DENA (aka Denitza Todorova) has a way with words. Her knack for taking clichés and giving them new meaning -by virtue of writing and performing in a language, after Bulgarian and German, that is probably her third -makes them sound fresh. That’s what made her song ‘Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools’ a YouTube hit, along with the visually stunning video featuring Todorova hanging around a Neukölln flea market, so charming.
The same could be said for this new track ‘Thin Rope’, out on PopUnltd, July 21, that not only illustrates her tenuous relationship with conformity to “walking on a thin rope” but compares her single minded navigation of it to a video game. Hence, the bouncy 8-bit synth lines and twinkling embellishments, echoing Super Mario coin sound samples, as Todorova sings, “there is no button that I press and then it’s easy, I gotta go through the whole level, then skip it”. Well said. **
Justin Beiber, Psy, even Zebra Katz can credit YouTube with some, if not a lot of their current success. And while Bulgarian-born, Berlin-based performer Denitza Todorova (aka D E N A)’s is modest by comparison, 500,000 views isn’t bad for an unsigned artist. Now French label Kitsuné is taking that ubiquitous summer hit ‘Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools’, adding five unique remixes and giving it the official release it deserves on January 28.
Born on the Turkish and Greek border in Haskovo and living in the Berlin melting pot Kreuzberg for the past eight years, D E N A didn’t just appear from nowhere. She’s contributed vocals to bands like The Whitest Boy Alive, performed SXSW with an earlier single release, ‘Games’, and opened for Das Racist since moving to Germany for a course in visual and media studies. She’s also known as ‘Dena from the Block’ and her upbringing in a former Soviet State shouldn’t be overlooked. That’s because, as a fan of the likes of Jay Z, J Dilla and Sun Ra, it’s hard to miss that cheeky reference to her private past and her unusual creative future. She’s an Eastern European proponent of hip hop and pop, with old school RnB, who sings in English as a third language, while playing with and deliberately misconstruing genre in its traditional context.
By virtue of a language barrier, as well as sociopolitical and physical distance, Todorova grew up so far removed from the implications and identities of these primarily US-based cultures that she appreciates the sound purely for its breezy pop lustre. Self-produced snare drums, deep chords and clever lyrics are more about its sounds than its connotations, while her words hold a simple, positive message of inclusiveness and nice times. That’s why D E N A’s come out with the entirely un-cynical sense of irony in a video featuring her prancing around a dreary Neukölln flea market, dressed in comparatively bright colours and singing about her ludicrous material desires amongst clothes stalls and immigrant vendors.
That sense of the global village that D E N A both promotes and is a part of is no more apparent than in the track listing of the CDR$P release. It features among others, a Berliner’s take on Balkan beat-making from producer Stefan Goldmann, California-youngster Marcus Miles’ dance-focussed club remix and the funk-infused bounce of Brooklyn’s Lou Teti.
This is an example of the post-digital world where the breaking down of boundaries and broader perspectives can promote an engagement with and eventual embrace of people and ideas that you mightn’t encounter otherwise. That’s why D E N A can subvert old tropes, send a positive message and interact with a diverse world that just got a whole lot smaller.
D E N A’s Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools single EP is out on Kitsuné January 28, 2013.