Library of
Design, Art and Idea


Vol. 8

The amusing "Gypsy Rock" band of Istanbul has been meeting with the audience since 2008 under the name of Velvele, offering different styles and colourful crew. Giving high priority to convey its energy to the audience, the group has been offering a feast of music blended with quite an enjoyable performance to its ever-increasing followers. Arising from a very crowded team, Velvele is a pretty hot sound, kneaded with Rock and Blues infrastructure of Balkan and Gypsy music that was found the body through the energy of the brother and sister group members. So, the street, ferry and stage audience who have experienced this sound say that dance is the intersection point of them, and the group members add by confirming “We were born in India and intend to reach the West passing through migration routes. Road is long... Well, come on, accompany us; let’s get the utmost enjoyment out of this!”

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.
What can you say about your concerts and audience? Serdar: We actually have listeners of all ages. We played at EDFT (Education Volunteer Foundation of Turkey). One of the stages that I enjoyed most. Our oldest audience was 10 years old. We went to the Mental and Neurological Diseases Hospital and played to the patients there. Everyone had fun like crazy. (Laughter) Görkem: The audience generally consists of young people. We played to the Erasmus students mostly in Araf. People from Europe who listen to us are quite a lot. I think we are addressing to the university students and open minded people. Serdar: I was very surprised when they said that they had came from Spain and would go back the other day, they were here to listen to us. There are those feeling inappropriate or those thinking firmly, for example. They believe that the certain forms don’t need to be changed. Some can say the Gipsy Music should be made by only the Gipsies. We know ourselves though. We can play to three to four people as well. You will play even if there is one people there. What do you think album or tour? Görkem: Album is coming soon. We have toured together many times before, but everything will be more professional and systematic with the album. There will be regular concert traffic. We think out of town and overseas concerts. In October, after the album coming on the market, there will be album presentation and İstanbul concerts and then we begin to wander. Serdar: We love even the intensity on tour. While some works comes as “chore”, tour does not come so. While we are too lazy to take a bread out of here, we think very differently when it comes to music. It is very enjoyable to share the experience of the people who listen to you for the first time. It is very pleasant to feel they catch you in the second song. Seeing them gives us energy. Even if the thought have changed since we founded the group six years ago, we feel the same excitement and sever the ties with the musicians who do not feel the same excitement. Or else, you cannot walk. We are giving concerts free of charge. For example, there are people that cannot bear this. Speaking of journeys, do you travel together as a crew? If any, we’d like to hear the interesting memories. Görkem: Are you sure that you want to hear? (Laughter) Serdar: We were lost on a straight road, not finding the hotel on the strip. For example, Görkem returned as very frustrated in that he was lost. (Laughter) We are living so many interesting things. The people coming with us have so much fun. While going to Edirne for a concert, the driver of private vehicle was very drunk, and when he was discussing with our manager, who thinks that he could not take us back, I interfered suddenly with the discussion. The guy was really very drunk and he drove and got lost as soon as I got on the vehicle. Naturally, the guitarist of the group was kidnapped. I was thinking my kidney. (Laughter) Görkem: We went on a VIP vehicle and returned on a bus. Serdar: Our vehicle broke down on the ferry. Velvele, 7 people made a jump-start to the bus. The instruments were safe, we have been using robust cases since we knew ourselves. We did not give a concert, we had a barbecue instead. Burhaniye owes me a Fender Strat. We played in the rain, because the top of the stage was open. (Laughter) We can swim during the months of November and December as well. Sedat: Since Serdar came to Burhaniye concert in shorts in February and it rained a lot, we had hard times. (Laughter) There was a flood in the half of the second song, we played till the song was finished out of necessity. I was very sorry for my clarinet, moreover, it was new. Görkem did not care at all. Serdar: The relationship that we founded with the people who have met with Velvele is very good. We see and meet each other in the cities where we go. We could not be a cocky crew, did not love it. For example, in Araf, we used the street as backstage, the people wanting to talk to us came there. Sedat is a little bit different, more elitist. (Laughter...) We had to go to hospital twice, leaving the stage. We took Esra to hospital once. And in the other time, I was taken but Sedat was admitted to the hospital. (Laughter...) The most important feature of the group is that we are good friends. We can share home together. This closeness causes us to live funny and strange things. Sedat: Esra fell off the stage once. Serdar clung to me with his nose. (Laughter) We joked, laughed and continued at such moments. (They start to mention the importance of the group members in the group) Sedat is very important for Velvele, especially with his arrangements. Esra seems to have founded the group. She has a labour, including administrative works. She worked with Selim Sesler and then transmitted this experience to us as well. Like our Mom. Berkan does not his labour, works. So does Emrah. We met with Serhat thanks to Berkan. The responsibility he took in terms of percussion made a great contribution to us. Serdar is equal to Velvele. No need to say more. Görkem has the same vision as one of the founders. Every participating group member adds a lot out of himself or herself. Is there any musicians to whom you compare your style or take him or her as a model, if any, who are they? "We are unique!" says they with laughter. Serdar: Luxus is certainly one of the groups that we take as a model. So is Cümbüş Cemaat. However, we wanted something different from all of them. Every coming people have melted something of him or herself in this pot, so were the loved-things. Whose concert did you go in the most recent as a crew? Sedat: Massive Attack, but no one remembers the end of the night. (Laughter) What do you think the energy of the group is owed? In unison: Our Friendship! Could you mention the occupations of the group members outside of the music? Görkem: Teachers are among us, but most of us are completely musicians. Serdar studied Labour, Economics and Industrial Relations. We have an accountant, and one who studied journalism is working in a restaurant, but we all are musicians. If you think that this crew do not come together under the roof of music, which occupation would make you come together? Görkem: We would be a very good group of friends. We would go to the concerts even if we do not make music. Sedat: Oh, I cannot think of you without music. Serdar: The reason that we met is music, or else, according to me, there won’t be any other option. Do you think to give more space to your own compositions in the future? Serdar: There will absolutely be our compositions. Cause production is very important. There are composition works belonging to us. There are other things formed as idea or ready. And yet, if you exist as a band, and you do not have something to say, you are not so meaningful. You disappear. More will come after this. Görkem: It is already a need. You need to vomit after a while. Sedat: I believe that we can progress with more successful compositions when we feel relieved. We do not get bored when we come together in that we can produce something with which we are fully satisfied. For example, I can find myself murmuring Serdar’s composition at home. So, what is your next stop or goal after this? Serdar: When the group was founded, I said that I would leave after I have given a big concert. Then it turns out to be that I will quit when I have done this, when I have done that, and I found out there is no limits for these goals. Currently, we think making an album. We also think going to the Aegean, planning to tour, even more we have Europe plans. I say “Why don’t we go and tell our music to the Europeans?” The music of the folk should be known in Europe. Sedat: We are sure they will find something of themselves. Finally, do you have anything to say to your audience and the art lovers that will know you in a little while? Velvele: We are not a group that is hard to reach. Come and listen to us. We are sure you will love... Thank you...
Vol. 8
Circassian Villages Yoga in the City