True pioneers of Turkish pop music, Mogollar take their name from one of the largest empires in history, the Mongol Empire. As this empire was feared by many, Mogollar were seen as heroes to free Turkish pop music from the enslavement of Western patterns. Founders of Anadolu pop, which would lead to a whole new genre and hundreds of bands, they achieved far more than originally expected, and what many musicians couldn’t have even dreamed of. Mogollar are actually a combination of two bands, Siluetler and Selcuk Alagöz Orchestra. Hasan Sel (bass), Engin Yorukoglu (drums), and Cahit Berkay (guitars) from Selcuk Alagöz Orchestra joined forces with Aziz Ahmet (vocals) and Murat Ses (keyboard) from Siluetler in 1967. The band’s first single, “Eastern Love,” was released in February of 1968, while Mogollar’s breakthrough came during the summer of the same year when they achieved a third-place position in the Golden Mic music contest with the song “Ilgaz.”
With a hippie and reformist attitude (protesting war and colonization), Mogollar first interjected psychedelic elements into their hard-rocking beat music. In their early live performances, violins, cello, and trumpet accompanied the standard guitar-bass-drums lineup. While they were building up a large fan base, their first Anatolian tour changed their lives — as well as the future of Turkish rock music — forever. While touring cities in eastern Turkey, members of Mogollar realized that in order to benefit from folk music they had to utilize traditional instruments like baglama, zurna, yayli tambur, and tulum, in effect creating what would come to be known as Anadolu pop. Attempting to combine the dynamism of Turkish folk music with that of Western-oriented pop, they knew they had to write songs in the Anadolu pop style, and “Dag ve Cocuk” was the first ever such pop song to be recorded.
When they were at the top of their league, singer Aziz Ahmet left the band. After a short period with vocalist Ersen Dinleten (later to become the lead singer of Ersen ve Dadaslar), the band moved to Paris without a singer in 1970. Finding the phone numbers of record companies from a telephone index in a cafe, they managed to persuade CBS to provide them a three-year contract. In 1971, Mogollar recorded their first album, titled Les Mogol, as they were known in France. The completely instrumental Danses et Rythmes de la Turquie — d’Hier d’Aujourd’hui was a compilation of Mogollar versions of traditional Turkish folk tunes, and it was instantly showered with positive reviews — some even named them the Pink Floyd of Turkey — and it was even awarded the Grand Prix du Disque by the Charles Cros Academie in Paris.
In 1971, Baris Manco, who met the band in Paris, joined Mogollar. The two parts seemed to fit so perfectly that they even changed their name to Manchomongol. However, the union lasted only a few months. From then on, Mogollar was always on the brink of falling apart, working with many singers and having a lot of lineup changes. Among the singers they’ve worked with, Cem Karaca was probably the most significant, and the single Karaca and Mogollar recorded together, “Namus Belasi,” is a landmark song in Turkish popular music history. Between 1974 and 1976, only Cahit Berkay and Engin Yorukoglu remained from the band’s initial lineup. Mogollar recorded two more albums, Ensemble d’Cappadocia and Hitit Sun, the latter being the more popular of the two. These more jazzy recordings were also the signs of a search for new musical directions. Not long after, in 1976, Mogollar disbanded.
After almost 16 years of solo works, soundtracks, and collaborations with other bands, in 1992 members of Mogollar were called back to music by a group of fans who started a campaign for this cause. They collected thousands of signatures and sent them to Cahit Berkay and friends. As a result, Mogollar assembled for a reunion gig in 1993. Berkay, Yorukoglu, and one of the band’s earliest members, Taner Öngür, were back in their slots, and Serhat Ersöz was featured on keyboards, with Berkay responsible for most of the vocals. The first album released following the reunion was Mogollar ’94. Comparable to Cahit Berkay’s solo soundtrack albums, the album contains some lengthy epics as well as more pop-oriented, keyboard-driven tracks. 4 Renk, which followed two years later, was a more straightforward effort. Criticized for being simple and popular, the release of 4 Renk marked a point when Mogollar were no longer expected by many to remain the continuing heroes of Turkish music. After some live and best-of albums, they released 2004’s Yuruduk Durmadan, which was met with negative reviews. However, Mogollar continue to play live at large summer festivals, while Cahit Berkay pursues a more active solo career.