Turkish group Nev-eda performed for the first time in Lebanon Saturday night, playing a selection of classical Turkish music at Hamra’s AltCity.
The group traveled all the way from Istanbul, sponsored by the Turkish Embassy and Cultural Center, in order to play two concerts, the first in Beirut and the second in Tripoli Sunday night.
Nev-eda consists of three musicians, Sami Ersoy playing the ney, a wooden end-blown flute, Murat Birer playing the qanun, a plucked zither, and Saygin Serdaro?lu on the classical kemençe, a simple bowed fiddle.
The group prefers not to call themselves a band, explaining that there is a concept called mesk in classical Turkish music, which dates from a time when there was little access to written music. It is a form of master-apprentice musical study, and also the name of meetings for the sake of making music.
“Rather than a band, we can call Nev-eda a project that is a direct result of meeting musicians trying to play this music in all its forms, variations and examples,” says Serdaro?lu.
Saturday’s concert was held in an informal setting, the small audience seated in groups at candle-lit tables. Despite the intimate setting the audience refrained from talking amongst themselves, remaining focused on the musicians throughout the performance.
The trio performed a total of 16 pieces, mostly dating from the 17th-20th century, and covering 15 classical Turkish musical forms.
Most of the vocals were provided by Birer, while Serdaro?lu put aside his kemençe to sing two songs, revealing a lovely voice and passionate demeanor as he closed his eyes and crooned into the microphone.
An audience favorite was the “U??ak Gazel ‘Aheste çek kürekleri,’” a wonderful ghazel which showed the full power of Birer’s voice and his musical creativity and raised a loud burst of applause.
The final two pieces were also particularly popular with the crowd, with a faster pace and playful melody. “Hüsayni Oyun Havas? ‘Ceçen K?z?,’” composed by Tanburi Cemil Bey is a 19th century piece of the Oyun Havas? form, usually encountered in Turkish folk music. It therefore has a speed appropriate for dancing, and consists of short, lively runs on the kanun, echoed playfully by the lovely breathy sound of the ney and the kemençe.
The final piece “Hicaz Sirto,” by Sutan Abdülaziz, also from the 19th century, has a similar speed and liveliness to it. The form actually takes its name from a traditional Greek game played by a couple stamping their feet and sliding them along the ground, and has moved into Turkish music from these origins.
The group plays exclusively classical Turkish music, which they say they will be unlikely to master fully even in a lifetime. Living in Istanbul they see classical music as a connection to their past and a way to share it with others.