(Dimiter Kenarov’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 7/23; Photo: During the coronavirus pandemic, Ivo Dimchev embarked on a series of small-scale shows in private homes. Photographs by Mihaela Aroyo for The New Yorker.)
The queer performance artist has improbably become one of Bulgaria’s most famous singer-songwriters.
In April, 2020, about a month into Bulgaria’s first full coronavirus lockdown, when all restaurants and theatres and music venues were shut, the performance artist and musician Ivo Dimchev posted a message on his Facebook profile announcing that he would perform private shows upon request at apartments and houses around Sofia and beyond. “I don’t want to sing online,” he wrote. “I want to sing in people’s homes . . . I mean in their living rooms . . . They sit on their sofas . . . I sit in a chair three meters away with my MIDI keyboard upon my knees. Of course, we’re all wearing masks. I arrive, I don’t touch anything, I sit down, I sing for 30-40 minutes, and I leave.” The price of a home concert was buying an Ivo Dimchev T-shirt.
In the past few years, Dimchev, an openly queer artist in a relatively conservative and patriarchal country, has improbably become one of Bulgaria’s most famous singer-songwriters. As a performer, he slides effortlessly between masculine and feminine modes; his vocal range is equally protean, moving from a low baritone to a soprano embellished with theremin-like vibratos. His fans compare him to Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, and Annie Lennox, but his closest parallel may be the English-born singer Anohni, formerly of the band Antony and the Johnsons.