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Vassil Bebelekov, beloved husband, adoring father, cherished son, loving brother, gracious friend, generous teacher, and master musician passed away suddenly on July 31, 2016 in Mendocino, CA, where he was performing and teaching at Lark Camp. Always loving, encouraging, supporting, and challenging his family, friends, students, and colleagues, Bati Vasko brought out the best in us.
This website is dedicated to keeping our memories of Vassil alive. Feel free to share memories, stories, pictures, and videos. Your thoughts, prayers, and love bring great comfort to the Bebelekovi.
In honor of Vassil, here is a glimpse into his life and legacy:
A pillar of the global Bulgarian community and true bearer of the living Bulgarian heritage, his musical legacy impacted countless students and peers. Born in the Rhodope mountain town of Devin, he was inspired to a life of folk music by village traditions and his grandfather, who played kaba gajda, a low pitched majestic sounding bagpipe specific to his home region in southern Bulgaria. Vassil joined Sto Kaba Gaida, an ensemble of 100 bagpipes, at age 11. He went on to graduate from the folk music school in Shiroka Luka, a special high school dedicated to preserving traditional music, songs, and dance. Vassil continued his musical education and graduated with honors from the Plovdiv Folk Music Conservatory, the highest level of traditional music education obtainable in Bulgaria.
Vassil toured with the well-known Ensemble Trakia throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, appearing in more than 300 performances. He also performed and produced records, cassettes, and CDs during three seasons with the Philipopolis Ensemble and recorded extensively for National Radio Sofia and Radio Plovdiv. He taught at the Shiroka Luka Music School for many years, before immigrating to the United States.
Once in America, he served as a visiting professor in the Ethnomusicology Department at UCLA. He was a frequent teacher at the Eastern European Folklife Center’s Balkan Music and Dance Workshops, on both the East and West coasts. Always a performer, he continued to participate in traditional Bulgarian music tours throughout the Americas with Sredets, Kef Orchestra, Bebelekovi Family, Trio Zulum, Bulgarika, and Grupa Maistori ensembles.
His consummate musicianship shown ceaselessly through his open heart and open mind, not to mention his exquisite playing. One of the greatest musicians many of us have ever met in any genre, he embodied his tradition with respect, bravery, innovation, humor, and inimitable soul. His work as a performer and educator brought Bulgarian traditional music into the hearts, souls, and hands of countless people, both in Bulgaria and in his adopted home here in the United States.
Vassil was also intimately committed to and involved with the Mason Lodge in San Jose, CA.
Vassil was initiated into Freemasonry in 2005, starting a journey that took him through the officer line which involved planning charity events, performing time honored ceremonies and serving his Masonic Brethren and families as Master of Friendship Lodge #210 in 2013. He was also a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and a York Rite Knights Templar in the Valley of San Jose.
In no other area of life was Vassil’s large heart more apparent than as a devoted father and husband. In 1984, he married the love of his life, Maria. Together, they raised their two beautiful and talented children Jivko and Didi. Tragically, Jivko passed away in 2005 in a car accident. Vassil’s perseverance and commitment to the joys of life in the face of such devastating tragedy were a testament to his son’s legacy. His ability to remain kind, open, loving, and generous, even in the wake of such tremendous loss, brings comfort as we all endure this sudden grief.
While none of us can imagine our world without him, we pray for Didi and Maria as they attempt to navigate this new future without the two most important figures in their lives.