11 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Turkish Singers 

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

Music is an integral part of several cultures, and Turkish culture is no exception. The music of Turkey is rich and varied. It often contains influences from the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantine period, and Middle Eastern, European, and Northern African influences. 

Turkish singers make a vital contribution to Turkey’s musical culture. Over time they have touched on several genres, including pop, rock, dance, opera, and more. Read on to learn more about 11 of the most famous Turkish singers throughout history. 

1. Ibrahim Tatlises

Born in 1952 in Urfa, Turkey, Ibrahim Tatlises is a Turkish actor and folk singer. He specializes in the Arabesk style of music and pop-folk. Besides singing, Tatlises was also the host of the Ibo Show, and he appeared in several more.

He started releasing music at the age of 18 in 1970, but it wasn’t until 1977 that he began his rise to prominence. 

A prolific singer, Tatlises released 42 albums between 1970 and 2021. Some of his hits include “Kara Kiz/Beni Yakma Gel Guzelim,” “Dom Dom Kursunu,” “Bebegim,” and “Sarhos.”

He won the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival award in 2018, the Golden Palm Lifetime Success Award in 2015, and several Pantene Golden Butterfly Awards.

2. Dario Moreno

Born David Arugete in 1921 in Aydin, Turkey, this multi-talented artist became known by his stage name of Darío Moreno. He started his career singing at Bar Mitzvah parties and in the army.

Moreno sang in several languages, including French, which resulted in a robust career in France. He was known for certain songs, such as “Ya Mustafa” and “Brigette Bardot.”

During his career, Moreno released 12 albums, and in 1958, he won the Grand Prix Du Disque. Besides singing, Moreno also composed, wrote music, appeared in movies, and played guitar.

3. Leyla Gencer

Born in Polonezkoy, Turkey, in 1928, Leyla Gencer was an operatic soprano who did not make many recordings.

After studying in the Istanbul Conservatory and then privately, she made her operatic debut in Ankara in 1950. In the following years, she sang at several Turkish governmental events. 

Soon she traveled to Italy and Paris to perform in several operas, where she spent much of her career. Gencer has performed on at least 40 albums, even though she became a singing teacher in her later career. In Istanbul, there is an annual singing competition named after her.

4. Hande Yener

Our next singer, Hande Yener, was born Makbule Hande Ozyener in 1973 in Istanbul, Turkey. Even though she started her career as a backup singer for Sezen Aksu, she is known for her contributions to pop and dance music.

In 2000, she released her debut album, Senden Ibaret. Over the years, her musical style evolved, but she remains very popular. 

Between 2000 and 2020, Yener released 14 studio albums, and she won three Golden Palm Awards—in 2016, 2018, and 2020. She also won four Pantene Golden Butterfly Awards (2000, 2008, 2011, and 2016). 

5. Ajda Pekkan

Known by the nickname Superstar, Ajda Pekkan was born in 1946 in Istanbul, Turkey. She makes music in the dance, pop, and Schlager genres, but she often adopts western elements in her music.  

In her early career, Pekkan worked as an actress and singer, but over time, she decided to focus primarily on singing. After the 1970s, she became more well-known outside of Turkey.

She has maintained her popularity for several decades. In 2013, she received the Art-Cultural and Human Artist Award and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and over her career, Pekkan has released released 20 albums.

6. Ahmet Kaya

Our next singer was born in 1957 in Malatya, Turkey. From a young age, Ahmet Kaya performed for his family and friends.

He also worked as a musician in the Turkish army, so it’s easy to see how +the Kurdish-Turkish conflict influenced his songs.

Kaya’s career involved some controversy after he butted heads with Turkish nationalist celebrities. Not long after those issues arose, he went to live in France. Sadly, he soon died from a heart attack.

He released 17 albums during his life between 1985 and 1998, and after his death, four albums came out posthumously.

7. Sezen Aksu

Born Fatma Sezen Yıldırım in 1954 in Denizli, Turkey, Sezen Aksu is known for primarily singing pop music. She made her debut in 1975, and she gained further acclaim in the following years.

Aksu also has a reputation as a great songwriter, and she has collaborated with many other Turkish musicians. Her musical influence can be found in nearby countries, such as Greece. 

Throughout her career, Aksu has sold over 40 million albums and toured Europe and the United States. Between 1977 and 2018, Aksu released 25 albums and 11 remix albums. She also participated in four films and two musicals and wrote two books.

8. Bülent Ersoy

Nickname Turkish Diva by her fans, Bülent Ersoy was born in 1952 in Istanbul. She started her career as a Turkish classical music singer but later integrated more pop elements into her music.

She first rose to prominence in 1974. In 1981 she underwent gender reassignment surgery, but sadly, after the surgery, the Turkish government banned her from performing publicly. As a result, she shifted her career to Germany.

Between 1973 and 2021, Ersoy released 43 albums and two singles. Some of her famous songs include “Bedduza,” “Maazallah,” “Geceler,” and “Sefam Olsun.” This talented singer also dabbed in acting, appearing in films and TV shows.

9. Sertab Erener

Similar to other singers in the list, Sertab Erener was born in 1964 in Istanbul, Turkey. There, she started her career as a backup vocalist for Sezen Aksu. She made her solo debut in 1992 with her album Sakin Ol!

Her musical technique evolved over time, and now she primarily focuses on pop music, with a style that includes elements of western and eastern music. 

In 2003, Erener won the Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Everyway That I Can.” Her success marked the first time that Turkey won the contest. In addition, she won seven Kral TV Video Music Awards and two Golden Butterfly Awards. 

10. Şebnem Ferah

Penultimate on our list, we have Şebnem Ferah, who was born in 1972 in Yalova, Turkey. As a child, she was exposed to music by her father playing folk songs. She also took acoustic lessons.

Her career began as the lead vocalist for Volvox, a hard rock band; however, she played some pop in addition to the rock music. The band went on to perform until 1994.

In 1996, Ferah released her first solo album, which was very well-received. Two years later, she provided Ariel’s singing voice for the Turkish release of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Throughout her career, Ferah has released nine albums. In addition to singing, this talented singer also plays guitar, mandolin, and keyboards.

11. Hadise Açıkgöz

Lastly, we have Hadise Açıkgöz Dinçerler. She was born in 1985 in Mol, Belgium, to Turkish parents, and to her fans, she is best known simply as Hadise.

She became well-known after the 2005 release of Sweat, and in 2008, she released an eponymous album that included music in English and Turkish. The following year, Hadise represented Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest, which she achieved fourth place.

Though Hadise has worked as a TV presenter, she still found the time to release eight albums between 2005 and 2021. She also won many awards, including the TMF Awards, Jetix Kids Awards, Balkan Music Awards, and Altın Kelebek.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Singers From Turkey

Music in Turkey is varied, and that range is reflected in the different singers in Turkey who have been famous throughout history.

Some sing traditional Turkish folk music, while others sing opera, pop, and rock music. Many Turkish singers can sing in several languages and have had international success. 

So if you want to experience some important elements of Turkish culture, music is a great place to start. With such a range of music available, you can find a singer whose genre you enjoy.

Try listening to contemporary artists as well as classic Turkish artists. It will give you a good idea of what Turkish music has to offer.  

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.