City Guide: Laylla Dane presents Sofia

As the capital and largest city in Bulgaria, Sofia boasts a population of 1.3m and a history dating back to 7000 BC as a settlement. According to their national TV (Bnt) it is one of the top ten best places for start-up business in the world and USA Today rated it Europe’s most affordable capital to visit in 2013. While its musicians haven’t enjoyed too much crossover success in Western Europe, it’s underground dance scene is simmering nicely, with plenty of common ties to their minimal counterparts in Russia.

At the forefront is Laylla Dane who, on DJ skills alone, caught the eye of Zip back in 2014 who asked her to play his annual New Kids on Acid party at Watergate. After that break she’s not looked back and her stature has steadily grown to make her sit alongside Kink as a Bulgarian ambassador for house and techno in Europe. For this City Guide she takes us around her favourite spots and has curated a mix displaying Bulgaria’s rich heritage and vibrant present.

Catch Laylla Dane at Meadows in the Mountains (7th-10th July), a few hours to the south of Sofia. 

Favourite place to buy records?

The bitter truth is that Sofia has very little to offer when it comes to record stores. Ever since I began buying records (early 00s) ordering online has been the main source of increasing one’s collection. While the vinyl was still the DJ’s main tool there were some shops here and there specialised in electronic music. They are all in the past now for obvious reasons: the market was too small so the shops just could not compete with the digital invasion by offering predominantly used vinyl.

Nowadays, Boogie Exchange (23 Damyan Gruev str.) is the only shop to my knowledge which sells electronic records. It might also be fun to pay a visit to Yonko Stefani (134 Knyaz Boris I str.) where besides a huge second-hand record collection of all genres you will find musical artefacts that the younger among us might have never seen before like old playing devices and spare parts for them.

Favourite live music venue?

Club Mixtape 5 (1 Bulgaria blvd.) for reasons described below.

Best soundsystem / favourite club?

Without a second thought: Studio E.W. (abbrev. for elegantly wasted)! First of all, that place was acoustically treated by a sound maniac (who also handled the acoustics of Mixtape 5 – a two-room venue with great sounding). Secondly, the sound system there was hand made and although it often needed tuning those speakers seemed to me like an old friend who needed their time to get into the mood and reveal their full party potential. Maybe that’s why the system sounded best at the after hours, hehe.

In spite of the fact its doors shut down in autumn 2017, the spirit of Studio lives on without a worthy successor to continue its mission. Now, I don’t want to sound biased and call it perfect. Of course some things could have been improved, others done differently. But all in all, in my opinion, it was the only place where that level of freedom, inspiration and light-heartedness could be achieved. Not to mention the cultural impact it held. I am sure I speak on behalf of many electronic music lovers in Sofia when I say the re-opening of Studio E.W. at a new location is awaited with great anticipation. Patience, my young padawans!

Best party in the city?

Contemporary Techno Structures, Terra Music, Sunday Bunch, Epoch., Бетон.

Best view of the city?

Sofia is lucky to have  mountain Vitosha on its south outskirts. Perfect for hiking in summertime and skiing during winter, it also provides a breath-taking panoramic view over the city?

Best place to experience something unique in Sofia:

The area between Dondukov, Levski, Maria Luiza and Slivnitsa boulevards. Following the example of similar neighbourhoods in Berlin and London, that part of the city has been transformed into an art incubator with numerous ongoing art events and will host the third edition of an intriguing art festival in September 2018.

First thing you miss after leaving Sofia?

The water! But that’s more relevant to say when I leave the country. Bulgaria is stunningly rich in mineral water springs. The one with highest PH level in the country and which holds third place in the world top PH chart springs up in Gorna Banya district in Sofia.

Best place to see another medium of art other than music?

The independent art space of Æther (39 Knyaz Boris I str.) which has been running for two years now. Through performances, exhibitions and other forms of art communication it seeks to generate critical feedback on the contemporary obscurities of living.

Another spot worth paying attention to is Hip Hip Library (30 Serdika str.) which combines a bookstore for independent publications and an art gallery.

Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?

Once it is warm enough to have a beer outside sitting on a bench the parks turn into a magnet for people from all walks of life. For instance, you could take a stroll in Borisova Gradina or the City garden in front of Bulgarian National Theatre ‘Ivan Vazov’ (5 Dyakon Ignatiy str.) – a marvelous building, btw.

What’s the best and worst thing about living in Sofia?

Best: the people, mountain Vitosha, the city center with its little streets and cosy atmosphere, the food, the parks being accessible at all times as well as some shops and pharmacies being open 24/7.

Worst: management of the city which leads to multiple urban problems like traffic jams, air pollution, etc.

Who’s doing good things for Sofia music right now, who you’d like to shout out?

Artmospheric crew, Studio EW collective.

Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us? What was the idea behind it?

The mix is organized in two parts. In the first half (and for the first time!) I dare to reveal another spectrum of my musical cosmos presenting mostly non-electronic music by bands and musicians from the last three decades. The second part, on the other hand, is strictly 4-4 oriented and consists of music produced by Sofians who are long-time contributors to the local electronic scene or who, I believe, deserve extra attention.

And finally, what’s on the horizon for you in terms of live dates or releases we should look out for?

I am looking forward to various gigs around Europe including participation at festivals such as Field Maneuvers, Farr Festival and Meadows in the Mountains. Besides that, I am thrilled to disclose that a project that’s been cooking for a long time is going to finally see the light. Probably in June 😉

Gratitude for the podcast and interview invitation. Be well!


FSB – Dynamic, 1978
Nasekomix – Love Is a Whale, 2015
Stefan Valdobrev, Arabel Karajan, Infinity – Az li sam ili ne sam, 2000
Parallel Concept – Pim Pam Pom, 2011
Class – Galtam Dim, 1989
Vataff Project – Inner Beauty, 2008
Gravity Co. – E-O, 2002
Бalkansky – Where Are You From, 2011
Milan – Sepia (unreleased)
Stephan Panev – Motown Ghosts (unreleased)
Tibetan Hearts – Loops, 1995
Victor’s Mob. – Tulle (unreleased)
Anton Pau – P Loop (Alexandar Kyosev Interpretation), 2016
KiNK – Emotional Breakdown, 2016
1000 Names – Planet Dance, 2014
Simo Lazarov – Ranobudno petlence

Catch Laylla Dane at Meadows in the Mountains (7th-10th July), a few hours to the south of Sofia. 

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