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2013 in Bulgarian music by Snezhana Bezus

Published January, 2014
by Easterndaze

Snezhana Bezus, apart from supplying this very page with insightful news and findings from the Sofia sonic underground, is also involved in the Sofia Beats club night.

1. Highlight of the year?

Sadly, Bulgaria’s highlight of the year was the deep political crisis we’ve sunken into. As a person who’s never been too interested in politics, except for practicing my right to vote, I find it very difficult to write about what’s happening here. Bulgaria’s problems are so manifold and entangled that I’m not sure what would be a good starting point from which to find our way out of this vicious spiral – a discredited, murky government that’s on the verge of survival, shaken by corruption across all structures and institutions; a striking gap between standard of living in the capital and the rest of the country; a largely impoverished, uneducated, aging population against 2+ million emigrants, to name but a few. 

Delyan Peevski is a 33-year old media mogul and member of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms party (supported primarily by the Turkish minority in Bulgaria). He is notorious for his dim past and alleged connections with the mafia. In June 2013, the newly-elected government put him as Head of the National Security Agency, which caused violent social reaction and incited the #ДАНСwithme anti-government protests that are still going on to this day.

What can be loosely described as a fraction of society who have managed to sustain any form of conscience have been protesting every day since June 2013, but the government does not show any will to resign.

On the 26th day of the #ДАНСwithme protests, the police effectively banned the Bulgarian National Television from taking high vantage point pictures of the crowd. Their official count of the protesters fluctuated around 3,500, while the television cameras reveal a far greater number.

To the contrary, they’ve been addressing the protests with ridiculous coolness that would have been funny if it weren’t real.

How does that turmoil affect artists? To begin with, we’ve never enjoyed the luxury of a truly vibrant, encompassing cultural life. Engaging in any form of art here is generally perceived as a curious, unreasonable activity only a bunch of marginalized weirdos could possibly understand and enjoy. If you’re living outside the capital, you stand a great chance of being a loner in your interests and passions. Surviving this lack of motivating environment can be very difficult and many people give up on their talents, dissolving into the grey mass that surrounds them. Or they emigrate. 

Still, I daresay it was a relatively good year in terms of music, at least here in Sofia. There are now a bunch of regular club nights run by local crews, covering a reasonable size of the electronic music spectrum, so although there aren’t many live performances, we do have options for some underground clubbing.

In terms of releases, the WTF is SWAG netlabel proved to be the most up-to-date with global underground fashions with their notorious EAT DESSERT ONLY cassette, showcasing electronic gems from all corners of the Internet. They also put out 4 other EPs by different Bulgarian producers, musically ranging from beats to 4×4 stuff.


The other two well known and established netlabels – the ambient/experimentalist Mahorka and the blunted beats/downtempo Dusted Wax Kingdom – also had a fruitful year with a plethora of releases from their vast rosters of mostly international, but also local artists.

KiNK the acid lord climbed 2 spots up the RA’s prestigious top 20 live acts since 2012, landing at the formidable №3 after a mad year of concerting around the globe. Berlin-based Bulgarian popsicle DENA conquered the underground mainstream with her hit “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools”, followed by a number of equally provocative singles and a debut album to come in early 2014. Last but not least, acclaimed experimental producer Esem graced our Christmas with his excellent, though totally unexpected release “Aquanaut”.

Aquanaut by Esem

2. Discovery of the year?

I’m making a conscious effort to distance myself from those artists who, for one reason or another, are operating outside Bulgaria, because their environment is completely different from ours. Here, if I can make a generalization, people tend to notice show first, then quality and hard work, even in the so-called underground circles. If anyone managed to take advantage of this situation, intentionally or not, that has to be Infragreen. Although he’s been producing music for about 5 years now (so technically not a discovery), he popped on the surface last year thanks to a competition sponsored by a well-known brand of alcohol. The competition’s challenge went in two ways: first, a couple of producers had to remix a Bulgarian disco hit from the 80s; then people had to choose their favourite remix and shoot a video for it.

At the grande finale, the jury picked up three winner videos, whose authors received prizes. Infragreen didn’t get any prize, but his remix was definitely the most daring and experimental interpretation of the original, and inspired some of the best videos. More importantly, it provided him with a momentum he used to push things forward and several months later he made his first ever live performance as part of the Sofia Beats club night series – a truly rare event for most Bulgarian electronic producers. I believe this was a very horizon-broadening experience for him, and I sincerely hope he will manage to keep on developing, and why not inspire other producers like him to do the same!

3. Lowpoint in terms of music/scene of the year?

Artists suffer from low confidence, at best, or a twisted concept of “underground”, at worst. They often assume that there is some sort of barrier between them and promoters, club venues, etc., and they are very reluctant, even afraid, to take any form of action to overcome that. Even if there is such a barrier, which is certainly not always the case, that shouldn’t be an excuse to remain passive. You must try and keep trying, if you wish to change or achieve something. But this is an issue with our mentality not only in relation to music, but to our whole lives, so a lot of work to be done…

4. Personal wishes and tips for 2014?

My only personal wish is to be healthy. I don’t want to make any prognosis about our political future and I’m not having any expectations, either. What is meant to be, will be. I strongly encourage anyone who feels a spark of creativity or an urge to do something to come out and do it, without fear or prejudice. Do not lose time and energy wallowing. The sooner you realize that your action is solely your own responsibility, the better.

There is actually a lot of musical stuff to be excited for this year, and I believe once we have stirred the waters, things can only get better.