Kristina Dolgova walks into W Barcelona’s Sound Suite for her interview just minutes after playing a set at Wake Up Call. She’s barely been in Spain more than a few hours, but that’s what she does: travels the world, bringing music with her wherever she goes.
Kristina hangs outside W Barcelona before her Wake Up Call DJ set
For Dolgova, being music-obsessed is in her blood. She was born in Russia (“if you look at my passport it says I was born in USSR, so that country doesn’t even exist anymore”), to rabid music fans. Her dad was a DJ at a club “that played everything,” she says and also what she calls “a pirate,” though not in the Captain Jack Sparrow sense. Think bootlegs, not booty.
“When the Soviet Union fell apart, there was no really proper sellers of music or record companies. So there would be one person who would have a record and they would bring it to Moscow and some people would copy it under the table and distribute the music,” she says of her father. “That was the only way you could get a hold of something. It was really weird times.”
There’s plenty of nice record stores in Russia these days, she says. But it’s not like she gets to go home that often. Or stay anywhere for too long, really. She started booking DJs at Zouk Club in Singapore, which led to her collaborating with W Singapore and W Bali, and eventually she came on board as W Hotel’s Music Director for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
“I basically oversee the musical DNA of the brand,” she says. “There’s music everywhere when you come to W. It’s in the hallways, in the lounge, in the toilets,” she adds with a laugh. “There’s no escape!”
Dolgova is a voracious music fan that loves everything from arty types like Radiohead and Herbie Hancock to dancefloor smashers such as Tantra. She’s always scouring record stores and streaming services for new artists, and she brings that same restless curiosity to the playlists she makes for W Hotels.
“I usually do playlists when I’m a little bit tired, because then if the music really wakes me up, I really pay attention to it,” she says of her selection process, noting that she curates different vibes for different parts of the hotel. “If people come to certain places to just chill and have a cocktail then there’s a little bit more maybe sophisticated feeling, and by the pool, it’s a little bit more upbeat, happier.” That said, she always works hard to make her playlists, and W Hotels, unique and cutting edge.
“We never play like top 40 hits, you know? Because then you’re the same as any other store,” she says. “It’s just very obvious. I’m always a little bit more curious.
”Like her father, she’s always doing her best to spread the best music she can find. “For me, it’s always a challenge. I can just find songs that I know everyone will like because everybody knows them and can sing along, but it’s an easy way out,” she says, adding that she’s happiest when she is getting people to move even when “they don’t know the songs. It’s about getting a quality unknown thing, and also educating people and letting them know that there’s so much other music out there.”