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Ece Dağıstan Say and Fazıl Say - theirs is a rare, unique and very romantic love story. The couple, who got married ten days after saying, “Let’s get married” in the middle of the night, explains that this spontaneous decision to tie the knot was their way of creating an unforgettable memory in their story. They truly do have a memorable story. It took exactly twenty years for their relationship to start; friends and confidants until then, they say this could be the secret to their happy relationship. Brought together by the love of music, the couple told us about their story woven with mutual love, respect, and commitment.

Let’s begin with a classic. How did you meet?

Ece: It was 1996. I was studying in Vienna back then and was in Izmir on vacation. My friends from the conservatory told me that a pianist, Fazıl Say, would be giving a course at school during the day and had a concert in the evening. The entire piano department went to the concert, already mesmerized by what we heard during the day. Listening him play was indescribable. Then, I built up the courage to go backstage to congratulate him and told him that it was the most impressive concert I had ever been to. A few years passed; one of my friends called to tell me that Fazıl was coming to Vienna for a recording, needed a page-turner, and offered to give my number. Although I found it hard to believe, Fazıl called me ten minutes later. The next morning, I was on duty at eight in the morning. It was the best day of my life so far. After that, whenever he would visit Vienna or somewhere close for a concert, we would hop on a train to see him perform. Even one time, we returned to Vienna on the same train. Unbelievable! That is how I started collecting his concert programs and posters, and it has never stopped being precious to me. But we can say it took twenty years for our relationship to begin.

Fazıl: In 1996, I went to Izmir for a workshop, and a concert in the evening at the conservatory and met Ece there for the first time, a beautiful and attractive young pianist. I was living in New York back then. Afterwards, whenever I would go to Vienna, where she was still studying, for a recording or a concert, we would meet. By 2008, we were both living in Istanbul. We met quite often. It was always a thrill, something between friendship and flirting. Ece didn’t want to risk our friendship for the sake of a relationship -until 2016. Exactly twenty years after we met, we were finally together, we were lovers. We were confidants and friends; then we evolved in to lovers and spouses.

Ece: Elbise: Valentino Yüzük, Küpe: Tiffany&Co Fazıl: Ceket: Shanghai Tang

Your decision to get married was very spontaneous and romantic. Can you tell us about that?

Ece: I think all of our actions tend to be instantaneous. One night, we arrived at the topic in mundane conversation; ten days later we were married. What you call “the right timing” is totally about a person’s inner world. Our story deserved such a beautiful memory, so we got married.

Fazıl: We decided to get married and did it in Milan ten days later. Our closest friends were there. It was like inspiration for a composition; we had an inspiration and composed it then and there right away. You still are newlyweds. What do you think is the best part about marriage? Ece: We insist on still being lovers. We didn’t even move in the same house. We still visit each other with our backpacks. We’re married just because we’re ecstatic to be together. Most of the time, I feel like I found my best friend. I think the promise we gave each other matters in this regard. The phrase “for life” is built on improving each other, not eroding one another. This was a feeling I never experienced before but this love flows naturally and is mutual. I always want the best

You still are newlyweds. What do you think is the best part about marriage?

Ece: We insist on still being lovers. We didn’t even move in the same house. We still visit each other with our backpacks. We’re married just because we’re ecstatic to be together. Most of the time, I feel like I found my best friend. I think the promise we gave each other matters in this regard. The phrase “for life” is built on improving each other, not eroding one another. This was a feeling I never experienced before but this love flows naturally and is mutual. I always want the best and most beautiful things for him. Marriage had an additional advantage: the Say surname following my own, Dağıstan, has brought a noticeable comfort especially over the phone.

Fazıl: We never put marriage before our relationship or friendship. What matters to us is love and unity; it’s diligence, sensitivity, understanding. We never get bored. We still live in separate houses, just like new lovers. We both have our own jobs, schedules, and individual lives. We have two cats -Küt and Duman- and they also have “two homes.” They are also very happy about this dual structured life.

Ece: Elbise: Saint Laurent Fazıl: Ceket: Arzu Kaprol

Music is a passion you share. Was it what brought you together? Can sharing the same passion and enjoying the same things in life be the secret to a happy relationship?

Ece: I definitely think so. We grew up with the lie “opposites attract each other”. No way! I don’t know how to express the vastness of the motivation Fazıl’s life brings on mine. For instance, I don’t really like traveling and I feel idle when I’m on a trip. Despite this, for the past five years, I’ve continuously been on planes, packing one bag while unpacking another. Our tour routine is getting off planes and rushing from one rehearsal to another, taking a short break and then going to the evening concert, all while exploring the city we’re in. And the next morning we hit the road again for the next city. Sometimes by train and sometimes by plane. And the same routine awaits us in the next city, with a totally different story. At the end of every concert, Fazıl looks at me and asks, “How was it?”. We then sit down and asses the night. All this gives me the exact feeling of being whole, at full strength. If I weren’t a pianist, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with this tempo. And I wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend the effort it takes.

Fazıl: Music is our life; it’s how we grasp life together.

Ceket: Hakaan Yıldırım Triko: Beymen Collection Yüzük, Bileklik, Kolye: Tiffany&Co

What are the things you enjoy doing together?

Ece: We always have some friends over. Sometimes it’s football night, and on other days we play cards. We sometimes just listen to music all night long. We’ve had many nights that begin with Wagner, go on with Sting and Michael Jackson, and end with Sezen Aksu.

Fazıl: No one gets bored when they’re with Ece -neither I nor our friends. Aside from her beautiful heart, goodness, and friendship, she’s a lively woman full of surprises. Her most famous quality is that she has a great hidden sense of humour, a unique expression. She always makes people laugh. She’s one of those few people with whom you’re not bored even for one second.

The lockdown has been challenging for some and a strengthening experience for others. How have you been managing this?

Ece: Fazıl had a very busy schedule, and I was looking for a solution. I even wrote a letter to his international managers, asking them to reduce his tempo to a more humane pace. You know what they say: be careful what you wish for! We’ve been at home for a year. Honestly, I think I can say we’ve both enjoyed it. Fazıl, even though he is at home, is a man that writes, makes plans and somehow finds more time for work.

I took up some new hobbies myself. I play tennis and have started horseback riding. I read and watch. We continue to feel grateful that we don’t have Covid.

Fazıl: The quarantine as surprising and challenging as it may be, transformed into this opportunity with which we transitioned from a fast-paced and stressful lifestyle to a rhythm where we can spend time with ourselves, repair ourselves spiritually and mentally, work on our well-being and peace of mind, and improve in all aspects. Being at home has been a foreign aspect to me for the past thirty years. There were some parts that felt good. Of course, we missed our old life, the tours, concert halls filled with thousands of people, the storm of applause, and having fun meeting people from all across the world, eating new things, and experiencing new cultures. This is a feeling we both have. Ece just didn’t stand still during this time; she did a lot of things she needed to do. I think our relationship grew stronger during this process.

Elbise: Saint Laurent Küpe: Tiffany&Co

What’s your favourite quality in each other?

Ece: I admire how Fazıl dedicates himself to his beliefs and the way he preserves them; he has the heart and passion of a child, and is so compassionate. He has a thirst for knowledge and creating new ideas, and he always invests in himself. No wind can bring him down. He’s a one-man-army.

Fazıl: Along with the things I mentioned about her, Ece has integrity and is truly strong in her mind. She also has great taste in everything. She decorated both of our houses with an amazing taste and style depicted in colour, light, and texture based on every detail of our lives. I should also mention her fashion sense, I think. She buys everything I wear and most of the time she also styles me. She’s also very good at knowing what suits her.

What does love mean to you? How would you describe the state of being in love?

Ece: The strongest medicine in the world... A spell that changes even the seasons…

Fazıl: We’re one with our love. We’re always as excited as new lovers. Love makes people younger and prettier. I agree with Ece; love is a medicine, a spell, the texture of all seasons.

If we’re to beam into a future where we forget about the word “pandemic,” what would you do together first?

Ece: To get on the road for concerts...

Fazıl: Whatever it may be, we will do it with enjoyment, making sure it’s beautiful and delightful. We have very similar passions.

What are the qualities you have that complement and feed one another but also grind down the excess load you’re carrying?

Ece: We’re both loose cannons, to tell you the truth. We’re very candid and straightforward.

Yes, life would be much easier if we weren’t, but we don’t regret it at all! On with the fighting! I’ve always been known for getting bored of things too quickly. I get bored of the places I visit, the food I eat - I even get bored of music. I can’t say Fazıl changed that part of me; but, since he’s always one step ahead of me, I don’t ever get to do it. When we go somewhere, we take turns asking to turn the volume down or change/turn off the music. The biggest problem people have in relationships is that one party has to give up who they are. We care deeply about our loyalty and commitment to our individual worlds in this relationship. Besides, Fazıl might be the only person in the world with so few demands. Whatever I cook, it’s always the most delicious thing in the world for him. Even if I don’t prepare anything, his preference becomes just ordering something.

Ceket : Shanghai Tang Pantolon: Arzu Kaprol Ayakkabı: Campanile

What does being family mean to you? Are there any moments to strengthen your ties in this regard?

Ece: Family is a strong feeling. Life has many times made me wish, that I had been born from a seed. One can tolerate things one way or another when they happen to themselves but it can be much more painful to deal with something that happens to someone in the family. Fazıl is a part of my family now. I embrace all of his struggles and joys. I feel that our losses have brought us even closer. We visited his dear mother Mrs. Gürgün in Bodrum and, despite her advanced Alzheimer’s, she looked at me and said, “Don’t let him get away and take care of him”. This was a very touching moment that made our bond stronger. A few years ago, I became a donor for my older sister’s kidney transplant. On the morning of the operation, we needed signatures from people who would witness this important decision. My older brother was her witness and Fazıl was mine. I thinkthat signature affected me more deeply than my wedding signature.

Fazıl: I always had a small family; my parents and my daughter. My late mother, father, and Kumru accepted Ece with open arms from the first time they met her. They have an infinite confidence in her.

We don’t know much about Fazıl Say off stage. How is life with him at home? Were there some things that surprised you when you at the beginning?

Ece: The thing that surprised me the most in the beginning of our relationship was the fact that Fazıl loads and unloads the dishwasher himself. I was also fascinated by the system he uses to pack his tour suitcase in literally four minutes. He’s also famous for pacing up and down the hall - forward and back. When he does that, I know it’s his time to think; I wait in silence even if I have something to say. He doesn’t like talking on the phone and isn’t really good at it. His phone is mostly on mute. We generally prefer texting over talking on the phone.

What’s the funniest story you have about your relationship?

Ece: I painted a fairy tale with my answers, but we also had some moments of conflict and disagreement. One time, I left him and returned to my house; he then came to mine, broke up with me and returned to his house - all in one night! Two months after we got married, I was going to pick Fazıl up from his home with the car. I told him I was going to call him when I was close so that he could come down. I entered the street, called him but it went straight to busy tone. I sent him a message on WhatsApp, “I think your phone is out of range, I’m nearby so come down quick.” Some time passed but nothing changed. I was getting close, kept calling but no luck! I got angry. I sent another message: “Where the hell are you? I’m almost there, come down quick!” A few hours passed and a lightbulb suddenly went off in my head. I asked for his phone and found my name in the contact list. And he had blocked me! My own husband had blocked me, and I had no idea! It’s a nice story about our relationship with phones. It’s still hilarious to us.

Fazıl: I hope her story isn’t misunderstood. Yes, we had a fight once, I got angry, and blocked her number. I don’t know what I was trying to prove in that moment of anger; it was a childish thing. But I think keeping a childish side is a good thing. I think we should nourish our inner child. I forgot that I had blocked her. We still tell this story and laugh about it. The man who blocked his wife’s phone number!

Ece Dağıstan Say wrote about love and the thoughts and sensations evoked by the feeling for Magnet Quarterly.

A poem for you

I finally gave my body up

For there was no other way in this love!

Hair jet black and waist slim

Namely; I decided to be the woman piano…

None other can touch me, play me - just him

Nor will he touch another body thusly…

His emotions stark naked every single time he touches me

My veins composed of strings will tighten farther…

And us, with all eyes watching,

We will make love, conjoined in our mutual voice...

Known only to us.

Ece, December 1996

A letter to me

You couldn’t have guessed that you would tell this story years later, could you?

In the spring of your life, you were stuck in a pit of despair and misery.

Admit it - It actually was an object of desire for you, remaining in that well.

The dreamer child, the sole owner of her deserted house.

Ah, those years of deprivation when being happy was meticulously cutting coupons off the newspaper you hankered after.

Nobody knew about it, but it was you who kept the most precious archive, in glass boxes so that it wouldn’t dust.

That much made you happy.

Because you were just a kid.

It was as if you were the only one who knew the real power of chasing despair with a secluded glimpse of hope!

You know how that closed-off world of yours deviated your path in life.

The inquiry of these reasons, was the hardest mission in your life.

You held that grim interrogation spotlight on your face, even if you were afraid; you reflected on yourself a lot, wrote for nights…

You gave yourself answers one by one.

Here is my first bravo to you.

You never cared about the cliché “everything happens for a reason”, because you experienced gratuitous happiness as much as groundless sadness.

You didn’t have a chance to crosscheck.

You didn’t question what to believe in, but “if” you should believe at all, and you were 39. You lacked something.

Time was your biggest help.

It enriched you while stealing your life away.

The meaning in your eyes was alternating.

You were becoming an orphan.

You needed a pair of glasses and the right lighting to read a book, let alone reading a prospectus.

When you learned you were sick, was it time to risk everything?

It could also be called the power to stir up trouble as you please.

Do you know, it actually was a period of scabbing?

First, it was time that tripped you over, and now, it was your scabbed heart.

You more frequently formed sentences with “I don’t care that much.”

Carelessness didn’t make you lighter, on the contrary it put a bigger load on your shoulders.

Didn’t you get those tear drops tattooed on your chest because you thought, “If it doesn’t flow on its own, then I’ll carve it”?

Eventually, the days that made you miss crying were knocking at your door

And the phone rang (December 15, 2015) “I’ll come over for a ‘getwell-soon visit’ if you’re not going to sleep,” he said.

Of course, you weren’t going to go to sleep, you were going to wait for him.

You were going to wait, as you waited for 20 years, knowing he would finally come. You would answer that door with those 20 years in mind.

But you would also manage to look like you didn’t wait at all.

He was there.

You managed to pretend you didn’t wait at all, but it wasn’t about your good acting.

He wasn’t interested in those little games.

He wouldn’t even notice the tricks.

They didn’t matter.

When he came to visit empty-handed, you would better understand how valuable it was that he only cared about you.

Was he actually saying, “I just wanted to be with you”?

Didn’t you nail the question right at the centre of your heart: “if he wanted you today, does it mean he would want you all the time”? Or would tears start rolling down? Wasn’t this what you’d been longing for? Weren’t you hungry for all kinds of tears? Was it so hard to believe that this was what you dreamed of?

You got one step closer to the end of your life story.

You had finally found the truth.

It wasn’t about having a lover; it was about settling in an orbit you believed in.

Your faithful life was that planet’s water, air, and sun.

Your truth, now you knew, finally came to life.

You turned out to be right in your cause.

Now, you could easily answer when asked if you believed in love at first sight.


Ece, January 2021











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