by Monti Karus
What happens when three traveling street musicians from different backgrounds come together into a single path for a brief snapshot of time? You get the culturally rich sound garden of the Kelebek Evrimi project.
Listen to the EP while reading the text.
A Butterfly Evolution
Kelebek Evrimi is Turkish for ‘butterfly evolution.’ It is symbolic of the dark places humanity has gone in order to blossom and discover that place of absolute resolve.
The band is composed of three main members plus guests. The main members are me, Monti Karus: originally from Australia; I play my own version of popular music throughout the world as well as my own unique and sometimes political originals; Katerina Dimitrovska: from Skopje in Macedonia; who sings and plays a bendir (frame drum) and a traditional violin like instrument called a Gadulka, she travels annually with her locally famous street band Perija (you can find them on SoundCloud too); and Umur Sadico: from California with Afghan descent who is based in Rhodes, Berlin and Istanbul; he plays the Oud, a traditional lute-type instrument with a deep timbre.
It all started with my street music quest through France when I bumped into a group of traveling Bulgarian/Macedonian musicians from Skopje called Perija (find them on Bandcamp). These four girls singing their own style of Bulgarian and Macedonian traditional music were the first thing that caught my eye in the small city in the foothills of the Alps called Chambery. I had just hitchhiked north from Marseille after dumping a car I couldn’t pay the registration for and had found myself in the middle of nowhere (so it would seem). I had aimed for Grenoble, but the eccentric lady with a car full of interesting things ended up taking me one town further to Chambery. With no real destination in mind, I wasn’t too bothered as long as there were people I could play music for.
So I soon found a bar to play music for and passed the hat to make a quick twenty-five euros to get by. Next up on the ‘need to do’ list was to find a place to sleep. I wandered back to where the otherworldly live music was going on and decided to stop and listen and wait for a break. After the wall of sound had receded, I spoke to a French local (Aurelian) who was watching them. It turned out the girls were couch surfing at his place, and they said there wasn’t any space where they were, but I could come over for dinner. They were happy to meet a kindred streety, and I was happy to get inside a home.
After dinner, some shared music and a visit from Aurelian’s brother; I discussed parks I could go to sleep in but after some umming and aahing they all agreed I could just sleep at Aurelian’s apartment and cram in with them. It was a very small apartment. Two girls slept in the entryway with their dog, and two girls and Aurelian and me were lined meticulously on the floor in a way that we could all fit in a four-meter by four-meter apartment which featured a small balcony and a small bathroom. We lived together like this for three days, and this is how I met Katye (Katerina Dimitrovska) and the girls from Perija.
The Love for Traditional Music
The next year, after having been deported a second time from the UK (don’t ask), I managed to get some cash together and flew back to Europe in May 2017 to attend a rainbow gathering run by Perija and others in Macedonia. A rainbow gathering is where a group of open-minded people camp out in the remote wilderness to explore alternative ways of living.
That year (2017), I became deeply influenced by playing music at the 114-day sema in Yalova in Turkey. A sema is a period of time in which Sufi dervish inclined people ‘whirl’ or spin continuously as a form of meditation. Many people whirled in shifts and played music in shifts to keep it going non-stop for the entire 114 days. The procession took place in a Sufi dergah (this was an octagonal shaped temple building). My love of traditional music took root from this experience.
It was this love that grew and developed into a strong desire to turn my common musical style from jazzy blues to a more traditional tone. I met Omar (Umur Sadico) at this sema, and this was where we first played together. Omar had just recently been training with the Oud and was happy to have the experience of improvising with me. Our music was played alongside Turkish and Iranian traditional music including Islamic oriented songs, but many styles and faiths were represented at the sema. Sufism in a sense represented here was about the unity of the faiths and also the concept that music in itself is a spiritual discipline and a path to divine awareness and transcendence.
A Delicate Procedure
The next year, when I returned to Turkey to volunteer for an organization near Izmir that assists refugees from Syria, I met up with Omar, and we played music on the streets together in Izmir and Istanbul which developed into a consistent and original sound. It was agreed then in mid-2018 to make a commitment to do some recording somewhere in the world. We both headed to Crete from there, not sure exactly when this project would become a reality. Omar was in Crete specifically for Oud training at the Ross Daly traditional music school near Irakleio.
After heading to Crete and making a personal commitment to make this project happen, I raised the money for the recording from street music. A few months later, coming through mainland Greece and then a rainbow gathering in Albania, I rendezvoused with Katye and Omar in Skopje. Here Kelebek Evrimi was born. The recordings feature original songs by me, Oud tracks written by Omar with translated poetry by Nazim Hikmet and Mahmoud Darwish and also Taksim/instrumental pieces.
The results are dazzling and truly a feast for the ears. The music was recorded at Alshar Studio by Evitsa (aka Straf) in Skopje, Macedonia without whom this project would not have been possible. From a week’s recording and countless hours editing and mastering, two EPs have been released within the last two months, both of which are available for purchase now on Bandcamp.
Stay tuned for more from Kelebek Evrimi!