Qais Essar talks about his music as a kind of telepathy. Not limited by lyrics that signal specificity, the award-winning rabab composer and musician is able to develop a different kind of conversation, a voice that goes beyond concepts to something deeper. He communicates on a different plane.
On his new EP, Letters to My Best Friend, Essar strips away the characters and guises of his past albums to amplify his own voice — or at least, the voice of his past self. With this EP, Essar processes his past, looking at the pain and sadness he has been through and transmuting those experiences into sound.
“It was this really cathartic process for me to finally get to where I am now, and it’s a look at a very ugly time in my life specifically. It’s a culmination of not really addressing a lot of things that you may have accepted as reality versus a problem,” Essar told Kajal.
Similar to his previous works, Letters to My Best Friend draws from disparate influences, ranging from folk to classical sarod. The composition feels like a continuation, an evolution of the old. The track “To Mars and Back,” which has an accompanying music video created by Afghan filmmaker Safi Aryan, tells the story of broken promises and loneliness.
“I remember writing this during the what felt like what the loneliest time in my life. I had moved away into the mountains and I was all alone, in a self-imposed exile, severing all ties,” Essar said.
Each string instrument on this song tells its own side of the story, giving the piece a layering of mood, perspective, and voice that brings to life this deeply personal narrative.
While the EP deals with themes of loneliness and isolation, Essar’s hope is that it connects with listeners. He made this album for himself, to process and move forward, but he says he’s excited to see how it resonates with others who will bring their own to the sound.
Essar’s evolution as an artist is clear, with each release showcasing his talent at composing worlds, whether fictional or based in reality, with sound. For him, Letters to My Best Friend will always point to a specific time and a specific version of himself as an artist. Now that he has worked past that self, he’s creating from and for a different space.
“I’m done with that person, his course kind of ended with this EP. Now it’s the new guy, so we’ll see what he can do,” Essar said.
Letters to My Best Friend is available everywhere October 25th. Photo by Sydney Cisco (@sydneycisco).