Serbia 2024: Teya Dora
Photo: Marko Suvic

Teya Dora from Serbia: "I want people to feel something with my song"

INTERVIEW Living in the US for a few years made Teya Dora forget about what Eurovision was. When she went viral on TikTok in 2023, many thought she'd be a good candidate for the contest. And a year later, she's ready to represent Serbia in Malmö with "Ramonda"

Teya Dora won the Serbian selection competition for Eurovision, Pesma za Evroviziju 24, with the song "Ramonda," and will represent Serbia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024.

Teya Dora's journey to Eurovision is not like everyone else's. Many of the artists that eventually get to compete in Eurovision dream about it for years, try multiple times, and make it a career goal.

But that's not the case for the Serbian singer Teya Dora. In fact, she even forgot about the Eurovision concept (and probably all about it) once she moved to the US where she lived for a few years to study music. In North America, Eurovision is sort of a non-factor. And its American version wasn't even able to catch the viewers' attention.

It was last year, once her song "Džanum" took over TikTok (and is still trending), that she thought about doing the contest for the first time in a long time:

– Maybe I thought about it when I was little, when Marija Šerifović (Serbia 2007) won with "Molitva." It probably went through my head something like, "Oh wow, it'd be amazing to be on that stage one day." But in later years, it didn't, she confesses.

– Living in America for some time made me forget about its concept, it's not too popular over there. When my song "Džanum" went viral, people in Serbia started telling me that I should do Eurovision.

It was only after her Eurovision 2024 song "Ramonda" came to life that she acknowledged it could be a good song for the show. Mind you that the song was not written with the song contest in mind:

– It just kind of happened, she says.


Just like it happened with Eurovision, Teya Dora overlooked the meaning associated with the flower ramonda, regardless of having studied about it in school. And then, one day, she talked about it with one of her mother's friends:

– The inspiration for the song came to me two years ago on a trip I made to Paris with my mother and a friend of hers, she says.

– Every night, we'd talk about something interesting. My mother's friend is this very intelligent woman. So, one night she goes on to share this story of how she connects with ramonda and with 11/11, the day the First World War ended.

For those who are not familiar with the flower ramonda (also known as Serbian ramonda or Serbian phoenix flower), it's a rare European flower known for its remarkable resilience:

– It's a very simple flower, but extremely rare and grows from the rocks. When it dries out and even when it seems completely dead, just a few drops of water can bring it back to life, Teya Dora explains.

– It became a symbol of the ending of the First World War. It represents rising from the ashes, and that's also why we call it the Serbian phoenix flower. It's a beautiful metaphor for so many things in life.

Serbia 2024: Teya Dora – "Ramonda"

She thinks back to her mother's friend story:

– She told me a personal story of her great-grandfather who was in the war and fought for Serbia. Despite being in a very tough situation, that group of men ended up saving the nation. She made me remember ramonda, which I think is a beautiful word, and I ended up saving a draft of that story in my notes.

For Teya Dora "music comes first." This means that whenever she starts a new song, she begins with the melody and only then finds the lyrics for the song:

– When I created the melody, or the first melody, for "Ramonda," it had these lullaby vibes. I started thinking about the inspiration for its lyrics and that's when I found the story of my mother's friend in my notes.

– It's hard to say what the song is about, but it develops into a story and reaches an end where we have this message of growing from the ashes. That little ramonda rising from the aches. From there, it grows, grows and grows, she concludes.

To the Serbian singer, given all that's going on around the world, the message of "Ramonda" seems important and relevant to share.

From Pesma za Evroviziju 24

You've had a massive TikTok viral hit. Would you swap "Ramonda" for "Džanum" if you could?

– No.

Her answer was automatic.

– Just because I think everything has its own time. So, I do believe it was meant to be like this. It's even hard to picture "Džanum" in Eurovision. It has a good climax, but there's no chorus in it, she explains.

It seems like she'd never thought about this possibility:

– Only towards the end it repeats a few words, but it was made for a movie so it has a different dynamic. I don't know, maybe it would also be a good song for Eurovision.

Teya Dora performs "Ramonda" in Madrid

She goes on to conclude that there is no right formula for Eurovision and we end up speaking about what the contest means to her:

– As of now, I see it as a beautiful event and as a way to connect with amazing people who are obsessed with music, she says.

– I also feel extremely privileged and proud of representing my country. It's a big thing in Serbia. People go nuts over it and they're extremely supportive, I want to make them proud.

Did you expect to win Pesma za Evroviziju?

– I had it in the back of my mind as a possibility and I knew it could happen, but when it actually happened I was very confused, she laughs.

– For some people it may have seemed like I didn't care about winning. I even tried to make my face light up, but I only realized what had happened a few days later.

I want people to feel something with the song, and if they don't that means I didn't succeed.Teya Dora

At her performance Teya Dora delivered an intimate show. She was alone on stage, on a platform, it was dark, emotional and powerful, even if it seemed vulnerable:

– All I wanted with that performance was to deliver the song with honesty, and I really feel "Ramonda" each time I perform it. I think that's why I don't exactly do the same things over and over again when I do it live. The moves come to me naturally because of the song.

Her goal is that people feel it too and are in the moment with her:

– I'd love for that to happen but I know it's hard. Because you're doing it for the TV, so the level of connection isn't the same as at a concert, she explains.

– I want people to feel something with the song, and if they don't that means I didn't succeed.

To Eurovision 2024

Will we see the same staging for Eurovision?

– Not exactly. It's a similar concept but we're changing it up a bit and it won't be the same, she says.

– For me, it wouldn't make sense to deliver something you've seen more than a month ago. The costume is going to change as well as the prop I have on stage. There'll be more movement and lighting changes but, as I said, we're keeping a similar concept because I think nothing else needs to be added.

Maybe given her distance from Eurovision for a few years when she lived in the US, Teya Dora sees it with neutrality. She's not nervous about the outcome, doesn't have an exact goal for the participation, and she admits that some days she could really use "a vacation":

– I don't exactly have a goal other than connecting with my country and making them proud...I hope they will be. As I said previosuly, I want people to feel my song, to understand me, and to connect with me.

The pressure from representing her country may actually be the only unsettling factor about this participation to the Serbian singer:

– I am not nervous, but I would love to go to the Final, of course. I know that's important for Serbia, but other than that I just want to let it go and see what happens. This doesn't mean I won't do everything in my power to make it happen. I am just not worried where I will rank in the end.

As a last question, I wonder if "Ramonda" is capable of representing Teya Dora fully as an artist.

– For sure, she promptly says.

– In general, the song feels like it could be the soundtrack of a movie, you know? I love that atmosphere: being calm and singing with a deeper voice because it suits me and allows me to portray emotions better. And just like we discussed, "Ramonda" is an empowering song that can represent anybody, including myself.

Teya Dora will represent Serbia at this year's Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Ramonda." She'll compete in the first Semi-final on 7 May.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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