Celebrating Dimitrov for Independence Day of North Macedonia
Today is Independence Day in North Macedonia, marking 29 years since the nation voted to declare independence from Yugoslavia. To celebrate, we’re going to take a look at the life and work of a prominent Macedonian songwriter whose work at the Eurovision Song Contest spans three decades, three nations, and ten different songs.
You might know Kirkorov and Milanov, but this is a songwriter you may not have heard of Skopje native and hitmaker Darko Dimitrov.
Born into a musical family, Dimitrov has spent the 1990s through 2010s producing hit pop records for various artists from the Balkans and their surrounds, including many artists who would go on to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest – names like Marija Šerifović, Željko Joksimović and Arilena Ara leap off the page.
His first brush with Eurovision came in 2006, when he wrote and produced the song ‘Ninanajna’ for the entrant of North Macedonia Elena Risteska, performed in both Macedonian and English. Performing in the Grand Final after future winner Dima Bilan with his unsettlingly-staged number ‘Never Let You Go’, the song finished twelfth.
Following a seven-year hiatus, Dimitrov’s work again appeared in the form of 2013’s Romani-Macedonian duo Esma & Lozano, and their song ‘Pred da se razdeni’, which failed to qualify for the Grand Final. The same happened the following year with another Dimitrov-penned Macedonian number, Tijana’s ‘To the Sky’. Dimitrov finally re-qualified in 2015, after diversifying his portfolio to include Albania, and their entry ‘I’m Alive’ by Elhaida Dani; Dani ultimately finished 17th in the Grand Final.
After another break, Dimitrov came back in a big way towards the end of the 2010s and in 2020, penning two songs per year between 2018 and 2020 – nations featured include his homeland of North Macedonia, Albania and another Balkan nation, Serbia. Items in this chapter of the Dimitrov catalogue include Barbara Dex winners Eye Cue with ‘Lost and Found’ and beloved Serbian entries ‘Nova deca’ and ‘Kruna’. Dimitrov's (and North Macedonia's) highest finishing entry of all time came with great fanfare in 2019, being Tamara Todevska and her jury vote-topping seventh placer, ‘Proud’.
As mentioned, Dimitrov’s work was set to feature twice in the cancelled 2020 contest, his penned works including Albanian singer Arilena Ara’s number ‘Fall from the Sky’ (and its original Albanian counterpart, ‘Shaj’) and of course, the entry for North Macedonia, Vasil Garvanliev’s paean to the second-person pronoun, ‘YOU’ – these two entries show that Dimitrov has capabilities in both of the main genres of songs seen at the Contest: bangers and ballads.
It’s not yet clear whether either of these artists will return for the 2021 Contest in Rotterdam, and whether they will have sheet music bearing Darko Dimitrov’s name in tow. But if they do, they’ll add another chapter to a fascinating history of music from one of the modern-day Contest’s most versatile songwriters.