Jan 15, 2009

Meeting Dyana Dafova, Bulgaria’s Musical Charisma

I was actually disinterested, when my boss asked me to go Manaltheeram Ayurvedic Resort at Kovalam the next day for meeting some foreign tourists who came to a halt there, for enjoying some Ayurvedic holidays. My boss might have mentioned it unintentionally in between his usual talks, I thought and I had a little hope that the next day he might not be remembering it at all.
But the next day – it was 11th of December 2008 – when I reached my office (Tourism India Publications) at the routine time, he informed me that some materials regarding the person whom I am going to meet are kept on the desktop of my system, and he asked me to have a quick look at the information. Again with not much interest, I checked the details, but it could really put me into utter amazement when I learned about the person whom I am going to meet.
‘An unforgettable experience with Dyana Dafova, the International European Star,’ one of the information materials read. It was an article-like thing telling something about the person I am going to meet, Dyana Dafova, a singer, lyricist, composer and dancer of Bulgarian origin and her mother country had described her as the ‘Spiritual Voice of Bulgaria’. Her last album ‘Charisma: One World in Songs’ was a thrilling hit in the United States. Her stage shows are described as really spectacular and magical, as they contain some fusion of music combining different cultures and even languages across the whole world.
“His Holiness will remember you in his prayers. He invokes upon you God’s abundant blessings,” so once John Paul II, the late Pope had blessed her. Besides, many international personalities, like Hilary Clinton, the former first lady of the US, among several others are ardent admirers of this musical personality. When Shuttle Columbia took off from NASA for a space expedition, years before, it carried none other than Dyana’s music too. The song was ‘Ahadyah’, which consisted of archaic words from Sanskrit too.
After knowing these things from the news and from her website, http://www.dyana-dafova.com/, I immediately prepared a list of questions to ask her. At that moment, our photographer Shyam reached the office, half hour late as usual as he is a normal latecomer (he has to come from a very distant place via train). I surprised him with a mimic ambuscade and explained the whole things in a single breath’s laps of time. I uttered him with a leaping heart that, ‘buddy, we are going to interview an artiste’, for it is a rare chance for a journalist in tourism media to meet celebrated and blessed artistes. Thanks to my boss, Mr. Ravi Sankar!
Without much delay, I got Shyam with his camera on the rear seat of my ‘sincere bike’ and darted through the ‘beeping’ heart of the Thiruvananthapuram city to Kovalam, the renowned international beach destination, located some 20 kms away from our office. It was already 10.30 am, and our appointment time was fixed at 11.00 am.
When we reached the Resort, it was already 11.10 am, and we had to meet Mr. Michael Butterfield, Dyana’s husband and Executive Producer of her concerts. He was actually waiting for us in the reception. He lead us to a table at an open space in the patio of the resort, sitting where we could see the sea at a distance through the coconut trees and leaves. Mr. Butterfield left and we waited there in patience. I was actually a little nervous and opened my questionnaire to try to commit the questions to memory. Shyam was involved in taking some snaps of the premises (including me) and finding better locations.
We heard Mr. Butterfield’s call from back to invoke our attention and I looked back turning my head. I saw with him, the beauty personified, the international musical diva clad in a gorgeous dress walking towards us with a quite familiar open smile at her face. She greeted us with her innate enthusiasm shaking hands with me and accepted the seat next to me. Mr. Butterfield too sat on my opposite side. I felt that she is so familiar to me, must be familiar to every one, quite like her music as well, which is familiar to all people residing in all parts of the world. It is said that in every part of the world, every continent, country and corner, wherever, when people listen to her music or watching her stage shows feel the song as constructed on the very basis of their own existence, woven with the tune and charm of their own culture, tradition and history, myths and even the language. That may the reason why people took Dyana and her music to their own hearts. And, the same may be the reason, why I felt this international musical personality at the first sight as so familiar to me. And obviously she is so familiar to everyone, whoever sees her, for the first or second time.

I actually forgot about my prepared list of questions containing some routine inquiries. In spite of that we entered into a casual talk without much apprehensions. Shyam busily clicked several snaps of her and (mine also). Thanks to him, for that I got a bunch of some remarkable pictures for a lifetime.
Dyana spoke in a very clear voice, as if the voice was coming straight away from her heart, a soulful voice! She appreciated me before answering the first question telling that it was an intelligent question. She talked about her music, the way she writes songs, her achievements, the languages in which she sings, and obviously the tourism in Kerala and the terror attacks in Mumbai.
She said about her compositions, “my music is contemporary music, but combines different genres of the world. I blend traditional intonations in instruments. I have classical elements in my song, at the same time very modern like Jazz, Hip-hop, Pop, etc. It is the mixture of different types of music composed in a contemporary way with respect to the tradition, if I can explain it in this way.” She posed with smile several occasions for the camera while she talks.

About the recent Mumbai terror attacks and the consequent tourist booking cancellations, she said, “we have told our friends that it is not the time to cancel their trip; we have to support India, because we love India. To fight the terrorists, we just have to go and show them that we are not scared”, a superb attitude and an open support to India!
Dyana’s music has the message for positive way of thinking and peace. According to her, because of living a long time without the ‘right calculations’, the world has fell in to the present financial crisis. The solution is that through calm and positive way of thinking; go ahead with better attitude after learning the lesson.
I had heard that Madonna, the pop singer used certain Sanskrit terms (Ohm Shantih – the very similar words that Eliot once used in Waste Land) in her works. So I asked Dyana, whether she also is using it in the same way. Dyana replied that she goes much deeper into the meaning of the terms unlike Madonna, who used it in a very commercial way.
Dyana sings in more than fourteen languages, including, Sanskrit, Celtic, Latin, Japanese, Italian, Bulgarian, English, North American Indian, and even Indonesian. In her stage shows, the dancers wear the traditional costumes of the respective country and use traditional drum and wind instruments. She was planning to do a song together with the Indian music maestro, A. R. Rahman. Though the time is a big constraint, she hoped that it would happen, “If it’s the God’s will, it will happen,” she added with a hearty laugh.
Dyana is a special envoy of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to spread the word of peace in several hotspot countries of the world like Kosovo and Afghanistan. She believes that the beauty of being an artiste is that being able to connect people through art. I asked her about her citizenship, though she shares her time between Bulgaria and US, she always prefers to be a ‘Citizen of the World!’
Mr. Butterfield too has participated in the conversation, giving us quiet interesting information, about Dyana, about her songs, and even about the history of India. He spoke to me in Hindi revealing his ties with India. He was born in India, when India was a British colony. It was him who convinced us that India and Bulgaria are connected through the tribes. “The trail of tribes from India goes through Asia Minor to Europe and then to Bulgaria. Also mountains like Himalaya and the houses in India are very similar to those in Bulgaria,” he said.
“There are similarities in words too. We too use the word ‘chai’ for ‘tea’ in Bulgarian language”, added Dyana.

She gave us three photographs signing her autograph, one for me, one for Shyam and one for my boss. After our conversation we took some more photographs, in which she and her husband posed with us. She gave Shyam an appreciation that he takes really wonderful pictures, which made him blush. We bid farewell to her and before leaving I said her that I must be very much lucky, for I could meet and have a talk with such a wonderful celebrated personality.
30th January, 2009

PS: Here you can hear some of the songs by Dyana. Follow the links one by one and enjoy:
1. Taliesin
2. Forever's Forever
3. Shin-Koto
4. Charisma
One more thing, I wrote an article for our magazine based on the interview, and as she had requested, I sent a pdf copy of the pages in which her interview was featured, after the magazine was published. One day, when I checked her website, I could see that she has up linked the article in it. You can read the article here if you wish…Click Here
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