Svetlyo Zhilev

Svetlyo Zhilev

Svetoslav (Svetlyo) Dimitrov Zhilev is an active piper and singer. He’s been playing Macedonian folk songs as he grew up with them, Rhodope ones as well as songs from other parts of Bulgaria. In his repertoire there are hundreds of instrumental pieces most of which authored by himself. While performing Macedonian songs he uses the trampe, a Bulgarian tambourine like Bulgarian percussion folk instrument, and thus has it 3 in 1 – the gaida, vocal and percussion. He can also play the flute, the dvoyanka whistle and the dvoyanka kaba-gaida which is unique for being brought back to life from extinction thanks to Svetlyo. The dvoyanka is a musical instrument from the bagpipe family which sounds like a number of bagpipes playing together due to the effect of the chorus (or the so called alogical bivocal).

Apart from the above instruments Svetlyo can also play the piano and various types of wind folk instruments, including the harmonica. He also likes experimenting in the field of rock, jazz, and other music fields unusual or foreign to the gaida.

Svetlyo performs at festivals, private parties, clubs, weddings, and events related to folklore, rock, ethno and other serious music trends (he doesn’t do kitsch though). He tours major tourist sites: in summer he would typically be spotted at the Devil’s Throat cave, while in winter he is in Sofia, Plovdiv or Bansko. He is available and ready to join any gaida related or other quality-music events.
He has never lip synched or mimed playing a musical instrument, nor does he have any intention of so doing in the future.


Svetlyo Zhilev was born in the town of Gotse Delchev. He has had a fascination with the gaida ever since he was a young boy, which is why it has naturally become his favourite musical instrument. He has also been part of a gaida band set up in his hometown, which has won many prizes in Bulgaria and abroad – Serbia, Macedonia and Czechoslovakia.

He completed his secondary education in his native town, did his military service and then graduated from the Technical University in Gabrovo with a major in electronics. Through the years Svetlyo has never given up the gaida which has ironically turned out to play an essential part in his life. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in the early 90s there was a period of several years when Bulgaria found itself in a completely new situation opening up new opportunities and Svetyo started combining the job of an engineer with summertime gaida playing at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. He also discovered a talent for singing which he must have inherited from his mother, a very good singer herself.

The new millennium presented an opportunity to the piper to fully devote himself to music. Since 2002 he has been continuously performing professionally. In the summer he’d typically tour the Rhodope mountains while in winter he could be spotted in Sofia, Plovdiv or Bansko, playing or singing at private parties, weddings and others. He can play all types of Bulgarian gaidas. He has recovered and brought back to life the unique dvoyanka gaida based on the so called alogical polyphonic bivocal and sounds like a number of gaidas. He can also play other folk instruments – the kaval, the pishtyalka whistle, the dvoyanka whistle, the tambourine and others. He has recorded and released 5 albums and a unique documentary showing his concerts in caves (released in 2013). He is a poet too and has issued a collection of poems entitled Mirages (2007), and a short bilingual collection of folk songs called Saint George Uprose Early ( 2010) in dedication to the loving memory of his parents.