Making music out of poems=the new Hungarian cool.
It does not matter if you love or hate the talent shows of commercial channels, it is a fact that a few musical delicacies do appear in the line-up of Hungarian Megasztár, X-Factor or Csillag Születik time by time, and those ones most definitely deserve the attention. Among these specialities, the wonderful idea of setting Hungarian poetry to music has been realised by the band called Kávészünet, whose aim is to popularize the beauty of literature and poetry. I was chatting with Gyuri Popovics and Fecó Németh, the two members of the duo.
It is rather unusual that two young guys are so committed to music and literature that they create a project like this. How did it all start?
Gyuri: I met Fecó in a student hostel and we both loved and still love music and poetry, so one time we started to make music together and later we paired that with poetry. First it was only for fun, which is actually still true, although we have a little more serious aims now. It started as a hobby, for a small audience, then came Csillag Születik which meant a turning-point in our carries as the whole country got to know us and we have been trying to enjoy the facilities provided by the show since.
Fecó: However, it requires an awful lot of work too. It only means that our work was activated by the show and it became a larger project.
What kind of experience did Csillag Születik mean to you? You were the odd-one-outs of the series since instead of the usual popular and standard product you came up with something deeper and more meaningful. What did you think of the show?
Gyuri: We ate delicious cakes there. And of course being in this atmosphere was a useful experience as we could see and hear how a show like this is produced. It was a good starting point too. We were not standard or usual and it predestined that we had to finish Csillag Születik early, but it is absolutely fine. It is probably more difficult to succeed with a less popular genre (although we could argue about this) but having long term plans, we don’t want to burn out in one or two years and we are trying to create something permanent.
Fecó: We believe that still waters run deep.
Do you watch the recent season of Csillag Születik?
Gyuri: We don’t have a Tv which I really don’t mind, but through the social media we can follow the show. It is shocking for me how the standard of talent shows fall, and it is only the scandal, the shock-factor and the viewer statistics that matter.
Fecó: Which are not more profitable in long term then working with poems and culture. That is why we chose this and why we proceed slowly and carefully. And we do it for the girls too. It is funny that writing a poem to a girl is out of fashion as romance has died out from the world but a lot of girls still come to our concerts and that is exactly why we still go to Kávészünet concerts too.
You’ve practically answered my next question which is about your target audience and those who actually go to your concerts.
Gyuri: Not exactly, as our target audience is everyone between 5 and 99, just like a good board game. However, our primary aim is to make youngsters appreciate poetry and like Hungarian language. Average statistics show that we are more popular among girls between the age of 18 and 24, but fortunately a lot of boys come to our concerts too.
You have a project of visiting schools and play music to students. How is the reception of this?
Gyuri: We visit every kind of literature classes from elementary to high school. We usually bring a can of wine and everyone is having a very good time. No, actually we have a programme called “Trendhagyó Irodalomóra” in which we made poem-learning measurable. We have demonstrated that poems set to music are easier to memorize. More than a thousand students have participated and the success rate is 100%.
Fecó: It means that we compare previous poem-learning results to those of the musical ones, and it has always showed a better result.
In connection with these poems set to music, the question raises: how can we imagine the process of creating your music? Do you first read a poem and find its musicality, or the other way around, you compose tunes and find the adequate lyrics?
Gyuri: Fecó usually writes songs on the guitar, I do it on the piano sometimes, then we call our friends József Attila, Ady or Petőfi Sándor and they write a very good poem for us. This system works very well, we have a flourishing relationship.
Fecó: Melodies are just born in the head and sometimes they can be paired with the spirit of a poem but sometimes we just read through the text and create the tune for it.
How do you choose the poems? Are they personal favourites or those in which you found the potential and the musicality?
Gyuri: It depends. Depends on the poet, on our mood, on everything. It even depends on the book the poems are in.
Do you have favourite poets?
Fecó: Ady, Radnóti for example, but there are a lot of participants in this contest. In addition, the hostel where we met and started to work together was named after József Attila, so he will always play an important role in our lives.
Are there any band here in Hungary or abroad whose work is similar to yours or you are absolutely unique in this genre?
Fecó: Is it a rhetorical question? J Anyway, there are bands, like Kaláka or Suhancos but these band all work with different fields of folk music. We have a different style. Probably this is what makes Kávészünet different from the other bands, that we use every genre of popular musi. We are trying to snap the atmosphere of the poem and express it with blues, funky or even r’n’b, using traditional elements too.
Besides them, who are the musicians or genres you watch and like?
Gyuri: Our musical taste is very different, I mainly listen to Hungarian rap and underground hip-hop, or even pop music.
Fecó: My absolute favourite is Justin Bieber and he also inspires me. In addition, I prefer alternative music because of the lyrics and also the harder rock style. Our different musical background together creates the style of Kávészünet.
Your concerts have various set-ups from acoustic one-guitar version to grandiose orchestral sound. Which one do you prefer?
Gyuri: Recently it is the string-quartet set-up I like the most but it constantly changes. An album premiere requires an orchestra, but a club concert can work very well with a duo too. Naturally we only go by ourselves to the schools but the point is to adapt to every situation and create a different sounding to the poems with the different set-ups; this way we’ll never get bored of what we’re doing.
Fecó: We have a soundsystem set too, where a DJ and a beatboxer helps us. This is for those who prefer modern, fashionable genres like dubstep, to make them recognize the beauty of poetry. Interestingly, a lot of boys and girls have written us that they don’t like the music style we represent but they still sypmpathize with our work because of the literature.
What are your plans for the future? You always invite various guest stars to your concerts, who do you want to collaborate with?
Gyuri: We have a club concert at Millenáris in every month where the list of the guest stars is very long and it only depends on who has the time to come and who we can find the common voice with. These are all actors, musicians and poets we admire and respect. We have collaborated and want to collaborate with artists like Laár András, Szilágyi Tibor, Hernádi Judit, Karafiáth orsolya or Szabó Balázs.
fecó: He did not mention Fekete Pákó only because he’s ashamed to.
Gyuri: That’s right. A few other names came up just today, like Kamarás Iván or Csányi Sándor but it’s still undecided.
In connection with the last question, what are your long term dreams or aims you want to accomplish in connection with music?
Gyuri: We want to conquer the universe with the help of Captain Planet. Our plans for the near future are to introduce our album during the spring, to make a video for Mother’s Day, perform on music festivals during the summer and we are planning to create a second album in September. In long term, we would like to travel all around the country and visit every single school.
Finally, one absolutely unrelated question: if you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
Fecó: I’ve been thinking a lot about this, naturally there are some guitar heroes I would probably swap places with, but actually IÍ really like being me. Our journey is long and we still have a lot to learn, but honestly, I wouldn’t be anybody else.
Gyuri: I would likle to be Fecó. I pray to the Fairy Godmother every single night hoping for waking up as him one morning.
Fecó: He’s only saying that because we spend a lot of time together and this way he could see himself more and admire that beautiful guy I am lucky enough to see day by day.
Gyuri: Yeah, that is exactly why I want to be you.