„The Various Forms of Art Are Not Far From Each Other” – A Discussion with Дeva

After two years of waiting, SUPERBLOOM Festival will be held for the first time this year on the first weekend of September. The two-day event will feature a wide range of visual arts, science, and lifestyle events at the Olympic Park in Munich, with music from electronic to hip hop and indie rock, and a variety of musical styles on the stages, including Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Macklemore, Megan Thee Stallion, Willow Smith, and Rita Ora, to name but a few of the most well-known acts. The only Hungarian performer at the festival will be Дeva, Dorina Takács, with whom we talked about inspirations, the challenges of becoming a producer, and why it is essential to share the joy of making music with others. Interview!

Дeva will be playing on SUPERBLOOM’s NeoNeo Stage early Saturday afternoon. CEEntral Party, the event’s organizing partner in Central and Eastern Europe, has delegated two artists to the festival this year, so alongside Karin Ann from the Czech Republic, Dorina and her band will be among the performers representing our region this year. We started the conversation with the immediate prequel to this invitation, a concert at The Great Escape festival in May this year, where the Hungarian psychedelic soul band, Mörk, and Czech electronic duo Bratři also performed.

You have recently been invited to a number of international events. How was The Great Escape in Brighton from a personal and professional point of view?

Very good! It was interesting to perform in Brighton as a Hungarian artist. There were, of course, some adventurous chapters, for example when we found out that there was a problem with our accommodation and had to find another one at the crack of dawn. In the meantime we had to be at the place of the festival by 10 am that morning, but we managed to get there and play a good show.

Your songs draw heavily on Hungarian folk music. How did the international audience take to hearing such a, shall we say, uniquely Hungarian-flavored performance?

I felt that they liked it a lot, even though they didn’t understand the lyrics and the melodies were a bit strange. A lot of them said that they had never heard anything like it, that the language was very special to them, and also the sounds in the songs. Overall, we received very positive feedback. The SUPERBLOOM festival invitation was a big surprise for me as well, as there are a lot of big, well-known names performing at the event, and I was quite surprised to see ourselves on the roster alongside, say, David Guetta.

Where did the motivation come from to include folk music motifs so prominently in your music?

Folk music has been with me all the way. I was a folk dancer when I was little, and then I went to a music primary school, where we had a lot of choir lessons, where we learned a lot of folk song arrangements, and we took part in several choir competitions and folk singing competitions. It was natural, it was part of everyday life, and later I felt that I would definitely like to return to it with my own music because I feel close to this world.

These elements definitely make the production authentic, as they give you a lot more to say than the standard three-chord pop music arrangements. Could this unique sound be a factor in the increasing number of international events that Дeva is playing at?

It could well be that it is involved, and it is not only me and my fellow musicians who play a role in this, but also indirectly those who created these folk songs and kept them alive, for example by singing them. By the way, I don’t think that it is impossible to stand out with classical pop music solutions, but I just don’t feel that when I write lyrics, for example, they can be as strong as the lyrics of a folk song. I feel a lot of power in those, and maybe that adds to the overall picture.

Moreover, it’s something that makes a listener’s heartbeat even if they don’t listen to this kind of music in everyday life because these lines or this melody are so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness. Perhaps this is what Béla Bartók called a pure source.

Yes, and it’s good to be connected to this pure source. And I think that the power of the pure source is there even if you reinterpret it a little bit. The painter, Dezső Korniss, for example, also spoke about this, he often went back to traditional folk motifs, but he just reinterpreted them a little, he gave them a slightly different color. But there was still the power that was there in the original versions.

To what extent does your training in visual arts translate into music, and how do the two interact?

When I look at the paintings of a painter, for example, or read about what he was inspired by, I get strength from that. I think all artists do the same thing, they just use a different language to express their feelings. The various forms of art are not far from each other. But I’m not sure, how much this contributes to my world. Maybe I’m even more inspired by visual art these days, I’ve been finding it very hard to listen to any kind of music lately.

Why? Do the musical forms become empty after a while, or do you get bored of certain clichés?

After a while, you start listening to tracks with a producer’s head, and it’s very hard to switch off your brain. For example, if I hear a too-loud hi-hat, I hear these technical things, not the music itself, so it’s not the heart that turns on first, it’s the brain, which is not pleasant in a way.

This kind of analytical listening develops in most musicians after a while, and obviously, it takes away in some ways and gives in others. What was the influence on you when you started putting songs together on your own?

I’ve always listened to music with a critical ear, and I was like if I’m so critical, why don’t I try to put something together myself? Why am I being critical when I can’t even show anything, like, well, this is how I would do it? It was important for me to be able to do what I wanted to hear and not have to take another person’s time and work to do it. Nowadays, I think there are more and more young producers because it’s much easier to get the software you need and it’s much simpler, it’s all very digital, so you don’t have to know that much about the analog stuff.

Also, there’s a lot of background material available now, isn’t there? If you want to do something, you can look at a tutorial and from there you can pretty much do it yourself.

Exactly. And if you have a musical education, then you really just have to learn the technical stuff, how to play it and how to put together what you want to hear. Of course, from that point of view, it was good for me to sit in those music theory lessons for six years, even though I sometimes felt like I was suffering.

How has your basic approach as a composer/producer changed from the early days? What is it like to listen nowadays to the material you made back then?

Let’s say, interesting! For example, my very first song was not mixed by me, but by Gábor Deutsch. If I take out the so-called raw project file, it’s terrible, almost unlistenable. It’s very constricting, there are no lows, no highs, and everything is in the middle range. At that time I had no idea how to mix, but it’s really not difficult to learn how to mix in a relatively short time if you pay attention.

Дeva, as a name, meant only you for a while, you performed as a solo act. How did the current full band line-up come about? 

There was a time when I was quite anxious, and then I wasn’t having a good time because Covid had just ended, so I didn’t really know how to behave around people, so I felt weird being on stage alone. Plus, I couldn’t share the happiness that the music evokes with other people. I was there alone, and I didn’t pat myself on the back when I was good, I didn’t talk myself through when I’d done something wrong. It was bad that there were no accomplices with whom to share this happiness. I did it on my own for about a year, and then I looked for partners with whom I could now share all the good things.

What else does the full band line-up give you? Are the fellow musicians involved in the creation, or do they mostly add their presence and flavor to the live performance?

We are now working more on the songs in this way together with Adrián Chrobák and Balázs Szallabek, who have started their own production careers in the meantime. We are doing more and more songs together with them, and there are even some songs that I didn’t even write, but we still play them live, because it’s their song. Then there’s Fanni Zahár, who’s playing flutes in the song called „Bölcső”, which means Cradle in English, which can be heard on my latest album, „Csillag” (Star). She’s also the author of the basic motif, that’s where that song itself all started. There are more and more songs that are collaborations. Of course, I like to work alone now, but it’s a whole different world when people make music together.

It’s not only in electronic music nowadays that one-man projects turn into full bands over time. Besides what you said, what is the soul of this? That the thoughts of the collaborators add perspectives to the production that, say, the composer himself wouldn’t think of?

Absolutely. I also think that personality develops much faster when you look at a work from more than one point of view, so you’re not just sitting alone between four walls, racking your brains. If people come together in groups, there can be conflicts, but sometimes people really get on with each other, and development is much faster.

You now perform regularly and have appeared at various festivals in Europe. Is there any experience or impression you have gained from one of these events with international performers, either professionally or artistically?  

For example, when we were in Brussels, a contemporary dance group performed in front of us. We were already there, preparing for our own concert, and they did a performance that gave me chills, it was a great experience. It was completely different to go on stage after that, I felt inspired somehow, just by seeing them. And somehow the world of art seems more vibrant when you see international productions. In Hungary, there is a very exciting artistic environment too, but you know most of the domestic scene, so you don’t get so many surprises, whereas things like that happen more often on an international level. And after such an experience you see your own art from a different perspective. And after such an experience you see your own art from a different perspective.

A bird’s eye view, shall we say?

Yes. When I saw this dance performance, I felt my own creative source much stronger.  I thought, well, now I’m just going to sit down and write music, create something because I was so inspired by the performers I saw there, the musicians, the dancers.

A couple of days before SUPERBLOOM you’ll have a concert in Budapest Park with OHNODY and the Flanger Kids. What can the audience expect there?

A good party for sure. All members of the current band will be there, Adrián Chrobák, Balázs Szallabek, Fanni Zahár, Fatima Gozlan, and maybe even Árpád Sikó on saxophone, so it will probably be a very colorful vibe. We might even do something together with the other performers. We’ll also play a song by Labek & Chrobák that we’re still working on, and we’ve only performed it twice so far.

How much overlap will there be between the two shows? Does the fact that you’re playing to an international audience at SUPERBLOOM and a domestic audience at home, obviously, influence the setlist?

Yes, we will have a different line-up in Munich, the setlist and the songs we play will be different a bit too, but these things are mostly decided by feel.

SUPERBLOOM Festival presents an astonishing line-up this year. Are there any of the performers that you find particularly interesting and will definitely go to see if you get the chance?

I’m looking forward to Willow Smith, who will be performing on Sunday, the second day of the festival. I listened to her a lot a few years ago. She has some songs that really, really caught me, her world is very interesting and appealing to me, so I’m curious to see what she’ll be like live.

For more information, check out Дeva’s Facebook page, as well as the SUPERBLOOM festival’s website and social media platforms! If you’d like to travel to Munich next week to attend the festival live, you can enter our winning contest until midnight on 25 August!

Photo: Дeva Facebook


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