The crew is comprised of seven members as vocals Esra Arslan, guitar Serdar Avcıoğlu, clarinet Sedat Güçlü, bass guitar Emrah Karataş, bouzouki and chumbush (a mandolin with a metal body) Görkem Tekin, percussion Serhat Mertal Kayan and finally drummer Ali Berkan Karlıdağ. Now we share the interview that we made with this friendly crew during their journey, saying “accompany us!”
How did you get into music?
Görkem: My elementary school teacher was playing the mandolin and formed a polyphonic choir. We were pretty good under the terms of that period, making western music. He chose me to choir. I guess he created an awareness. Then I talked with my family. My family already wanted me to play an instrument as well. Then I enrolled on baglama (a long-necked, stringed instrument) course. I was a little bit shy boy but I’ve never left baglama from the moment I got it in my hands. Then it continued. I won BTU Department of Finance and had to endure there two years. I prepared for the conservatory exams and then went to ITU. I have added new instruments to my baglama; bouzouki, chumbush, percussion, and etc. This process corresponds to the formation of the group. Even at the age of 4-5, I was playing with my guitar, cassettes and a broken mandolin handed me from my uncle instead of the toys as most normal kids do. I was listening to the tape. But I was listening to very slow music. (Laughter)
Serdar: Mine, not so different from Görkem. You started to slightly realize yourself. There were musicians in my family. At that time, my aunt’s husband was playing baglama very melodiously. My uncle was playing nay and baglama. Even if we were not so close, I could see and know it. When I was in the middle school, my music teacher was playing baglama incredibly beautiful. He had already graduated from the University of Gaziantep in the first rank. I told myself I wanted this instrument. My mother had bought me a pink plastic thing before. Listening to the tapes of Arif Sağ, I was imitating him. They were mocking at me. Then they found a baglama for me.
Sedat: I started playing baglama at the age of eight. I passed to clarinet in the Fine Arts High School, coming from Konya to İstanbul to take courses. I enrolled in ITU and met with Velvele soon after this. In fact, my field is folk music vocal training. I am the second vocal of the group.
So, are you saying “We have grown from baglama?
Görkem: Yes, exactly, we have grown from baglama. Everyone in the group was playing baglama in the beginning
Serdar: Esra could not play and was sorry for this. (Laughter). Anyhow, I think this is the reason that we love folk music. This must be the reason why we are making the music of the people. I started guitar toward the high school. Then I took a break. I won Marmara University Labour, Economics and Industrial Relations department. I got out of Tunceli then. I’d say I met with Görkem that caused me to start guitar again.
How the idea of “Velvele” was born?
Serdar: When I was attending the university, I began to play in a place called Araf in Beyoğlu. They were playing very interesting things in there; Balkan music, Gipsy Music, and Indian Music. All folk’s music that you can imagine were being played there. Furthermore, there were groups and artists playing there; such as Luxus, Cümbüş Cemaat, and Selim hodja (Selim Sesler). They also drew my attention. We were at the student collectives at the same time, forming a music group among us. Görkem was at the Black Sea side of that. We went to Ankara for an action. Halay, dance, playing in the train... We met with Görkem in Ankara. The crew idea came there. We thought we might do something in İstanbul, however I did not respond to calls of Görkem in İstanbul (Görkem approves and laughs). Then we became a crew.
Görkem: We did not know what we were going to play when we entered into the studio. We had mutual friends and we went to the studio. Then everyone suggested something. And we made a synthesis of east and west. We wanted to create something unconventional.
Serdar: I found out that the blues is very suitable for the folk music. Rock music was also very convenient. “Why not” said we. Both, of course, cannot progress, a firm synthesis was needed and this would be something that could be settled over the course of years. Even I cannot say I exactly reached.
Görkem: I did not play baglama as a conventional one. You are looking for different sounds. Of course, you were pushing mi, fa, sol but I tried to change the technique as much as I could do. Anyhow, the repertoire was not a repertoire of folk music in a straight line, what we were playing had a spirit of its own. Actually, it was a trial and error method.
Serdar: We went to improvise for a while. Intros, songs were released from the improvisations.
Görkem: We added something of ourselves to the beginning, middle and end of the works.
Let’s talk about the name a little bit, where it came from?
Serdar: We were drinking tea in Beşiktaş after a rehearsal. Having breakfast with bagels. On the other hand we had a demanding night. Our clarinettist Alican said” Why not Velvele” there at that time. Velvele is a rhythmic pattern in Turkish Music as well. We loved it. Because we were playing in a state of chaos a little bit then.
Görkem: After then, we have never changed our name. It has been like that since it was told.
Serdar: We realized the name much fitted our personality during the process. In my opinion, both meanings are pleasant
As the musicians who played both in the bars and on the streets, what can you say in comparison bar music to street music?
Serdar: Street music is intimate actually. Much more intimate but it is also risky. How can it be risky? You can make yourselves be listened to, people come to listen to you anyway. In the street, they hear and go. In the ears of that people will you not be long- lasting. Maybe CD sales can be made in order to be permanent. We have never thought about it. Bar, that is stage, made us develop, teaching us the system.
Görkem: Bar needs more responsibility. In the street, no one says to you, Oh! Why did you play like this? There is a high expectation in the bar. You’re free in the street, nothing comes in between you and the audience.
Serdar: Streets have problems with sound as well. You cannot play well as you cannot hear well. Anyhow, bars are boring, the large stages are the beautiful in my opinion. For example, we played in the festivals which was quite fun.
(Just then, a street musician with accordion enters the coffee we sit. Laughter)
Görkem: Probably everyone will agree with what I’m going to say. Making music on a large stage, outdoors, playing on the stage is very important in terms of the technique of the work. So the event that we call sound. Although sound does mean anything to the opposite side, musicians mean a lot. Even a very slight deficiency can reduce all motivation, the whole night can pass like that.
Serdar: It is very easy to make music that makes people feel gloomy. To amuse is very difficult but we made it. We can make people belly-dance. Because we are so relaxed.