Public Republic random header image

Artist of the Week – Dessy Tenekedjieva

April 23, 2012 by · 5 comments

Interview with the singer, actress and producer Dessy Tenekedjieva by Dessislava Berndt

Translation by Polina Georgieva

DessyTenekedjieva, Photo: Elena Spasova

Dessy, what is music to you?

Music is one of the first arts that touches a human’s soul in the most emotional, inmost and pure way possible. A song can make you happy, but a song can make you cry, too. Music is the shortest way to reach one’s heart, and when a song tells a story with its melody or its lyrics, it’s all very exciting. To me, creating art, no matter whether it is music, theatre or cinema, is the skill to tell stories in your own unique way.

Cover-jpeg Елена Спасова
Crazy Butterfly cover by Elena Spasova

How did you find your passion for music and theatre?

Ever since I was about 2-3 years old, I would grab a deodorant – to serve me as a microphone, put my mum’s high heels, and sing in front of the mirror Lili Ivanova’s songs – “Detelini”, ”Panairi”…

Music is the first art that comes on the surface of a talented child. After that I started doing natural performances for my mum and my grandmother – and that was getting on their nerves. I would hide and watch them look for me; I was sure I’m very important, since everyone seeks me, cries and is worried – and I’m there watching, aware that I am the reason for it all.

01.Dessy -6 godishna
Dessy, 6 years old

You are an actress, musician and producer. You play tennis very well, you are good at Maths and you like painting. How do you keep up with all these interests?

I think a person comes to the world the way they are, and it is really hard to separate things. I was blessed with lots of talents, but I chose the vocation of an artist because it combines music, dance, cinema and theatre.

I was 14, I was just accepted in the French High School, when in front of the festival complex in Varna the casting director Tanya Zareva invited me to an audition for the movie “Forbidden for adults”, by the director Plamen Maslarov and the cameraman Emil Hristov. It was my debut in front of the camera. It was really capturing, I found it amazing – not only being in front of the camera, but also behind it. Any second I wasn’t shooting, I was standing there, watching through the little magical screen a black and white picture (back then we were shooting on cinema film) – and watching how the world seems so different when you adjust the light and the actors take their place on the scene… To me it was like a magic. I was standing, staring at the monitors; I was just stuck to Maslarov and Emil Hristov. It was love at first sight.

zabraneno za vazrastn- i14 godishna-
Dessy Tenekedjieva in the movie “Forbidden for adults”

From the practical point of view, the money I earned then was as much as my father’s annual salary – he was a director at the Bulgarian Ship Register. Of course, that impressed me a lot. Night cinema shooting, party, lots of money… So I thought – it’s not just interesting, it’s also well paid! Well, that’s it: I’m going to be an actress.

07Елена Спасова
Dessy Tenekedjieva, Photo: Elena Spasova

My father is an engineer and mathematician. My brother is a professor of risk analysis and decision making. We have strong mathematical genes in our family. I’ve won lots of mathematical competitions, but I’ve never prepared for them in particular; it’s in my genes.

Of course, my father wanted me to apply for something “more serious” than art in the university. I was accepted in the Technical University with subject “computer machinery and electronics”, and at the same time I was accepted in VITIZ. I chose VITIZ (nowadays NATFIZ – National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts). Simultaneously, I had applied secretly in the Conservatory with classical singing. Secretly, because back then one wasn’t allowed to apply for two university subjects related to art. I made it to the last round, but I didn’t turn up, because I would have been caught…

Still in first academic year, I started taking part in multinational productions – Italian, French, American… I was happy and gained significant experience, but then something very tragic happened. I suddenly lost my husband, Stoyan Kambarev. He was the most emblematic and cult movie director of the nineties in Bulgaria. Stoyan had extremely strong, distinct individual print, making a total and unique theatre and by no means would obey the system; he wouldn’t fit in any scheme, frame, box. Theatre created him and theatre killed him. He died from lungs cancer so young, he was just 43. My son Yosif was only 4 years old then, I was 25.
Dessy, Yosif and Kamen Kalev, Photo:

It was then when I decided to go to Varna and film two of his unique plays – “Vasa Jeleznova” and “Black Hole”. That was my first project as a producer, and now the movies are in the Golden Fund of the Bulgarian National Television.

Ever since, I have been working successfully with my producers company “Nova Film”. I have plenty of projects in the spheres of music, theatre, cinema and TV, advertising…

For three years now we’ve been in a consortium with Aleksandar Mathodiev’s producers company, the biggest Bulgarian movie producer. Fate met us in the years when I was filming as an actress, and he was a producer. Back then I decided that if one day I’m about to make a cooperation with someone, that’d be him. I learn a lot from him, he brings me down to earth.

As a producer I’m rather strict, rather different. Funny thing is, working as an artist, as a creator, is like a child’s game. You are playing a child, you can afford to do anything you want the way you want it. You don’t have to care for the others, because it’s first and foremost you who should like it. And if the project turns out good, it’s you who stands behind it. You shouldn’t begin a project thinking about the audience and bearing in mind people who will like it; that’s wrong. I believe art should be created for yourself – and if you are gifted enough, and the project is good enough, inevitably there will be audience to appreciate it.

From the other hand, though, when I work as a producer, I keep asking myself – who do you target with your art? Who will buy it? Then you need to play the role of the adult, the one who slaps the child on the hands and tries to dampen their enthusiasm. That’s why recently I’ve been trying to be a producer only for the music I’m doing – as an artist it is way too hard to restrain myself that much.

What’s your philosophy?

To do what I want to. Being an artist, I believe, is the strong desire to tell a story in an artistic way.
I write a song, because I can’t sleep unless I write it, and not because I have to. That’s why I worked on the album two years – that’s how much time I needed…

Could you tell us something about your future plans and projects?

I believe in the maxim that life is what happens, while you are making plans for something else.

On the one hand, we need to make plans; but, on the other hand, there are so many little sideway paths, while climbing the ladder called life. I do hope this ladder is higher and brings you farther. Sometimes you swing away from the highway and find yourself in the forest. That’s quite interesting, you can go away from the main thing, explore different things, that have appeared at that very moment, but then you need to be back – otherwise you’ll get lost…

What was the most surprising thing you’ve discovered through your cooperation with other artists?

What’s difficult when working with other artists is that we always have to accept the difference in each person. I have a very strong individuality and find it hard to suppress it. You need to truly respect the other, to be open and tolerant, in order to achieve something real and beautiful.

Who or what have made an influence on your development as an artist?

One of the most important things that has happened to me is my work with the Italian director Ermanno Olmi and that I took part in the festival in Cannes with the movie “The profession of arms”. Olmi is one of the last big directors of our time alive – he has got numerous awards. He rarely does full-length movies. Some years ago he came to Bulgaria to film the movie “The profession of arms”. He had already found actors for the lead roles, but saw Hristo Jivkov (a young movie director) and picked him up for the main role. Three days afterwards he wanted to see female pictures, and among all the twenty or thirty pictures he chose me.

4.Il mestiere delle armi
“The profession of arms” by Ermanno Olmi, Photo: Fabio Olmi

He called me, and I was stunned by the way the audition went. Back then I didn’t know Italian, but just French. Olmi didn’t speak French very well, but didn’t want to have an interpreter. All the audition was in French, actually most of the time with no words at all. I had that feeling, that we’ve known each other all my life, and that we’ve lived in a different epoch. At the time Ermanno Olmi was 70 years old. Still at the audition, he told me that I’ll be playing Maria Medici, although he already had a signed contract with an Italian actress.

At the international film festival in Cannes, Photo: PHOTO TRAVERSO

So the two lead roles in this Italian movie were given to Bulgarians. With this movie we took part in the official selection of the festival in Cannes, and it turns out we are still the only Bulgarians in the movie history to have experienced that. The movie won 9 awards David di Donatello, 3 awards Nastro d’Argento, nominations for „Golden Palm” and European Movie Award in 2001.

Being at the festival in Cannes was also a great experience. The best thing was that you’re there not just as a regular guest, but as a star – you are in the center of it all, everyone wants to meet you, to touch you. It was really exciting – dresses, hairstyles, diamonds, everyone taking pictures of you, people screaming… And me, waiting to enter the hall and watch the movie – I hadn’t seen it yet and I was very nervous. It was like a dream…


How did you get to take part in Bansko Jazz?

Together with my music producer Maga we finished our two years work on my album “Crazy butterfly” (lounge, chill out, jazz, house, pop). I work with some of the most talented and famous Bulgarian artists – Kalin Veljov, Bobi Valchev, Misho Josifov…

The first edition of the album was gone in just a month, and at the moment at the market is the third edition. Doctor Emil Iliev, the founder and director of Bansko Jazz Festival heard it, and asked us to open the 13th edition of Bansko Jazz. The square was crowded and people really loved the project – which, of course made us very happy.

Where does the name of the album come from?

I’ve always said that to create art in Bulgaria, you need to be a little crazy, and a lot butterfly (laughing).

A few days ago you released a new single and a video from the album…

I’m a producer and director of all my videos, and I always work in a team with the cameraman Joro Markov. I just can’t without him – he’s my ideal half at the montage, too.

Together we finished the final version of “Everybody” a few days ago and we included some scenes of the amazing animation from the movie “Contrasts” by the director Mina Mileva.

The preview of the project was in Brussels, where I had a big concert as a good will ambassador for YHRI – Youth for Human Rights Organisation.

Photo: Quentin Michele

Photo: Elena Spasova

The video was shot in London and one of the most successful British record producers – Simon Britton takes part in it. He is the founder of the cult group “Tears for Fears” and has over 50 millions sold singles and albums as a musician, composer and producer. He has worked with such huge names as Michael Jackson, Sting, Eminem, Timbaland.

04 dessy i simon britton
Photo: Joro Markov

Funny thing is, that the artist I had invited to take part in the video had some urgent arrangement and couldn’t turn up, so I urgently started looking for a new actor with the typical Irish emanation. I choose Simon Britton from one London casting agency not knowing anything about him, literally two days before shooting. He heard my song “Everybody” and did a research for my movie, producer and musical career, before agreeing to take part.

06dessy i simon britton
Photo: Joro Markov

I’m also very happy for the exclusive participation in the records of two more world famous musicians – Carlos Hercules, percussions, and Graham Curnes – guitar. They play and record with such musicians as George Michael, Alicia Keyes, Cher, etc. They had heard the demo version of the song in a big London studio and under their own initiative wanted to play in the song, without looking for anything in return. The song is in English, with alternative rock and chill out sound. It’s not commercial at all, but luckily, people like it. And in the video again I tell a story…

Dessy Tenekedjieva is a famous Bulgarian actress, singer and producer. She was born in Varna – the sea capital of Bulgaria. She was only fourteen years old when she made her film debut. Since then Dessy has more than 30 movies, including international productions. As Maria Medici in the film Il Mеstiere Delle Armi, directed by world famous movie director Ermanno Olmi, Dessy is the first Bulgarian actress to present her country at the most prestigious world film fest in Cannes, with a main role in a movie from the official section of the fest.

Some of her more famous films are: „Il Mеstiere Delle Armi“, director Ermanno Olmi; „Eyes of Crystal“, directed by Eros Puglielli – Official Selection at Venice Film Festival; „Killer Rats“ directed by Tibor Takach; „The Homecoming“ by Harold Pinter, directed by Stoyan Kambarev; „Ventitre“ directed by Duccio Forzano; „The Conscience Case“ directed by Luigi Perelly; „The Most Important Things“ directed by Ivan Andonov; „Watchman“ directed by Ivo Jamabazov.

Dessy Tenekedjieva has a very successful career in music as well. Her music videos climbed to the top of the television and radio charts. She has produced and directed her own videos. Her new music project is the album “Crazy Butterfly”.

Since 2000, Dessy and her production company NOVA Film ( have completed and presented successful musical, theater, cinema and television projects.

Dessy Tenekedjieva is a Goodwill Ambassador for Youth for Human Rights International.

She is the president of the Stoyan Kambarev Foundation ( members of which include twenty of the most important Bulgarian personalities from the country’s art world. The foundation is created in memory of the late famous theater director and Dessy’s husband Stoyan Kambarev. The main purpose of the foundation is sponsoring and awarding young artists with unorthodox and original ideas.

Dessy was the official spokesperson for the fashion house of Jean Paul Gaultier and for the Japanese giant Suzuki.

Related posts ↓

5 comments so far ↓

  • Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!