With her debut album of perfect, made-in-Kreuzberg pop arriving in March, Bulgarian junior tennis champion-turned-epitome of Berlin cool Dena is poised to go global.
The other day I was surprised to catch my 10-year old humming “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” to herself. “You’re gonna interview Dena? Cool!”
Meet Denitza Todorova, a Bulgaria native who was fed Homo Faber and Goethe in school and once longed for Western bloc chocolates. She’s known for her effortless raps set to 1990s R’n’B and hip hop with a touch of Balkan beat and cred-boosting guest appearances by the likes of collaborator and friend Erlend Øye.
She hooks tweens with her catchy tunes while attracting older fans, who see in her persona some understated parody of the hipster lifestyle. As for hipsters themselves, they can only adhere to her brand of Berlin street-cool, as effortlessly displayed in her videos.
This, and the fact that she arrived 45 minutes late for our first scheduled meeting (I left), that our second one was postponed several times and that the day I finally met her I waited for 15 minutes in front of her building on Maybachufer (her doorbell didn’t work, a Berlin classic) – had me expecting some self-indulgent brat. Instead I was met by a long, serious girl with a focused mind and an endearing conversational style: a 31-year-old who can get away with dotting her sentences with “yo”s and hip hop gestures without looking like a moron. Add that to her impervious poise and a photogenic, pouty lower lip, and you have the evanescent, jaded demeanour of a star in the making.
DENA. She’s a female artist originally from Bulgaria but living in uber cool Berlin since 2005. She’s been described as a mix between ‘Grimes and a Balkan M.I.A’ and her tracks are said to be ‘catchy as hell.’
DENA has supported the likes of Das Racist, Icono Pop, The Whitest Boy Alive and LCMDF, really living the live performance side of things and leading her to be seen, recognised and nominated by Spiegel as one of the Top 10 International Pop acts to rise in 2013.
Now it is 2014 and her debut album Flash drops on March 11th through Normal Surround, so we caught up with her whilst she was on London soil. Or should I say pavement.
Which musicians inspire you Dena?
I love music in general and I listen to a lot of female vocalists. From the UK specifically I love Katy B. But I think it is just music in general that inspires me – I don’t know how to make a difference between people that I’m a fan of and those who actually influence my music and my beats.
There is a 90s Hip Hop R’n’B flavour to your music. What sort of artists were you growing up with when you were younger?
I grew up with TLC, Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child. That’s the sort of thing I was listening to a lot, and specifically when I was working on Flash, my album, I had a lot of influence from Destiny’s Child. I just love their combination of singing and rapping, or better put, singing but using a lot of words, which create those melodic raps.
Got to love Destiny’s Child. So Dena, you’re from the Balkan region originally?
Yeah. Well, I’m from Bulgaria. But I moved to Berlin in 2005 so I’ve been in Germany for a while. So it’s more about Germany for me now but originally I’m from Bulgaria, and that’s were my parents are, where I went to school. So I’m from both places.
DENA DEAD FASHION BLIND BLIND….