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Orhan Gencebay (born August 4, 1944 in Samsun, Turkey as Orhan Kencebay) is a turkish musician, baglama virtuoso, composer, singer, arranger, music producer, music director, and actor.

Early life and musical background

Orhan was born in the coastal town of Samsun on August 4, 1944. He started learning music at the age of 6, taking violin and mandolin lessons from Emin Tarakci who was an old Classical Musician from the Ukraine Conservatoire. At the age of 7, Orhan started playing the baglama (a traditional Turkish instrument), and continued taking traditional turkish folk music lessons. At 10, he created his first composition. At 13, he started playing the tanbur, an instrument often used in turkish classical music to improve himself in the theoretical and practical details of Turkish classical music.

During his high school years, he performed in Classical and Traditional Turkish Folk Music societies playing the tambur and baglama, taught music lessons in his own music courses, and took part in organizing community music centers in Istanbul and Samsun.

From 16, he became interested in jazz and rock music, and played tenor saxophone in wind orchestras. He entered the Turkish conservatory in Istanbul, and stayed there for 4 years. In the military, he kept on playing saxophone in the military brass band.


At 20 and 22, he passed the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) exams, allowing him to become a resident baglama player at the network for several months.

In 1966 he got an excellent grade in National Baglama Contest with and , two other contemporary masters of Turkish music.

In the late sixties he collaborated with a wide range of musicians in performances and film music. Between 1966 and 1968 he played baglama with Arif Sag in many records with singers such as muzaffer akgün, , Ahmet Sezgin, , Sabahat Akkiraz, and Nuri Sesigüzel. Orhan also took part as a music director in many Turkish films such as Ana, Kuyu, Kizilirmak-Karakoyun. He also collaborated with many musicians from different genres, such as Erkin Koray[1], Omar Faruk Tekbilek[2], İsmet Sıral, Burhan Tonguç, Özer Şenay, Vedat Yıldırımbora, , Abdullah Nail Bayşu. He appeared as a baglama performer and a well-known composer in musical societies, besides releasing several singles in genre of traditional Turkish Folk music. In 1968, he released his first “free-style” single “Sensiz Bahar Gecmiyor/Basa Gelen Cekilirmis”, and was rewarded. During the 1970s he released many singles in a new genre that is a fusion of traditional turkish folk music, turkish classical music, western classical music, jazz, rock, country, progressive, psychedelic, indian, arabic, spanish, and greek music styles. Even though some musical societies such as TRT named that kind of world fusion music recordings arabesque music, Orhan Gencebay refused the term arabesque, saying it was inadequate to define his style.[3][4][5] In 1972, he founded the Kervan Record Company, which became very successful, attracting many other talented musicians such as Erkin Koray, Ajda Pekkan, , , Ahmet Özhan, Kamuran Akkor, , Samime Sanay, , Bedia Akartürk, Nil Burak, , Semiramis Pekkan and .

Throughout his career Orhan has performed leading roles in 36 movies, has been a composer almost in 90 movies, composed of about a thousand[6] works, released almost 35 singles, 15 albums, and dozens of MC’s. His albums sold out over 60 million legal copies.[7]

As a composer, film musician, and as a person interested in other musical cultures, Orhan Gencebay is one of the major exponents of Turkish music in the 20th century.

In 2005, Gencebay was featured in the film Crossing the Bridge: The Sound Of Istanbul by German Turkish director Fatih Akin, as well as on the film’s soundtrack with the song “Hatasız Kul Olmaz.”


1. ^ ”Erkin Koray” (in English). Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Erkin Koray met Gencebay in the early seventies.”
2. ^ “Omar Faruk Tekbilek Biography” (in English). Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Omar Faruk’s skills blossomed in Istanbul playing with some of the leading Turkish musicians including Orhan Gencebay”
3. ^ Dinççan, M.Vehbi (July 29, 2001). “O Bir Efsane (He is a Legend)” (in Turkish). Akşam. Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Yaptığım müziğe Arabesk ismini ben koymadım (I am not the one who named my music arabesque).”
4. ^ Akpınar, Hakan (July 16, 2004). “Orhan Baba Efsanesi (The Legend of “Father” Orhan)” (in Turkish). Tercüman. Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Müziğime arabesk denmesi çok saçma. Bu kavram hem yeterli değil, hem de yanlıştır.(It’s foolish calling my music as arabesque. That term is not only inadequate, but also it’s completely incorrect).”
5. ^ Balıkçıoğlu, Tuğba (April 18, 2004). “Mafya babası gibiyim (I am like Godfather)” (in Turkish). Sabah. Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Arabesk deyimi beni tanımlamaya yetmez .(Arabesque is not enough to define me).”
6. ^ Berköz, Elif (December 12, 2005). “Ne Sazımın Yaşlanmaya Niyeti Var Ne de Benim (Neither my baglama nor me have in mind getting old)” (in Turkish). Milliyet. Retrieved on 2007-03-27. ”1000’in üzerinde beste yapmış (He did over a thousand of composes).”
7. ^ “65 milyon albüm sattı (He has sold 65 million legal copies)” (in Turkish). Akşam (April 14, 2006). Retrieved on 2008-05-13. ”Çıkardığım albümlerin resmi satış rakamı 65 milyon. (My albums have sold 65 million legal copies).”
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