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Biography

  • Born

    16 July 1918

  • Born In

    Gököz, Keles, Bursa, Turkey

  • Died

    8 February 2015 (aged 96)

Müzeyyen Senar (b. July 16, 1918 - d. February 8, 2015) was a Turkish singer of Ottoman classical music.

Born in Bursa, she moved to Istanbul when she was ten years old, growing up in Üsküdar. She stuttered as a child, but found refuge in singing. When she was six years old, she already knew all the popular Turkish folk songs by heart. When she moved with her mother to Istanbul she entered the Anatolia (Üsküdar) Musical Society in 1931, which was later followed by further training at the Society of Oriental Music. Senar also found an opportunity to make the acquaintance of the most prominent composers of the period: Mustafa Nâfiz Irmak, Osman Nihat Akın, Selahattin Pınar, Yesari Asım Arsoy, and many others.

In 1932 she appeared on state radio. Senar, who could only reach the microphone if she stood on a box, quickly gaind popularity, learning all the major works of the art music repertoire as she did so, and further developing her skills by what she gleaned from such major artists as Safiye Ayla, Selma Hanım, Lale Belkıs, Nimet Hanım, Hikmet Rıza, and Feriha Hanım.

Before long she became a subject of widespread curiosity, and nightclub owners began vying with each other to present her. She appeared in public for the first time at Ibrahim Dervişzade’s Belvü, an Istanbul music hall. She was only fifteen years old and had to inflate her age to get permission to appear on stage.

She recorded her first record at this time. In those early years when her career was taking off so rapidly, she met Sadettin Kaynak through Selahattin Pınar. Kaynak went on to have a special place in her life, for she became the first singer of all his songs. In 1938 she took the offer from Mesut Cemil Bey to work at the newly opened Ankara State Radio.

Another job she undertook in this period was that of singing songs for Turkish remakes of Arab films, and later acted in a number of films herself. Although she thoroughly enjoyed her work for Ankara Radio, she eventually became homesick for Istanbul, and so accepted an offer from the Kristal Music Hall. This led to a round of performances at other clubs as well, and soon Istanbul was humming with the sound of Müzeyyen Senar as she appeared at Maxim’s, the Tokatlıyan Hotel, Çakır’s Casino, and the Istanbul and Tepebaşı Music Halls. Senar also gave her first concert abroad in Paris in 1947. The concert, which was given at the Lido, was widely hailed in the Turkish press, and the singer was welcomed with wild enthusiasm upon her return home.

Apart from music halls and the radio, Senar went on tour as well, travelling all over Turkey. As new songs were added to her repertoire, her circle of admirers steadily widened. One day, following a programme at the Bebek Casino in 1983, Senar bade farewell to the stage, although she continued to make sporadic appearances on stage and television for special occasions.

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