13 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Turkish Singers

Written by Dan Farrant

The allure of Turkish music is in its mesmerizing blend of cultural influences and historical periods. It presents a captivating panorama of diverse sounds and styles.

From the evocative strains of classical compositions to the vibrant rhythms of contemporary pop, it is a rich tapestry of sonic expressions. At the heart of this dynamic landscape are the voices of many remarkable women who have shaped and defined its contours.

In this article, we delve into the world of these extraordinary artists. We profile 13 of the greatest female Turkish singers of all time whose talent and artistry have illuminated the stage. Read on to start this melodious journey.

1. Sezen Aksu

From Denizli, Turkey, we have Fatma Sezen Yıldırım, best known as Sezen Aksu. Known as the Queen of Turkish Pop, she has transcended the boundaries of pop and folk with her music.

Aksu’s discography is vast and varied. Her songs often incorporate elements of Eastern folk music, infusing traditional melodies with a contemporary pop sensibility. Some of her most iconic songs include “Ben De Yoluma Giderim,” “Gülümse,” and “Şanıma İnanma.”

Beyond her success as a singer, Aksu has made significant contributions as a songwriter and producer. She was the first female Turkish artist to write both the lyrics and music to her own songs. Her songwriting prowess has helped shape the Turkish pop scene, inspiring a new generation of musicians.

2. Muazzez Ersoy

Next up is Muazzez Ersoy, who hails from Edirne, Turkey. Known affectionately as the Nostalgia Queen, she has dedicated her career to preserving and promoting Ottoman-Turkish classical music.

She began her professional career in the late 1970s, quickly gaining fame with her rich voice and emotive performances.

Over the course of her career, Ersoy has released more than two dozen albums, selling millions of copies the world over. Some of her most popular songs include “Bir Tanrıyı Bir Beni Sakın Unutma,” “Dertli Ud,” and “Kahverengi Gözlerin.”

Ersoy’s dedication to preserving traditional music has earned her recognition from the Turkish government. In 2006, she was officially appointed as a State Artist, a prestigious title given to artists who have made significant contributions to Turkish culture.

3. Ajda Pekkan

With a career spanning over six decades, Ajda Pekkan from Istanbul, Turkey, is a renowned figure in the Turkish music industry. She has been affectionately dubbed “Superstar” by her fans worldwide.

Throughout her career, Pekkan has released numerous albums and singles that have achieved significant commercial success. Some of her most iconic songs include “Bir Günah Gibi,” “Aynen Öyle,” and “Ara Sıcak.”

Internationally, Pekkan has represented Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980 with her song “Petr’Oil,” further cementing her status as a global icon. Today, she continues to perform and release music, drawing in audiences of all ages with her timeless sound.

4. Hadise

Next is the singer-songwriter Hadise Açıkgöz, known simply as Hadise. Born in Belgium to a Turkish family of Lezgin-Kumyk origin, Hadise has successfully straddled the music scenes of both countries.

Her first steps into the world of music were through the talent contest Idool 2003. Although she didn’t win the contest, it provided a platform for her undeniable talent, and she quickly gained recognition.

She is known for her versatile style, which includes elements of pop, R&B, and dance music. Some of Hadise’s most popular songs include “Küçük Bir Yol” and “Feryat,” to name a few.

Over the course of her career, Hadise has released several albums and singles that have achieved considerable commercial success in both Belgium and Turkey.

5. Sertab Erener

This Instanbul native has become a prominent figure in Turkish pop music since her debut in 1992. Sertab Erener, with her coloratura soprano voice, has made significant contributions to the music industry in Turkey and gained international recognition.

Erener’s professional career took off when she started working with Sezen Aksu, which helped shape her musical style. Throughout her career, she has released several successful albums that showcase her distinct sound — a fusion of pop, rock, and classical Turkish music. Some of her most popular songs include “Olsun,” “Rengarenk,” and “Aslolan Aşktır.”

Erener’s international fame was solidified when she represented Turkey at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003 with the song “Everyway That I Can.” She won the contest, making history as the first Turkish artist to do so.

6. Hande Yener

Also from Istanbul, we have the Turkish pop singer Hande Yener, known for her distinctive voice and bold image.

Yener’s professional music career began when she met the producer and songwriter Altan Çetin in the late 1990s. Her debut album, Senden İbaret (All About You), was released in 2000. It marked the beginning of her successful journey in the music industry.

One of the defining characteristics of Yener’s music is its evolution over time. She started with pop music in her early career, then ventured into electronic music, and later explored other genres such as house, dance, and techno.

This constant reinvention has kept her music fresh and relevant, contributing to her longevity in the industry. Some of her most popular songs include “Naber,” “Beni Sev,” and “Kırmızı.”

7. Gülşen

Yet another amazing talent from Istanbul is Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu — known professionally as Gülşen. This renowned singer-songwriter has been a significant figure in the Turkish music industry since 1996.

Gülşen’s career in music began after her graduation from Şehremini High School. She has released numerous albums and singles throughout her career. “Bangir Bangir,” “Bir İhtimal Biliyorum,” and “İltimas” are some of her popular hits.

In recent years, Gülşen faced controversy due to a joke she made about religion during one of her concerts. This incident led to a legal issue where she was given a 10-month suspended sentence by a court in Istanbul. Despite these challenges, Gülşen continues to maintain a strong presence in the Turkish music scene.

8. Demet Akalın

Former Turkish model Demet Akalın is next on our list. Born in Kocaeli, Turkey, she has become one of the most influential figures in Turkish pop music since she began releasing popular songs in the mid-2000s.

Akalın’s music is well-received by fans and regularly features on platforms like Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify, where her top songs boast millions of listeners. “Çalkala” and “Ah Ulan Sevda” are just a few examples of her hits.

Despite her fame, Akalın has remained down-to-earth and connected with her fans. Her ability to create catchy, relatable pop music, combined with her charismatic personality, has made her a beloved figure in the Turkish music industry.

9. Sıla

Next is the singer-songwriter Sıla Gençoğlu, known simply as Sıla. Born in Denizli, Turkey, she later moved to Izmir and then to Istanbul to complete her education and pursue her music career.

Sıla began her music career as a producer, lyricist, and background singer for numerous Turkish artists, including Kenan Doğulu. This experience helped her cultivate her unique style and sound, which blends elements of pop, jazz, and rock.

She eventually stepped into the spotlight as a solo artist and quickly rose to fame following the release of her hit single “…Dan Sonra.” This song became the top Turkish pop hit of 2007. It marked a significant milestone in her career and established her as a leading figure in Turkish pop and electronic music.

Since then, she has released many chart-topping hits. “Yan Benimle,” “Kafa,” and “Vaziyetler” are just a few to name.

10. Sibel Can

Turkish folk, pop, and classical music singer Sibel Can has become one of the most beloved figures in the Turkish music industry. Born in Istanbul into a family of musicians, she started her career as a dancer at the age of 14 and later transitioned into singing.

Throughout her career, Can has released numerous albums that have achieved commercial success. Her music often features a blend of traditional Turkish folk music and modern pop. Some of her most popular songs include “Bil Diye Söylüyorum,” “Hayat,” and “Hangimiz Sevmedik.”

Can’s success is not limited to Turkey. She has a broad international following, as evidenced by her millions of monthly listeners on music streaming platforms. Her Instagram account also boasts a following of three million people, further demonstrating her popularity and influence.

11. Ebru Gündeş

Next is a name that has become synonymous with the Turkish pop-folk and arabesque music scene. Ebru Gündeş is an artist whose life and career have been as vibrant as her music.

Born and raised in Istanbul, Gündeş’s musical journey began with providing backup vocals for the acclaimed Turkish singer Emel Sayın, an experience that shaped her own unique style and sound.

After debuting in 1992 with the album Tanrı Misafiri, she went on to release many notable singles, such as “Bir Sebebi Var,” “Söyleyin,” and “Gidiniz.”

Gündeş’s journey hasn’t been without its share of trials and tribulations. She faced significant health challenges that threatened to derail her career. However, with determination and resilience, she managed to overcome these obstacles and continue creating music that resonates with her fans.

12. Nilüfer Yumlu

Our next singer has been a staple in the Turkish pop music scene since the early 1970s. She is none other than Nilüfer Yumlu, who goes by the name Nilüfer.

Her music has resonated with a wide audience thanks to her distinctive voice and captivating lyrics. One of her biggest hits, “Şov Yapma,” was included in the album Yine Yeni Yeniden. This song remains one of the high points of her career.

In addition to her solo work, Nilüfer has also made significant contributions to the music industry through her collaborations.

She has worked with top artists and groups, including Grup Nazar, with whom she represented Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1978. This international exposure helped broaden her fan base and solidified her status as a prominent figure in the music industry.

13. Leyla Gencer

We end this list with Leyla Gencer. She was a highly regarded Turkish soprano singer with an extensive career in opera, particularly in the bel canto style. Often referred to as “La Diva Turca” (The Turkish Diva), she is considered one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century.

Gencer made her professional debut in 1950 at the Ankara Opera House, performing the role of Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. However, it was her performance as Madame Lidoine in Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at La Scala that catapulted her to international stardom in 1957.

Throughout her career, Gencer had a wide repertoire, ranging from Monteverdi, Gluck, and Mozart to Verdi, Ponchielli, and Puccini.

Gencer’s influence on Turkish music is profound. As one of the few Turkish opera singers who achieved international success, she played a pivotal role in promoting Turkish artists and culture on the global stage.

Summing Up Our List Of Greatest Female Turkish Singers

Turkey’s music scene is richly adorned with a plethora of female talents who have left an indelible mark on both the local and international stage. These artists we’ve mentioned represent the diverse and dynamic nature of Turkish music.

We hope this article has provided valuable insights into the vibrant world of these Turkish singers. However, this list is far from complete. Let us know who we have missed so we can add them here!

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.