It’s September 2021. The Netherlands is finally sufficiently vaccinated for travel, and it’s time for my first business trip in 2 years. The destination this time: Moldova.
I’m going to be honest, when I first got in contact with a Moldovan company, I did not know much about the country besides it being located between Ukraine and Romania. I later learned that the main languages are Romanian (~75%) and Russian (~25%). That Ozone’s infamous Dragostea Din Tei is from Moldova, and that there is a yearly wine festival, where they gift you a bottle of wine the moment your flight arrives at Chisinau Airport (I verified this through a friend!).
I imagine most readers have the same amount of information about Moldova I had at first, but this post aims to change that. At least when it comes to music. I furthermore found a great guide to help us out—namely, Eurovision Moldova winner and Eurovision Song Festival participant Lidia Isac.
It turns out, one of my Erasmus exchange friends is taking singing classes from Lidia. Learning about my blog, she introduced me to the pop singer and set up an interview in a cozy cafe in Chisinau called the Black Rabbit.
We walk into the cafe, and Lidia is already there. I’m pretty new to meeting famous artists and am unsure what to expect, but Lidia is the kindest person you can imagine. She doesn’t have much time because she’ll have to pick up her kid from kindergarten but is happy to share a bit of her personal story and some Moldovan artists she admires. So enter Lidia’s world!
Lidia has a musical background and began playing the piano at age 7. She later started singing and participated in her first international contest at age 13, winning the audience prize. This contest was just the start of many competitions.
In 2016, she won Eurovision Moldova and went through to the International Eurovision Song Festival. This attempt was not her first time, though. She participated some 5-6 times (so often she lost count). Lidia’s story is one of perseverance (which I think is an essential lesson for young artists).
In the Netherlands, there are funds to help artists participate in the song festival. In Moldova, those don’t exist. You have to arrange everything yourself, which means paying for everything (training, travel, etc.).
“But there must be some price money involved?” you may ask. The price for winning the Eurovision Moldova was EUR 10k. Great, right? It turns out that in Lidia’s year, this was not EUR 10k in cash, but a credit card with a EUR 10k limit and 20% interest rate. You can imagine that this led to some interesting TV interviews.
After winning the Eurovision Moldova and participating in the international one, Lidia got invited to the Voice France. One of the main reasons for participating in Eurovision as a Moldovan is that it opens doors. Growing up in a small country (with a small music industry) means you have to fend for yourself and look for opportunities. And the opportunities came (initially in the form of an invitation for the Voice France).
In France, Lidia worked on her technique with several famous international coaches (one of them being the back vocalist of Mariah Carey). Combining these techniques helped her advance.
Funnily enough, Lidia told me that she did not particularly enjoy competitions. It stressed her out, and she only performed around 30-40% of her usual capacity. After Eurovision International, this changed. Performing in front of a large audience gave her the confidence to continue, and her shows improved.
Lidia made it to the Battle Rounds, a considerable achievement as the first Moldovan and first former-USSR woman making it through the selection in France. As she already spoke French, she didn’t have issues performing in this foreign language (for example, during her audition).
After the Voice France, Isac was asked to participate in the Voice Romania. Despite her incredible audition, performing “When We Were Young,” she said she could fully let go of the tension during the Live Performance Shows. And man, what a fantastic performance, singing “There Must Be An Angel.”
After her breakthroughs, she started producing herself. One example is the song (and video) of “Nomada,” where she was responsible for the whole production. She also worked on collaborations, including “Citizens of the World” with David Westerhout, and started giving singing classes. When I asked her what her dreams for the future were, Lidia shared that she would like to perform more on international stages. She has competed so much in the past that singing should primarily be a fun activity and a free form of expressing herself. Besides singing, she’s also interested in becoming more of a businesswoman. There are so many things to do and discover in this world that it’d be a shame to only stick to one thing.
Although Lidia admitted to listening to a lot of international music, she was able to help me out with a top 5 from Moldova. Here they are!
The Motans are a hugely popular band in Moldova.
According to Lidia, they’re a great pick because of their melody and strong lyrics.
The group, founded in 2015, combines several music styles, with the most recognized one being pop.
The best-known song is Versus.
Stam, who was born in Chişinău, had an interest in music early on.
He taught himself how to play the guitar and piano using youtube and took part in “Moldova Are Talent” in 2013.
He mentioned Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars as examples and achieved great success in Romania with his hit Impar that hit #1 on the nation’s top 100 playlists.
Via Daca is a Moldovan folk band inspired by nature, folklore, mountains, and the cosmos.
The band started after meeting through the Mozaic Social Club platform and has been performing together ever since.
Every singer has their own story.
In the case of singer and lyric writer Iulia, the death of a loved one made her realize that life is too short not to follow your passion.
All these individual stories are incorporated into their music, with their most popular song being Paparuda.
Zdob și Zdub (also referred to as ZSZ) is a Moldovan folk-punk band (the name is phonetic for the sound of a drum) that started in 1994.
The band started with a hard rock album called Hardcore Moldovenesc but later produced various albums.
They participated twice in Eurovision and became one of the biggest Balkan rock bands of the current era.
Their most popular song on Spotify is Videli Noci.
Nicoleta Dara, known as Dara, is a Moldovan pop singer.
She is known for singing in the preselection for Moldova in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 with her single “Open Your Eyes.”
One of her more famous hits on Spotify is Tentatii.
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