Born in 1976, Southern Turkey, Hakan A. Toker studied partly at Bilkent University School of Music and Performing Arts, Ankara. He completed his education in the USA at Indiana University School of Music, double majoring in piano and composition (BM 2000). He also took courses in jazz and electronic music there. Along with his formal education, he taught himself how to improvise and play Turkish music; learned to play the kanun and accordion, after the piano.
Throughout the 9 years he lived in the USA, he gave many concerts. He broadened his spectrum by adding on ethnic world music genres while continuing his work in the classical field. He concertized, recorded albums and took part in many presentations in schools and colleges with the bands Salaam (Middle Eastern), Silk Road (Central Asian) and Orquesta Son (Latin American music). During the same period he began to play for silent movies; and worked in creative projects with multi-media artists, dancers, poets, jugglers and acrobats etc.
In 2006 he went back to his homeland and became a founding member of bands Tanini and Abra, he performed with artists such as Yıldız İbrahimova and Dilek Türkan, and for a short while he performed musical comedy shows for children with the flutist Christian Plouvier (International Ankara Music Festival, 2009).
Toker has broken ground in the interpretation of Turkish traditional music on piano. He has been well acclaimed by listeners and colleagues alike for his albums “Turkish Music on Piano” (2005) and “Alla Turca Alla Toker” (2012). In 2011 for the first time in Turkey, he gave recitals of Turkish music on microtonally tuned pianos. He continues this work also with other keyboard instruments such as the clavichord, harpsichord and the Fluid Piano. In 2012 he made concerto-like arrangements of Turkish music called Senfonik Fasıl. He peformed with many orchestras including the Istanbul and Izmir State Symphony Orchestras.
He has been given “Our Living Values” award in 2013 during the 1st. Mersin Cultural Festival. In 2017 he won the Global Music Awards Silver Medal together with his Croatian colleagues Matej Meštrović and Matija Dedić for their album “Vivaldi – 4 Seasons for 3 Pianos” created by Matej Meštrović and released by Parma Recordings. In 2019 he won the same award for his solo album “Toker Messing Around … with the classics;)” released by the same company.
Toker has done research and given informative recitals on topics such as Unknown Composers, Turkish Composers, Female Composers etc. He is also one of few concert pianists in the world who continues the old tradition of improvisation in classical music.
As a performer, so far he has played in 28 countries, including international festivals such as the Istanbul, Ankara, Mersin, Side, Lvov (Ukraine) and Indianapolis Jazz (USA) festivals.
As a composer, he writes in many genres including Western classical, jazz and Turkish music in every scale. Among these are incidental music, two children’s operas and music for marching band which he wrote during his military service.
Today, Hakan A. Toker continues to record and concertize with groups and projects he himself has created, besides giving solo recitals. His recent projects are: “Toker Trio” and “City Life” (ethnic jazz); “Toker Messing Around”, “The Turkish Harpsichord”, “Alla Turca Alla Toker” and “Concerti Orientali” (classical-jazz-Turkish fusion); “Love Waltzes” (classical). More info at the projects page.
“This is an artist who knows his craft and is comfortable enough to break down music that everyone is familiar with and then build it up to give us something unexpected yet still familiar.”
Review Graveyard (UK)
[…] he jazzes up the classical ones and classicalizes the others. And yet, when one is finished listening, one is left with a sense of awe that he can split his musical mind so well while being able to absorb both genres into unified wholes.”
Lynn René Bayley
The Art Music Lounge (USA)
“The musician who can pull a rabbit out of the piano!”
Sanattan Yansımalar (Turkey)
“Hakan Ali Toker […] with his very colorful compositions, arrangements and astounding pianistic capabilities has long since proved himself as one of the most brilliant artists of the Turkish musical world today…”
Andante Music Magazine (Turkey)
“The way he plays with themes, and weaves totally unrelated elements into an incredibly aesthetic whole, is very impressive. His warm attitude, and ability to incorporate the voluntary and the accidental ‘contributions’ of the audience, as well as his being one with music (of any kind) are all very unique. I can no longer listen passively to music, without creating improvisations in my head.”
Leah Savion, Professor or Cognitive Science
Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at Indiana University