with the working girls of the establishment in one of the upstairs rooms. The rising melodic line deftly suggests both the climbing of the stairs and the rising passions of the boudoir. Rather than explicitly stating what he is doing, the song sensitively leaves his actions to our imagination, though the raunchy 5/4 rhythm of the musical interlude can leave us with no doubts.

  5. The girl complains that while her mother seems to show abhorrence for the brother's actions, and maybe even for prostitution in general, she is being hypocritical since she is the doidé's (tearoom/brothel) Madam.

  6. Evidently the brother's name.

  7. Moshté is another bulgarian word which has no direct English translation. Etymologically it is derived from the same Indo-European root as the latin magister and the modern English master, though it also carries with it the sense of lover. The girl's brother, as well as being oblivious to the girl's boredom, is conducting an incestuous relationship with her - treating her as just another whore.

  8. The mother clearly idolises Ché, and turns a blind eye to his carnality and incestuousness. Again her moral hypocrisy is underlined.

  9. Bulgarian families traditionally had a motto or saying, invariably of a moral nature and usuually extolling the virtues of humility and chastity. Here, while the motto is not explicitly stated, the girl attempts to justify her actions.

  10. The academic community (at least, that part of the academic community concerned with Bulgarian folk music) is divided over the meaning of these lines. Professor Gilbraith of the University of Aberdeen argues that the narrow nose hole (singular) referred to is in fact the parson's nose (incidentally the word 'bugger' derives from 'Bulgar'. However, Professor Coombes of Aberystwyth posits that Cuban cigars (cf. Ché) were smoked nasally by Bulgarian women, and caused the nasal passages to become blocked (hence 'narrow'). Either way, this repeated line clearly indicates passionate abandonment, and whether narcotically or anally induced, leads to her surrendering herself to her brother's attentions.

  11. It is now clear that the girl positively relishes the attentions of her brother as they provide some relief from her otherwise boring life. Again the sprung 5/4 rhythm of the ensuing instrumental break is suggestive of copulation.

  12. The closing verses take us back to the start - the mother once more hypocritically denying any moral wrongdoing and the girl, after her brief escape, returning to her duties in the tea parlour.
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