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In Conversation with:
Teya Dora and Konstrakta

Vogue Adria

April 17, 2024

Teodora Pavlovska, known as Teya Dora, spoke with Ana Đurić Konstrakta about expectations, authenticity, advantages and disadvantages of the local music scene

Konstrakta: I have to admit right away that it was very difficult for me to fulfill this task, but there are various questions that I would like to ask you. When I represented Serbia at Eurovision, I heard every day: “Are you enjoying yourself, now you have to enjoy yourself, this is your chance now and never again.” Well, here, let me ask you too, are you enjoying yourself? At the time, I was not fully aware of what was happening.

Teya Dora: I didn’t really think about it. In fact, no one even asked me that. They mostly ask me if it’s difficult. And it’s not, every day I have some obligation, which I even like. For a long time I didn’t have a schedule, for a long time I was only in the studio that is at home, so now I like to have obligations, but also free time.

Konstrakta: I really liked it too, because it was after the Covid. And in general, it is nice that there is a certain schedule during the day and that someone else organizes your time. When I organize myself, there is always chaos. Are you a person who plans things?

Teya Dora: Yes, and no. Throughout my life, I planned a lot, and thought that it was the end of the world if something didn’t happen according to plan. However, over time you learn that nothing ever happens as you plan and I learned to stop doing that. Now I just work, enjoy and live, and let things happen. They will get where they need to be.

Konstrakta: Congratulations. Planning is a product of our time, and it goes to the extreme, so I really support when a person can sometimes let the circumstances guide them.

Teya Dora: Yes, you must. I don’t think things are “written” or “destined”, but I think you should go through them relaxed. I have a clear idea, I don’t really go everywhere where the water takes me, but I go more relaxed. There are obstacles on every path, but I noticed that the more obstacles there are, the better the ending.

Konstrakta: True, I also realized that at one point. The obstacles are very creative. Even mistakes. A mistake is creative in itself, and when you encounter an obstacle, you have to come up with a creative solution to get around it, and it’s often better than where you originally started. You kind of love the obstacles in life.

Teya Dora: Exactly. Imagine that everything is perfect, what would we do then? Everything is fine for you, whatever that means, so what about it?

Konstrakta: There is pressure to make everything painless and easy, which is completely impossible, and we have completely forgotten that it can be beautiful even when it is difficult.

Teya Dora: That’s also the theme of your song, isn’t it?

Konstrakta: Yes, I think we are increasingly coming to these things and success is to recognize when enough is enough. That “enough” has completely disappeared from the language. Everything has to be more than enough. However, since various news are coming out to me now, somewhere I came across that your mother is involved in Vlach culture. Are you familiar with Vlach music, culture and language?

Teya Dora: I was born in Bor, my mother was born in Bor, and so was my father. Mom first spoke Vlach and then Serbian, and she was engaged in journalism all her life, but Vlach culture was always on her mind. She wrote “The Miracles of Vlach Magic”. These are books from the field, where she interviewed women, talked with them, and they passed on some recipes and stories to her. I also went everywhere with her, and I remember that we went to a woman who predicts the future and said that I was going to go across the ocean, that I was going to do music. In fact, quite a lot has come true, which is very interesting. And there were also some small rituals, my mother would put thistle and honey behind my neck when I had an exam the next day. That really annoyed me, but I think that if you believe in something, give it enough importance, it can help. When it comes to Vlach music, I am not very familiar with it. But I have to admit that, since I started playing music, an ethnic moment always comes out of me. “Ramonda” is also a pop song, but it has elements of ethnic music.

Konstrakta: Yes, it can be heard. That’s why I’m interested in how important ethnic influences are on a conscious level.

Teya Dora: I don’t know, I let it “come out”, and then I go back to refine it. I play some songs as they “come out”, I don’t normally  deal with the mathematics of music, but sometimes I do.

Konstrakta: That’s interesting and I really support you in that, because when you “let go” you are communicating directly with the unconscious, and the unconscious unfailingly gives what it needs. When you make a song calculatedly, you always feel some tension.

Teya Dora: I totally agree. It gives something that is “unique” as far as it is possible today. I really like to recognize the artist’s style. I also create songs for others, and even though they are not my style, I enjoy making something completely different, a song for the club that people will listen to and feel good and confident, and yet feel that it is me. I don’t hear it that much, but people recognize it, and I’m really glad that something “of mine” can be felt in a completely different genre. I like to see it in others. I don’t think that one should stick to only one style, but it is good to recognize the artist’s style.

Photo: Marko Suvić

Konstrakta: Of course, but when you come out with something and the audience recognizes you, there is always that catch that that work becomes a reference, so you look for “that something” in the next one as well. I can understand it from the perspective of the audience, but not every artist is actually interested in it. Everyone has their own development, I don’t know if tomorrow I will go to some seventeenth genre, which is what I like, for each song to find the genre that best suits it in order to express the theme. You can’t be a slave to the 2024 genre. Speaking of diversity, in connection with your education and work abroad, have you noticed any difference in the approach to work there and here?

Teya Dora: As for business matters, it is much different. When someone calls you to work, there is a clear plan, a process, which in our case is more “well, stop by the studio”, “come listen to this”. Also, when it comes to copyrights, in America, arrangers and songwriters make a relatively fine living from copyrights if the song does well, that’s how good the system is. As for interpersonal relationships, I don’t know because I generally choose to work with people I like, both here and there.

Konstrakta: And did you manage to conclude what is specifically missing here? The music industry and business have only recently been regulated here. It seems to me that there is a lack of managers, scouts, it is not even legally regulated. What is your opinion?

Teya Dora: There is a lack of artist continuity. People release songs just to make something happen, out of fear that people will forget them. There is also the problem that the media is not interested when someone talks about music. They are more interested when a scandal happens, if there is none, for them it is as if there are no people who create. As if you can’t maintain a career if there are no scandals. I like to talk about music, what I like, what I’m working on, and journalists are interested in gossip that brings them clicks.


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Konstrakta: Yes, and that kind of presence in the media brings you nothing. It doesn’t bring you work, concerts, a completely empty thing.

Teya Dora: Yes, and in the commercial scene here, people think that they have to be constantly in the media and be talked about, in any way, in order to stay relevant. And that’s really bad. I know that it doesn’t really please anyone. Another thing, people are missing out on trying something new. A lot of people I work with are ready to try, and even though I try to make them something that will be a hit, because that will later bring performances and everything else, I also like it to be something interesting, something new. There are people with whom I can work like that, but there are many more who shy away from doing something different, because they are afraid that it won’t work.

Konstrakta: There is a fear of the unknown in entertainment, which is incomprehensible to me, since that is the most fun. I don’t know how much you follow the scene in the region, but do you feel that we are one scene? Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, do you perceive everything as your own space?

Teya Dora: Yes, musically we are definitely one scene, and there are great performers, and I also think that people like to come here to work, it seems to me that Belgrade is important to them. Maybe because commercial music is listened to more here, so things like that become hits faster.

Konstrakta: Since you now write and compose, both for others and for yourself, and you are a performer, where do you see yourself the most? All this can be done together, but where do you see yourself most in the future? What is the direction in which you would like to continue developing?

Teya Dora: Definitely as an artist, because I think I can contribute the most when I perform my songs myself. When I create a song that “comes out of the mold” a little, it spontaneously comes out of me, and I think it’s most natural for me to perform it. Sometimes I definitely make music so that it is listenable, I know what works and what doesn’t.

Konstrakta: Have you noticed how much harder it is to make something in a mold than something that is authentically yours? It is hellishly difficult for me to make a “mold”.

Teya Dora: Not for me, I’m used to it. I always pay attention to music first, I need to like the melody. I really like the chorus, and the dynamics in the song, that the song grows, and can also decline, but that it changes. I write songs for others faster than for myself. I make a sketch in an hour, but the detailing that comes afterwards, the arrangements, takes an awfully long time.

Konstrakta: Yes, from the demo until you release the song, you’re going crazy, and someone would say – “you just put a little make-up on it”. It’s not like that, it takes a lot of work to get everything to the right place, where it should be. So, to conclude, do you see yourself as an artist?

Teya Dora: Yes, that I don’t have to satisfy other people’s wishes. Here, let’s say, if I were to offer both “Džanum” and “Ramonda” to someone, people would hardly want them. It’s not so commercial, it just comes from me and then I should be the one to perform them. And when you work for others, you always give a part of yourself, trying to represent them, and you worry about whether someone will like the song, how many times they will rewind it. It is much easier for me to work for myself, and I really want that.

Konstrakta: Let’s go back to Eurovision? Did you follow it before or was it not very important to you?

Teya Dora: I am like a little girl. Eurovision was a nice family or social gathering for me. I remember the excitement and hysteria when Željko Joksimović performed, and then Marija Šerifović. That was a big deal, and it’s a big deal now.

Konstrakta: I remember Maria especially. I think I was pregnant then, and my husband listened to all versions of “The Prayer” all night long. Marija published the song in several languages, and he played it all night, I was blown away. When it comes to Eurovision, in the context of gatherings and one-night parties, I also watched, but I never followed and waited in advance, I didn’t practice that until two years ago.

Teya Dora: Me neither, until you performed, and before that I was in America, Eurovision was not watched there, logically. And now it’s somehow more fun for me, it seems to me that the songs are different now. I think that in the last five years, for example, something has changed and that songs actually remain listened to even after Eurovision. Recently, I discovered a song on TikTok and was delighted, so it turned out to be Duncan Laurence and the song “Arcade”, with which he won. It’s a completely radio song that can be played by Ed Sheeran and Charlie Puth, emotional and well put together, and let’s say I didn’t expect that from a Eurovision song.

Photo: Marko Suvić

Konstrakta: True, ranking is one thing, and if you win, it brings a lot of benefits, but regardless of ranking, some songs break through and become hits. The year when I performed, there was an Armenian girl with the song “Snap” that everyone went crazy for. Somehow it happens organically that a song becomes viral and a hit. And Charlie Puth, is it true that you went to school together at Berkley?

Teya Dora: Yes, we know each other, we had a class together, we went to parties together, he often threw parties, real student life. Boston is a college town and there are a lot of foreigners, especially at Berkeley.

Konstrakta: Do you have ambitions to break into the world, or European scene, how far do you think it is even possible to get there?

Teya Dora: That’s basically why I went to America, because of the music that is made there, the great space of freedom. But here, it’s interesting that I was there and working, but when I came back, it was only here that the explosion happened with the song “Džanum”, a huge number of people heard it, primarily because of TikTok. That’s really interesting to me and it’s incredible what happened right here.

Konstrakta: That’s my question. You did come back, but how hard would you work to go over again? Or would you rather stay here and let things happen, or not happen?

Teya Dora: I would do what I can, without forcing too much, by that I mean the crazy planning. As for music, I need it to be something specific. I don’t want to enter any competitions with European stars, because I’m not interested in that at all. It is interesting for me to try to translate some of my songs into another language, but only if it makes sense. “Ramonda” is not going to be translated into English, maybe into Spanish. It’s interesting with the translations. Our lyrics are much deeper, we have specific expressions and metaphors, when you translate some songs into English it is extremely strange. Our lyrics are a bit more complicated, and they are usually about suffering in love, which is what people like here.

Konstrakta: Yes, they like catharsis through song and “sevdah”. For a good translation, it is really necessary for someone to know the spirit of the language very well and not to translate literally. It is a special skill. Do you have any worries that the popularity will die out, from the life that follows?

Teya Dora: I probably have, like everyone else. I try not to. I have some doubts, I tend to overthink, but over time I become more and more relaxed.

Konstrakta: It is a reflection of maturity. And as for overthinking, I don’t think it’s bad to think. You have phases when it is necessary to translate some thoughts and phrases to yourself. Maybe you should think until you get bored, it will all fall into place and you shouldn’t avoid it. Today, if we want to get rid of any unpleasantness, we name it, like ‘overthinking’, and mark it as something that must be eliminated.

Teya Dora: You just have to understand yourself, and that’s not easy, there are too many things around us.

Konstrakta: That’s why I keep advocating disconnection, some sort of abstaining from stimulus, in order to get things going. I think that even physiologically we cannot process everything that is happening. Speaking of “how do you see yourself”, do you ever imagine yourself in retirement?

Teya Dora: My dream is to live a little further from the city in the later period of my life. As for work, I don’t think I could leave music and right now I have the feeling that I will always be doing it.

Konstrakta: Did it ever happen to you that you changed your mind, that you wanted to do something else?

Teya Dora: Never. If I didn’t do music, I don’t know what I would do. But, admittedly, it did happen to me that I thought that I don’t know how to sing at all (laughs). It happened to me now with this matrix. Before the rehearsal, I tried it at home with in-ear headphones. I sing, record myself, play, disaster, half a tone above.

Konstrakta: It’s a completely different thing with in-ear headphones. You have no control at all, it’s terribly frustrating. That’s why you should have a second mix for what you hear, and one for what is heard outside. But, tell me how instinctive you are, how much you follow that?

Teya Dora: I think the first thing that goes through your head is mostly correct, it’s just that we are afraid to accept it. Especially if we don’t want it to be a certain way. It happens to me that what I think is correct, but I hold myself back from making quick decisions. I think, however, that I have a good intuition and will try to use it a little more.


Photo: Marko Suvić


Creative leadership: FILIP KOLUDROVIĆ
Assistant stylist: ANĐELA ŠEVO