“a magical blend that is no longer any one style, but instead a new and exciting polyglot.”
- Classical Guitar Magazine
Kemel Belevi’s music is steeped in the colors and atmosphere of the eastern Mediterranean, and his aim is ‘to create beautiful music’ based on melodies and rhythms that have been absorbed from the folk music of Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Belevi’s own arrangements of works such as the evocative 'Suite Chypre' and the richly varied 'Cyprian Rhapsodies' have significantly extended the repertoire for two guitars. The Duo Tandem are drawn towards this composer’s skillful modernity and his celebration of traditional heritage reimagined within the sound world of the classical guitar.
Created through a process of virtual exchange, ‘Watching the World Go By’ tells the story of a beautifully chaotic reconciliation of cultures. For this album we commissioned half of the music and wrote the other half our selves. The four main compositions on the album ‘Yeşil Şiir’, ’John Henry’, the ‘Cyprian Rhapsodies’ by Kemal Belevi, and the ‘Four Hypnoses (after Skip James)’ by Garrett Ian Shatzer are woven together by four short interludes. All of the music draws from Cypriot Turkish and American folk music and culture; Necati being from the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and Mark being from Chicago.
John Henry is an American folk hero who worked as a steel-driver in the 1870’s. The job of the steel-drivers was to hammer holes into rock so that explosives could be packed in and blast a path for new railroad tracks. It was a rough job worked by many former slaves in the Reconstruction era with little regard paid to their safety and their lives. According to some legends, John Henry was a large and powerful man who could swing a hammer from birth and was exceptional as a steel-driver. His hero status, however, was cemented when blasting through a mountain in competition with a steam-powered drill. As the stories tell us, a steam drill was brought in to speed up the drilling through the mountain but John Henry was not going to be out done. John Henry and the steam drill raced each other to the center of the mountain with John Henry emerging victorious only to collapse and die from exhaustion.
For our song, we tried to tell the story without words. The ring of the hammer is echoed with a regular percussive hit throughout, with the energy of the piece building to a climax. When the dust settles the melody is retold first in celebration over John Henry’s victory but then again in sorrow over his death.
Our first signature composition ‘Yeşil Şiir' is based on the poem of the same title by the famous Turkish poet Can Yucel. About the poets love for a green world, 'Yeşil Şiir' is considered a very important example of contemporary Turkish poetry. The 3 stanzas of the poem are mirrored in 3 sections in the composition. Beginning with dreamy harmonics, the intro section reflects Can Yucel’s depiction of the stars in his first few words. This example of picturesque reflection between the music and the poetry continues to collaborate throughout the composition and brings the listeners into the our world.
Completed in 2015, 'Yeşil Şiir' has gotten great reactions from listeners and inspired us to write more music for the duo.
Sans Paroles is the debut album of Duo Tandem. Meaning ‘Without Words’, Sans Paroles is an album of all instrumental music but the title also speaks to depth of Necati and Mark’s musical connection. They are two musicians in synch with each other; seamlessly blending together though still maintaining distinct voices. Duo Tandem’s versatility is also on display with this album as they bring to life diverse styles of music from the brand new (“Four Postcards”) to re-imaginings of the old (“Nocturne No. 8”) as well as Americana (“Up!”) and a Tango collaboration with violinist Kamila Bydlowska (“Suite Troileana”).