Burhan Öçal was born in Kırklareli in 1959. He started his musical education in his childhood. From his father, he learned a variety of percussion instruments, while his mother introduced him to religious vocal music. When he was 24 years old, he went to Switzerland to continue his musical study. In 1979, he performed for the first time at the Zurich Poem Festival. Since then, Öçal has given numerous solo concerts in the world.
During his early years in Switzerland, he worked with Pierre Favre. Öçal has made the bridging of musical cultures his central mission. His concerts, which were given with pianist Maria Joao Pires and guitarist Elliot Fisk (1986) and with Joe Zawinul and Symphonic Orchestra (1992), were greatly appraised by musical critics. Besides Classical music and Classical Turkish Music, he has played Ottoman court music and Turkish popular music.
In addition to percussion instruments including darbuka, Öçal performs Turkish string instruments such as divan-saz, tambour and oud. Recently, he realized a project of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” with pianist Peter Waters. He has also made albums with his funk jazz band, Burhan Öçal Group. Öçal has also given numerous concerts with the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, which he founded.
Öçal gave concerts in several countries, including prominently the US, alongside the world famous Kronos Quartet. He met the renowned classical guitarist Eliot Fisk, and gave concerts with him across the US and Europe for 10 years. Öçal released the “Groove Alla Turca” album with American jazz bass guitar player Jamaaladeen Tacuma.
He recorded two albums and gave various concerts alongside “Trakya All Stars Band”, which he formed as a tribute to his home town Kirklareli. Öçal is a regular guest at the Jazz Festivals in Montreal, Montreux, Chicago, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Vienna, and Berlin as well as at the Womad World Music Festival. He also performs as a soloist with many Symphony Orchestras. With British conductor Howard Griffiths and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, he released the Concerto alla Turca album in 2007.
In addition to his musical activities, Öçal has played the lead part in several films and some television dramas. He also works with artists like the world famous photographer and director Michel Comte. Since 1977, Öçal has lived and worked in Istanbul and Zurich.