Deborah Nowalski Kader, better known as Debi Nova, is one of Costa Rica’s most recognized and internationally acclaimed pop singer-songwriters.

Beginnings and career

She was born in San José and is the daughter of José Abraham Nowalski Rowinski and her mother Raquel Kader Lechtman, Costa Ricans of Jewish-Polish descent. A singer-songwriter since the age of 14, she travels to Los Angeles at the age of 17 to study at UCLA. There she signed her first recording contract. She currently lives in Costa Rica.

She has received important nominations in the music industry, including two Latin GRAMMY nominations, has been involved in six other GRAMMY-nominated projects, and her career includes collaborations with artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Sean Paul, Sergio Mendes, Ricky Martin and Franco De Vita among others.

Her song “Drummer Boy”, reached #5 on the Billboard dance charts. In 2014 she was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Pop Vocal Album for her album SOY – her first album entirely in Spanish. Her most recent album released in 2017, “Gran Ciudad” which received a nomination in the Best Singer-Songwriter Album category at the Latin Grammys.

Her album “En Vivo desde el Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica” was released in 2021, at the peak of Debi’s career, as her last album “3:33” won a Latin Grammy for Best Recording Engineering, she was also nominated in the categories of Best Tropical Song with “Quédate” with Pedro Capó and Best Singer-Songwriter Album.

Debi Nova: Her Music and the Key to Her Success

Her taste for music was instilled in her by her family since she was a child, particularly her mother. Since then she knew she wanted to dedicate herself to music and… she did it! “My greatest achievement is to have been able to dedicate myself to what I love, since this career is quite complicated for a Central American woman and looking back on the road I have traveled, I feel proud to be able to live writing my own songs” says Debi.

Her music touches on the theme of love in all its forms. Her trip to the U.S. was decisive because it opened unexpected doors and exposed her to people and experiences that she would not have been able to live if she had not gone there, “I think what has allowed me to chart a path in music is to get up every day and give everything for what I want, step by step, perseverance has kept me afloat”.

Debi Nova: Being a Woman in the Music Industry

Her role models are women who have achieved success in music: Tori Amos, Alanis Morrissette, Etta James, as they are a source of inspiration for Debi. “Definitely still in the Latin music industry is a world dominated by men, popularity charts and record label executives 20% vs. 80% men.

Women are changing, believing more in ourselves. I have always told myself “Yes I can, yes I am enough” which has allowed me to navigate complicated situations: many times it has happened to me that a producer wants to talk to me because he is attracted to me and not to my music. I’ve had to learn to handle those situations and defend myself. Systematic change is also necessary,” Debi says.

Situation of Artists in Costa Rica

Regarding the situation of artists in Costa Rica, Debi says that “in CR unfortunately lacks much support at the local level we are also at a disadvantage by a numerical issue because we are very few inhabitants, that puts us at a disadvantage with other countries where there are more inhabitants and have more platforms for artists. However, it is known abroad that things are done well in CR and that there is a lot of talent here and there are more and more international artists who want to come here. It is an issue that must be resolved systematically and by the artists: we must give ourselves the value we deserve. And if the media and brands had a little bit more support for the local artist, all this would generate change. We must show solidarity and work together, help each other.”

Author: Marian Li in collaboration with Debi Nova for Sensorial Sunsets