Finding unity through separation: a chat with Qamar Saleem and Melis Erdoğan

I am no stranger to long distance relationships. In fact, I used to describe the situation between my husband and I as global distancing back in 2020 at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. That's why it's no surprise that I fully relate to Qamar Saleem's brand new single, Dooriyan. From its haunting melody and engaging lyrics to the deeply emotional longing expressed between two incredibly talented vocalists, Qamar Saleem and Melis Erdoğan, word for word and note for note, Dooriyan expressed exactly the experience my husband and I endured during the extended separation that we were forced to undergo, due to travel restrictions at the time. Yet, even before that, most of our relationship was long distance, due to the fact that we were based on opposite sides of the world. 

 Listening to Dooriyan for the first time, I thoroughly enjoyed Qamar's strong vocals that awakened the deeply rooted aching I knew all too well, from his very first note. I immediately knew I was in for a wonderful musical experience and the song did not disappoint. I may not understand Urdu or Turkish but I understand emotions very well and Dooriyan expresses all of it. 

A bilingual duet that waxes lyrical about the distance between two loved ones, Dooriyan is the first of its kind to emerge from between Turkey and Pakistan. A bold and clever move from Qamar Saleem, in my humble opinion, as its essence celebrates the mutual love and respect both countries harbour for each other's music scene. In an interview with both artists, they share their experiences about the recording of the song and music video and their roles in pioneering a new direction for their respective music industries. 

Beverly Grafton: This bilingual duet is the first of its kind between Turkey and Pakistan. How does that make you both feel, knowing that you pioneered such a breakthrough move? 

Qamar: "Breaking barriers and norms have been a key facet of my music. Also having lived in Turkey I was able to absorb the richness of Turkish music and culture. I simply found it intuitive to do this first-of-its kind collaboration."

Melis: "Very excited. The fact that it is the first of its kind is very exciting. I am so proud to be a part of such an inspirational and special project."

Beverly Grafton: There are strong ties between Pakistan and Turkey. How did you feel people from both countries would relate to Dooriyan?

Qamar: "Indeed, Pakistan and Turkey have been friends and supported each other in good and bad times. The institution of Khilafat has occupied a very important place in our history and ties our hearts together further. The love people of Pakistan and Turkey have for each other is unmatched. Hence, I feel Dooriyan is not just about a music collaboration but a means of going down in each other’s history as a unique bond. I do feel the song would strike a chord with both people of Pakistan and Turkey given that its unique in so many ways."

Melis: "Culturally and emotionally there are strong ties between two countries. So I believe the song will touch the hearts of both Turkish and Pakistani people. İt is a very romantic, heart-touching and moving song about long distance relations and separations. Especially nowadays, İt is a common issue for many of us. I think the theme of the song will cross boundaries and make many people connect."

Beverly Grafton: Qamar, how did you come about working with Melis? 

Qamar: "I have always loved Turkish music and after having lived in Istanbul, it further grew on me. Hence, I was looking to do a song with someone who is equally passionate about doing a Pakistani-Turkish music collaboration. When Melis was connected to me via a mutual friend, Esra, last year, I became enamoured with her singing and talent. We both felt, even during the first conversation, that our tastes and aspirations for music are very similar. Once I shared the composition with Melis, she really liked it and we got really eager to do this as a duet. Turning this song into a dialogue was Melis’s idea as she felt the song felt like a dialogue, hence we rewrote the lyrics, incorporating the beautiful Turkish language. Hence Dooriyan has not only been just a song collaboration but a union of minds."

Beverly Grafton: How does the song relate to both of you individually?

Qamar: "Like my other songs, Dooriyan is also part of “my story”. I have lived the feeling of being separated from loved ones during my work-related extensive travels and being away from my family, parents and friends across Pakistan, UAE and USA for over the last 2 decades. Especially since the pandemic has felt like it spanned over an eternity, not being able to unite with our loved ones has filled us with despair and anguish. Hence, I feel deeply connected to the song."  

Melis: "Personally, I love performing slow romantic songs because I think it touches people's hearts and lives on an emotional and individual level. And I felt even more connected to the song because I also contributed to the lyrics. Also, Qamar is a person who carries the traces of separation and love in his soul and makes this song even more romantic. Thanks to the incredible synergy and good chemistry we created during our teamwork, a very nice collaboration has emerged."

Beverly Grafton: Melis, what made you decide to do the song?

Melis: "It all boils down to the love of music and singing. When Qamar sent me the tune, I listened to it and told myself I had to be a part of it."

Beverly Grafton: Will there be more collaborations in the future between the two of you?

Qamar: "Dooriyan has emerged as the strongest song I have released so far, with a following not just in Turkey and Pakistan but globally. Indeed, I hope Melis and I can make more music together."

Melis: "I hope so. It would be a pleasure and look forward to where fate takes us next in our music journeys."

Beverly Grafton: Describe the recording experience you both had and which part of the process was most enjoyable and if there were any difficulties you may have experienced.

Qamar: "The recording experience was fantastic but at the same time emotional, as I like to immerse myself in the song while recording. I have a great team and Lincoln Lim, music arrangement lead, was instrumental in orchestrating our vocals. The only complication was recording in 2 separate countries and 2 languages, but we navigated this in stages. I must appreciate the excellent music mixing done by Bryon Ong and Marcus Chua which was a lot of hard work. And the lyrics, poetically done by Peer Zahoor and Aylin Taşar, gave Dooriyan the magic touch!" 

Melis: "I love recording in a studio and trying different vocal techniques, so spending time at the studio is one of the most enjoyable moments for me."

Beverly Grafton: What was it like to make the video with two separate teams across Singapore and Turkey?

Qamar: "I feel the video went through 3 phases. Storyboard alignment; team formation and planning; and then the shoot and the editing, with each phase having its own set of joy and challenges. My team in Singapore, led by Kristen and Seran, came up with an excellent storyboard which both Melis and I approved instantly. Thereafter, identifying a team in Turkey was a tedious process, yet Melis was able to find an accomplished team led by Hakan and the location was assisted by my friend Erhan in Istanbul. We shot in sequence with me shooting first and then Melis. The editing was a tough one, but I must say Kristen and Seran did a wonderful job, especially in adding the effects to make it seem Melis and I were physically together and then separating artistically. The distance, as the name of the song Dooriyan implies, truly manifested itself in the video, making the spirit of the song truly come alive!"

Melis: "So far, the only challenge for me was the cold weather in Istanbul during the shooting. But the result was very satisfactory. At first, I couldn't imagine how Qamar and I would synchronise our scenes together because of the distance, but after filming began, all the separate pieces came together synergistically so it became easy and everything flowed like water. After all, as our song implies, distance is not an issue at all if you can connect by heart."

Dooriyan boasts an exceptionally well shot music video that truly encapsulates all that the song speaks of and if you haven't viewed it yet, or listened to the song itself, it is available on all major music streaming platforms. 

Beverly Grafton is a freelance writer for music, food and entertainment and mental health activist.