Stoyan Yankoulov (Bulgarian: Стоян Янкулов) (born 10 September 1966), known as Stundji (Bulgarian: Стунджи), is one of Bulgaria’s most popular and renowned drummers and percussionists. Yankoulov makes a great impression with his inspiring improvisations interleaving traditional Bulgarian and other exotic percussion instruments, modern electronic beat, drum n bass, and ethno elements.
In 2003 he initiated a project of joint performance with an extremely talented folklore singer,Elitsa Todorova. The unique duo turned into a big-time success with their very first team performance. Their high professionalism and perfectionism, and their dedication to the music and rhythm, have been hallmarks of all their performances.
On 25 February 2007, Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov’s song “Water” won Bulgarian National Television‘s public contest and was selected as the song to represent Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, held in Helsinki, 10-12 May.
Yankoulov graduated from the musical school “Lyubomir Pipkov” in Sofia and then from the State Musical Academy “Pancho Vladigerov,” majoring in percussion instruments. He has played with rock and jazz bands, folklore ensembles, and jazz-rock and fusion bands. He has also taken part in many folklore and jazz festivals across Europe and in the United States.
Yankoulov showed interest in percussion instruments at a very young age. At the age of 10 he was the youngest drummer in his town’s brass band (Elin Pelin). Meanwhile Stoyan formed an amateur pop-rock band called Astronax (Bulgarian: Астронакс) in which he played drums. Their repertoire included songs by Supermax, Kiss, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Shturtzite, FSB, etc., but no original songs. His time with the band helped develop his sense of rhythm and gave him the confidence to be the spine of his group performances. Already engulfed in the world of percussion, Stoyan also continued piano lessons, which he had begun at age 8.
His first professional appearance was in the jazz-rock fusion band Tact (Bulgarian:Такт) with Yavor Dimitrov (piano) Miroslav Janev (bass guitar) and Evgeniy Simeonov (guitar). After the group broke up, he played in several professional bands during his secondary education. When he had barely started his higher education, Yankoulov joined the Big Band of Bulgarian National Radio, in which he played for seven years. Playing in many jazz formations, he quickly got into the swing of jazz music and became a regular performer in major jazz festivals inVarna, Apollonia, Plovdiv, Rousse, etc. His professionalism immediately drew the attention of musicians’ society; Yankoulov received numerous invitations to collaborate on performances and recordings, and he declined none of them.
Yankoulov spent the longest time of his career in the band Zone C, founded in 1994 with Vesselin Vesselinov-Echo (bass) and Vasil Parmakov (piano). Misho Grozdanov, Vladko Karparov (saxophone), and Ateshghan Yuseinov (guitar, tambura) joined the band later. Stoyan Yankoulov formed a duo with Theodosii Spassov (kaval), and later, together with Anatoly Vapirov (saxophone), they laid the foundations of the Fairy Tale Trio.
In 2000 Stoyan Yankoulov’s musical career took an unprecedented upturn when he met the Bulgarian folklore singer Elitsa Todorova at a Bulgarian music festival held in Canada. They quickly exchanged ideas about their common interest in percussion instruments, fast electronic beats, and dedication to Bulgarian folklore. Three years later the Elitsa Todorova-Stoyan Yankulov Duo was a fact. The synergy between the two musicians was visible in their very first live performance, and they quickly won many admirers. The unique Bulgarian duo combines rhythms from all over the world with authentic Bulgarian folklore, jazz, and world music. Their concerts always turn into exciting spectacles for the audience’s senses and souls.
On 25 February 2007, Todorova and Stoyan Yankoulov’s song ‘Water’ won the Bulgarian National Television’s public contest and was selected to represent Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest 2007. The unique duo presented an amazing percussion show—a fascinating combination of Bulgarian ethnic lyrics, drum n bass rhythm, and powerful stage presence.
Stoyan Yankoulov’s most recent collaboration is the Stoyan Yankoulov Quintet, consisting of himself, Mihail Yosifov (trumpet), Ivan Shopov (a.k.a DJ Cooh), Vesselin Vesselinov-Echo (bass), and Elitsa Todorova (vocals, percussion). The newly formed band enchanted the public at the Varna Jazz Festival 2005 with mystic nature sounds, authentic ethno motifs, intense drum n bass, and jazz.
Stoyan Yankoulov has performed in projects of Bobby McFerrin, Okay Temiz, Kornel Horvat, Carlo Rizzo, Arabel Karajan, and Enver Ismailov, as well as with Theodosii Spassov, Ivo Papazov, Milcho Leviev, Simeon Shterev, Yildiz Ibrahimova, Anatoli Vapirov, and Petar Ralchev.
Yankoulov develops the art of playing drums and other percussion instruments by applying new techniques and non-standard musical ideas. He experiments widely, even using an old tractor motor. Playing on a couple of instruments at a time, Stoyan creates an orchestral sound that can make listeners believe that more than one percussionist is playing. His live performances are always big, spectacular shows. He undertakes large-scale musical compositions, including acts of DJs and various performers.
Yankoulov received the Crystal Lira award for 2004 in the Jazz category, awarded by the Union of Bulgarian Music and Dance Activists, Classic FM radio, and the National Centre for Music and Dance at the Ministry of Culture. For his spectacular performance on the Panorama of the First Bulgarian Jazz Music Week Outside of Bulgaria, he was awarded an honorary diploma by the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Austria. The Bulgarian National Association “Phenomena,” a collective member of the International Informatization Academy, honored Stoyan Yankoulov for exceptional contributions in the field of art and popularizing Bulgarian culture all over the world.