Debi Nova

Feature photo: DebiNova.png. Debi Nova is an award-winning Costa Rican singer, songwriter, and artist. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

Feature image: Debi Nova is an award-winning Costa Rican singer, songwriter, and artist. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

Debi Nova’s Musical Art of Creating Life

Debi Nova is a Costa Rican Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-award-winning singer, songwriter, and artist. She is the genuine embodiment of a trailblazing woman and artist who achieves greatness in everything she does while remaining true to herself and her emotions. She creates extraordinary musical masterpieces from the mundane and powerful experience of developing and giving life through her beautifully raw self-expression.

Deborah Nowalski Kader, better known as Debi Nova, is a Costa Rican Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and artist. Music has always been a constant in her life. There was no questioning that it’d become her career, passion, and life-long devotion. Nova believes that music chose her and not the other way around. It’s been so present that she recalled one of her first encounters with a piano at a very young age.

“Since I was a child, [music] has always been a tool for expression. I remember when I was four years old. There was a small keyboard and I remember that place felt very safe,” Nova said. “It felt great. It felt as if I belonged in this place playing songs from The Smurfs on that small keyboard at such a young age.”

With that initial spark, Nova continued to pursue her passion for music. In her adolescence, the choice of music was a no-brainer. She immediately knew it was what she would do for the rest of her life and never questioned it. At 17 years old, she moved to Los Angeles to study music at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and ventured into music professionally.

Melico4.jpg. Debi Nova performing at the Melico Salazar Theater in May in San José, Costa Rica. Courtesy of Debi Nova.]
Debi Nova performing at the Melico Salazar Theater in May in San José, Costa Rica. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

Moving to Los Angeles immersed her in an environment full of opportunities and a different music school. It was the place where she started collaborating with artists with an impressive global presence, like the Black Eyed Peas, Sean Paul, Sérgio Mendes, Ricky Martin, RBD, Britney Spears, and many more.

“I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1998, and it’s a city that has that magic. In the case of the Black Eyed Peas, [I met] them through a collaborating friend named Printz Board. To this day, we’re still collaborating, and he was the Black Eyed Peas’ music director at that moment,” Nova said. “So, that’s how opportunities like that started happening. With Britney Spears, it was through a friend who told me they were looking for a background vocalist for a song. They asked me if I was available.”

Those opportunities were some of the first instances where she learned how the music industry works on a global level. It was her school and preparation to then jump into creating her own music, a motivation to explore her musical art of creating life.

Going Solo

In 2004, her first solo single, “One Rhythm,” landed number one on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The song’s remix was then featured in EA Sports’ FIFA Soccer’s soundtrack in 2005. Around 2007, she took the risk of creating her own music then to release her first album, “Luna Nueva.”

During that initial career phase, she began to explore her music as an art. She understood that both disciplines exist to connect with the heart and other people around her.

“I believe art and music are that vehicle that connects us with life’s essence. With the ability to feel. The ability to connect with our emotions. It’s a channel connected directly to the divine,” Nova said. “To that that we don’t understand and that that has no explanation.”

With that philosophy in mind, Nova has created her music and art to speak about life and the feminine. After her first album, “Luna Nueva,” she released four more albums: “Soy” (2014), “Gran Ciudad” (2017), “3:33” (2020), and “Dar Vida” (2024). The latter three garnered various Latin Grammy nominations, a Latin Grammy win, and a Grammy nomination, making her the first Costa Rican artist ever to make it to the Grammys.

Making History as a Costa Rican Artist

Her album “3:33” won the Latin Grammy in the Best Engineered Album category in 2020. The same album was nominated in 2021 at the Grammys in the category of Best Latin Pop or Urban Album, competing with major Latin American artists such as Bad Bunny, Kany García, Camilo, and Ricky Martin.

That particular nomination was a surreal experience for Nova, which became a motivation to aspire to create more music and art at a high level.

“It was incredible. It was completely surreal, and at the same time, it’s super interesting. With a Grammy nomination, you feel a responsibility. I feel maybe that’s why Dar Vida was more difficult,” Nova said. “I had a bit of pressure to do something that has [3:33]’s weight. In general, the Grammy nomination was incredible and totally unexpected. I felt very proud of the album. I enjoyed it a lot.”

Achieving such impressive greatness comes with the responsibility of becoming a Costa Rican artist who’s done history on a global level. It means she feels extremely proud of the country she comes from. It’s about understanding that her nation has so much space for growth concerning a global presence in music. She believes Costa Rica is a country that has so much talent, but for some reason, it’s been very difficult to musically export it to the rest of the world.

“It’s always a nice challenge being from Costa Rica and wanting to go out into the world saying: hey, I also want to be part of Colombia and Mexico’s giant universe and the United States’ universe with Puerto Rico,” Nova said. “It’s very defiant to say no. I’m from Costa Rica, and I want to pegarla in other countries.”

Creating a Dreamlike “3:33”

With that dreamy, ambitious mentality, Nova achieved a beautiful album like “3:33.” It entailed a process that started with Nova creating a playlist of references. Then, in the particular case of “3:33,” it took her some time, and fewer people were involved in the decision-making process than with “Dar Vida.”

portada333.jpeg. The beautiful cover for Debi Nova’s album “3:33.” Courtesy of Debi Nova.
The beautiful cover for Debi Nova’s album “3:33.” Courtesy of Debi Nova.

She traveled to Mexico to work with producer and artist Juan Pablo Vega. They went into the studio, El Desierto, and had an immersive process during which the album was born. She didn’t question the process that much and flowed with the music.


As usual, she wrote and composed many songs and then chose a repertoire for the album's final result. Nova enjoys having a wide variety of options for the song list. Once the repertoire is chosen, she ends the collaborative process by polishing, recording, and mixing the songs.


The selection for the visual aesthetic came through. It has beautiful and vibrant pastel colors that create a dream-like vibe. Nova usually works with Los Angeles-based artist Javiera Estrada to photograph the album covers, Costa Rican graphic designer and musician Felipe Pérez for the graphic design, and Costa Rican film director Sebastián Coto for her music videos.


Choosing the color palette for “3:33” was a very intuitive process for Nova.

“I’d listen to the album, closed my eyes, and saw pastels. I saw pinks, turquoises, and that was the Pinterest [board] we made,” Nova said, laughing. “Just as I do a [reference] playlist, we always do a reference board. Everything was around that pastel-like vibe.”

The pastel-like vibe is tied to a dreamy ambiance that Nova creates with her music and aesthetics. It’s present in a song and music videos such as “3:33.” Starting with the name, you know there's a certain mystique with the number 3 and its repetition. It’s a song that has a special meaning for Nova.

“3:33 is a song that speaks those communications we can’t explain. I wrote it about my nana. The last time I saw her, she had Alzheimer’s. We hugged each other. She couldn’t communicate, but I felt in that hug that we were communicating,” Nova said.

Her nana is from the Cartago province in Costa Rica, which sparked Nova’s imagination about inventing a story about the Irazú volcano. That set the tone foro creating a music video directed by Coto in Cartago to honor her nana. It was a challenging process for Nova and Coto because it was done during the pandemic.

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Stills from Debi Nova’s “3:33” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

That meant they faced certain limitations when filming and creating the video, but the artwork is a beautiful masterpiece. It takes you on a trip through a different natural Costa Rican landscape than the one traditionally portrayed on tourism brochures. It also feels like time is frozen, and you can experience that unexplainable communication that Nova sings about.

“Dar Vida” or Creating Life

Remember, Nova said that music and art connect with the deepest emotions and beautifully showcase the unexplainable. The unexplainable depth of life's essence was present during the process of her latest album, “Dar Vida,” which was released in May. It’s an album with a much more emotional, personal, and raw reality.

portadadarvida.png. The beautiful cover for Debi Nova’s album “Dar Vida.” Nova was photographed with her daughter Paloma. Courtesy of Debi Nova.
The beautiful cover for Debi Nova’s album “Dar Vida.” Nova was photographed with her daughter Paloma. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

It’s an album that translates to giving life and transmits her experience with pregnancy, giving birth to her daughter, and maternity. It delves deep into a profound life experience that immensely changed her perspective.

“Dar Vida was a long process because it was during the pandemic, and my daughter was born mid-process. I started with a concept that I had to rethink. It was very challenging,” Nova said. “We did an album and after my daughter was born, I started again the process to choose a [different] repertoire and composition. There was also an important participation of Afo Verde from Sony Music. He helped me a lot in choosing the repertoire and composition. He was guiding me a lot.”

“Dar Vida” is much more personal for Nova because of how her life changed thanks to maternity. Nova was literally and musically creating life. She explained it as an album full of songs portraying a woman getting to know herself as a first-time mom. She understood that new moment in her life that brought new challenges.


She doesn’t even know how to describe the manner in which maternity changed her—or not—musically, but she does know that it was very profound. It was something that changed her to the soul and implied a much more challenging process than the previous albums. It's an album synonymous with a great lesson.

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Still from “Dar Vida’s” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.
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Still from “Dar Vida’s” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

“Maternity taught me to live with more intensity. With more love. Full of love in each moment. Before, my life revolved around my career. After becoming a mother, that was amplified, intensified, and multiplied,” Nova said. “Now it’s not only about my goals, but also about my daughter and family’s well-being. It’s about love. Dar Vida is about living from love and not worrying so much about the most ambitious and egocentric part.”

The masterpiece centers on the deliberate intention of speaking about feminine empowerment. That’s why it starts with a song like “Dar Vida,” which was done in collaboration with Costa Rican women artists, including Mishcatt, Kumary Sawyers, Sharow Granera, Nakury, Half Tangerine, Canina, and Amandla.

The song is an ode to menstruation and feminine power. It’s also part of the aesthetics used to portray what giving life means for Nova. It’s part of a visual aesthetic that relied on neutral and raw colors for the album cover.

“It’s something very primal. Something about giving life. Very raw. However, we incorporated red into the merch, and it’s been great. It’s also the color of blood. We went for something more off-white, cream, raw, neutral, and red,” Nova said.

The Moon and Women

The bloody red is also tied to Nova's reference to the moon in the album. She used it to speak about feminine energy and how it dictates a woman's cycles.

“We’re menstruating animals, and our cycle lasts 28 days, just like the moon. So, this very feminine album has a lot of references to the moon,” Nova said.

The moon is present in her song and music video “Baño de Luna,” which translates to a moon bath. She created a music video with director Coto and Sony Music Latin-Iberia’s creative director, Lennyn Salinas. They were brainstorming ideas on a call. Nova always thought of the video with travel involved because it speaks about returning home. The three of them were thinking about a story where two people find each other on a bus.

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Stills from Debi Nova’s “Baño de Luna” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

Then, Salinas mentioned challenging the traditional concept of men leaving home to work by portraying a narrative in which women are the ones leaving. Nova loved the idea and continued to work on the concept with Coto. They then thought of asking real women to appear in the video rather than actresses.

“Just as music is a vehicle that connects us with emotions, it’s also a vehicle that makes us reflect. I’ve always thought that since I have the privilege to create music, I’ll use it to communicate things,” Nova said. “We’re in a moment in history where we still need to make gender equality visible. This is super important for me as an artist. This was our first video [for the album], and it would set the tone for the project.”

What It Means to be a Woman

An album that’s so focused on portraying the divine feminine and women’s empowerment also comes from a deep place that makes Nova reflect on what it means to be a woman, even if she doesn’t think about it daily. Being a woman is the only reality she knows.

“I don’t know what it means to be a man,” Nova said, laughing. “Being a woman is something beautiful. Having been able to experience the feeling of life inside my belly has been one of the most wonderful, miraculous, and beautiful things I’ve gone through. That’s what I’ve been thankful for in the past two years about my body and what it means to be a woman.”

BañoDeLuna6.png. Still from Debi Nova’s “Baño de Luna” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.
Still from Debi Nova’s “Baño de Luna” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

For Nova, being a woman is synonymous with celebrating being incredible. Yet, it also means reflecting on the challenges that come with it, such as continuing the fight to be heard and seen in many environments. It means understanding that her home country of Costa Rica is going through a severe crisis of gender violence due to an increase in femicides, which are hate crimes that are the intentional murder of women or girls because they are female. It also means reflecting on women’s role in the music industry.

“As a woman, you have to work three times harder to achieve half of what a man achieves in this industry. It’s not a secret, but we’re making it. Last year, it was beautiful at the Grammys. Mostly women were nominated,” Nova said. “For the Latin Grammys, we're 20 percent of the nominations. So, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Nova’s devotion to women's empowerment is nothing new. She’s been working in that field for a long time. In 2011, she was awarded the MTV Chiuku prize by MTV Latin America for her work with the United Nations’ campaign "UNITE to end violence against women," and in 2012, she was named ambassador of YUNGA (Youth and United Nations Global Alliance).


Her motivation to help other women comes from a very personal place.

“I went through a situation of a violent relationship in my twenties. I survived it thanks to the support from my family and friends, but there are many women who don’t have the same luck,” Nova said. “I believe in these initiatives and spaces that can provide support to those women who need it. It’s a small space to get out of a violence cycle and I think it’s very important.”

Besides her work with the United Nations, she also created with Melissa Quirós, who’s Hija de Tigre’s Communication, Marketing, and Sales Director, the Círculos 3:33 platform. Hija de Tigre is a small, local family-owned fashion business and stores in Costa Rica and Círculos 3:33 consists of creating a safe space for women with gatherings and video podcasts about subjects that matter to them.

BañoDeLuna3.png. Still from Debi Nova’s “Baño de Luna” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.
Still from Debi Nova’s “Baño de Luna” music video. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

“This space is important because of all the things that happen to us women around the world. It’s important to have these spaces to connect and share. This idea of generating this platform of Círculos 3:33 was born from something as simple as that,” Nova said. “To be able to give many women a voice. To be able to generate donations for other women.”

Creating “Dar Vida” at the Melico Salazar Theater

Giving women a voice is part of her lifelong devotion to the art of music that creates life. Reflections on what it means to be a woman, the feminine power, and the creation of life were quite present in her three “Dar Vida” concerts at the Melico Salazar Theater in San José, Costa Rica, on May 16, 17, and 18.

Nova wanted to recreate visually and musically the process of creating the album. She described it as an extensive and challenging task because of how she divided the performance. It had four different sections or blocks, each with a profound meaning.


The first one was gestation or life. It was about giving life. Then, the second block was the transformation or death. It was a symbolic death: the woman who had to die for a new woman and mother to be born.

“That was the most obscure section. More introspective,” Nova said.

The third section was one of reflection. During this time after the postpartum, all the new lessons began emerging, a point that Nova described as gaining more perspective on life and what matters most. The fourth block was one of celebration.

“It was like: ok, we’ve gone through the transformation. We’ve gone through the journey. We’re celebrating, and hopefully, we’ll start another type of gestation,” Nova said.

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Photos from Debi Nova’s concerts at the Melico Salazar Theater in San José, Costa Rica. Courtesy of Debi Nova.

The three concerts carried a lot of meaning and beauty for Nova. The audience’s response surpassed her expectations because she was able to generate a connection with them. She described spending two hours in a space connecting and living the music as a blessing.

“It’s very important for me to connect with that because it’s our way to heal. When we can be in contact with our emotions, we inevitably heal. The only way to heal is by feeling,” Nova said.

Feeling is part of her musical art, which creates life because Nova is pura vida or pure life. Nova is the genuine embodiment of a trailblazing woman and artist who achieves greatness in everything she does while remaining true to herself and her emotions. She makes extraordinary musical masterpieces from the mundane and powerful experience of creating and giving life through her beautifully raw self-expression.

“I’m very grateful to be able to do this. This is my expression medium, and I’ve been able to make a career off of it. I understand it as a privilege and that daily reminder is important. I understand how blessed I am to work on such a challenging career,” Nova said. “It’s a career with a lot of sacrifice. You have to be emotionally strong to get back to the essence of why I do what I do. I’m very happy to do it.”

To keep up with Debi Nova’s musical art of creating life, follow her on Instagram at debinova.


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