He was born in 1976 in a clinic in Adana, as the child of a family living in Mersin. His childhood was spent partly in Mersin and partly in Saudi Arabia, where he lived for a while due to his father’s occupation. At the age of 8, his family got him a small electronic keyboard. Hakan began first by making random noises on this instrument, then playing tunes by ear, eventually improvising and composing. He got his first keyboard lessons from Meral Ha-mamioğlu, in Mersin. He began his formal musical training in 1988 at the Istanbul University State Conservatory cello department(1). In 1989 he trasferred to the Bilkent University School of Music and Performing Arts Prepera-tory School piano department(2). After his second year in highschool he was also admitted in to the composition department. Thereafter he continued as a double-major.
He began to concertize while a student, at age 15, with a recital he gave at the Mersin Hilton Hotel. At 17, he played his own works with the Sochi Municipal Orchestra and he gave concerts with this orchestra introducing symphonic and traditional Turkish music to the Russian public. That same year he became the youngest artist to take stage at the Istanbul International Music Festival. The following year he became the first Turk to perform at the Lvov Festival or Virtuosi , and with the solo recital he gave there, he introduced the Ukranian public to his own compositions as well as to those of other contemporary Turkish composers.
In 1996, after completing his 2nd year in college in Bilkent, he took a break from his formal studies and went to Iceland to study piano privately with Anna M. Sigurðardóttir. In 1997 he was admitted to Indiana University School of Music (USA) where he continued his studies(3). In 2000 he graduated from the piano and composition departments of this institution. He also took classes and lessons on jazz and electronic music while at IU. He is mostly self-taught on the fields of improvisation and Turkish music. He learned mostly by himself to play the kanun and accordion. He also gained experience playing other keyboard instruments(4).
Between 2000-2006 he worked with Bloomington/Indiana/USA-based bands Salaam, Silk Road and Orquesta Son, giving concerts featuring Middle Eastern, Central Asian and South American music respectively; with them he took part in many educational seminars, symposiums, festivals and similar events. In the mean time he continued to work as an accompanist quite frequently, continuing to give classical recitals. During this time he began to play piano for silent movies in Bloomington for the Ryder Film Series. It was also during those same years that he got to take part in many creative projects with dancers, poets, trapeze artists, jugglers, electronic music and multi-media artist. Moreover, he participated in experimental Avant-garde concerts with the band Qwertyt, of which he is among the founding members. During this period he recorded two solo albums “Transformations” (2003) and “Turkish Music on Piano” (2005) and took part in 3 of Salaam’s albums.
In 2006 he went back to his homeland and started the band Tanini with kanun player Tahir Aydoğdu and ney play-er Bilgin Canaz. He recorded two albums with this band: “Touches” (2008, Kaf Music) and “Touches II” (2011, Kaf Music). With Tanini he gave many concerts in Turkey and abroad; to many national and international states-men/women, in such prestigous venues as the Presidential Palace of the Turkish Republic, the US National Re-serve, Presidential Palace of Malta etc. Tanini still continues these activities and frequently takes the stage upon invitation from embassies in foreign posts.
In 2008 during his military service he seized the opportunity to get to know the symphonic wind ensemble (marching band), he composed various pieces for this ensemble and concertized with them. These pieces have been performed again also after his military service by various military bands of the Turkish Armed Forces.
In 2009 he founded a musical comedy duo called Al Dente with the Belgian flutist Christian Plouvier and per-formed a big show for children on Childrens’ Day (April 23 rd) at the Ankara Festival, which was well acclaimed. But this project did not continue.
In 2011 his solo album “ Alla Turca Alla Toker” came out under the management of Levent Conker and sponsor-ship of Finansbank. That same year he took part in the album “ Season of Love” by Dilek Türkan (Kalan Music). That year he also became the first artist to give recitals featuring pianos specially (microtonally) tuned for Turk-ish music (at Istanbul Technical University, Middle East Technical University, Işık University). He was aided by Fikret Karakaya and Dr. Ozan Yarman regarding tuning. As a follow-up to his work in this field, in 2015 he gave another recital in London on the microtonal keyboard instrument called Fluid Piano invented by Geoff Smith, per-forming Turkish microtonal music for the first time entirely accurately on an acoustic keyboard instrument.
In 2012 he set-out to interpret traditional Turkish music through the language of the symphonic orchestra with his project entitled “ Senfonik Fasıl”. That same year he founded the band Toker Trio with doublebassist Mehmet Sönmez and percussionist Mert Baycan and began giving jazz concerts with them.
In 2013 he was honored with the “Our Living Values” award by the 1 st Mersin Cultural Festival committee.
In 2015 he became member of the newly formed band Abra, giving concerts with an emphasis on poetry. The fol-lowing year he appeared in the band’s album “Şairane Sevdalar” (Poetic Love) Kalan Music) as pianist and arrang-er.
In 2015 he founded the production company H&H along with percussionist, composer, sound engineer Hakan Çetinkaya.
In 2016 he recorded the album “Tales of Three Hearts” (H&H Productions) along with cellist Murat Süngü and percussionist Hakan Çetinkaya, featuring compositions of the members. This band gave its only concert together with Turkish vocalist Eda Karaytuğ. That year Çetinkaya also became the new drummer of Toker Trio.
In 2017 he quit the band Tanini, in 2018 he quit Abra. From then on he decided to work solely on self created and self governed projects.
In 2018 he released an ethnic jazz album called “Şehir Hayatı” (City Life) from Yenikapı Music. The next year, one track from this album was selected for the Jazz from Turkey 2010’s Spotify Playlist by the leading critics of the country.
In 2019, members of Toker Trio were updated: Murat Süngü on 5-string cello and Erdem Göymen on drums. That year the band recorded the album “Taurus Mountains” (PB Music) produced by Hakan Kurşun. This album was selected one of the best albums of the year by the radio station Açık Radyo. In 2020 it recieved the "Global Music Awards".
That same year, his parody album “Toker Messing Around...with the classics;)” came out from Parma/Navona Rec-ords in the USA and won the “Global Music Awards” as well as “Performer of the Year” award.
In 2020 he started the “Gift Music” project. He began to compose music on comission, based on the personal data of gift recievers, to be given to loved ones as gifts. In 2021 he released the albums “Gift Music 1” and “Gift Music 2” (H&H Productions) featuring such music.
As he stopped concertizing during the pandemic, he began to record more. His parody album “Christmas Songs All Wrong” came-out on Chirstmas 2020. Immediately afterwards he recorded a large number of improvisations on famous classical themes, which were released as the “Classics Deconstructed” series, featuring 6 albums and many singles (H&H).
In 2020 he arranged a series of traditional Turkish tunes for classically-trained pianists, which were published as a book: "Piyano İçin Gelenksel Türk Müziği" (Traditional Turkish Music for Piano) from Müzik Eğitimi Publica-tions. This book is the first of it’s kind, for the fact that it features written-out melodic ornamentations which is usu-ally improvised by traditional players.
In 2022, Toker went on tours covering music schools arounds the country, featuring music from this book.
That same year, he founded the world's first microtonal symphony orchestra, by bringing together Turkish musi-cians specializing in both traditional Turkish music and Western classical music. On May 17, he premiered his Turkish Rhapsody for 4 Microtonally Tuned Pianos and this orchestra, along with his song Işık Yükselecek (Light will Rise) for Voice and Microtonal Symphony Orchestra at the CRR Concert Hall in Istanbul.
Toker is among very few pianists in the world today who in their recitals keep alive a nearly-forgotten tradition of the Western world since the early 20 th century, namely, the art of improvisation in classical music.
Up-to-date he has performed in 29 countries; some being solo appearances, some with various ensembles and orchestras, most of them with his band Tanini(5). Among the prominent festivals he has taken part are the Inter-national İstanbul, Ankara, Mersin, Side music festivals (Turkey), Blacksea Festival (Russia) and Indianapolis Jazz (USA) Festival. Among the artist he as had the honor of sharing the stage are Munis Şerifov, Yıldız İbrahimova, Benyamin Sönmez, Dilek and Derya Türkan. Among the conductors he has worked with are Valentin Tatarenko, Tadeusz Strugała, Ender Sakpınar, Dağhan Doğu, İbrahim Yazıcı, Cemi’i Can Deliorman.
Toker who also likes to teach, gives masterclasses, workshops and private lessons in various educational institu-tions at home and abroad. Among these activities, ones that have taken place in Fine Arts Highschools across Turkey (solo and with Benyamin Sönmez), İzmir Dokuz Eylül University (solo), Edinburgh University (with Tani-ni), Zagreb Conservatory of Music (solo) and the Groznjan Summer Jazz School of Jeunesse Musicale Croatia (so-lo) are worth mentioning.
As a composer, he has studied deeply and written purely in many genres including Western classical, jazz and Turkish music. As a result, Toker's distinct voice is a rich blend of all these genres. His oeuvre, numbering over 500 works, include music for solo instruments, chamber music, orchestra, symphonic wind ensemble, choir; songs in Turkish and English, children's songs in both languages, electronic music, incidental music including two children' operas; music in traditional Turkish forms for Turkish instruments; instrumental and vocal music for jazz and popular music ensembles.
In addition to his musical life, Hakan A. Toker has hobbies. He holds an interest in Origami and Lego.