In the late 90s and early 00s, a wave of indie reissues brought 70s psychedelic music that had been made all over the world to new generations of American fans. In Turkey, for instance, a regional style called “Anatolian rock” emerged in the late 60s when mind-blowing artists such as Erkin Koray, 3 Hürel, and Bunalım mixed traditional folk with full-tilt, electrified acid rock. The 1999 compilation Love, Peace & Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music introduced me to one of the other wellsprings of this sound, the band Moğollar. On the transcendentally beautiful “Katip Arzuhalim Yaz Yare Böyle,” they mix delay-treated kamancheh (also called a spike fiddle) with insistent hand percussion and gorgeous, spaced-out guitar (though I suppose it could be one of the other traditional stringed instruments they use, a bağlama or tanbur). This unearthly, soul-stirring song sounds like an early Pink Floyd instrumental that somehow arrived via the Middle East, and mark my words, it’ll be played at my funeral. Moğollar (“Mongols” in Turkish) formed in 1967 with the lineup of Aziz Azmet, Murat Ses, Cahit Berkay, Hasan Sel, and Engin Yörükoğlu, and by 1971 they’d become so successful on the international stage that they won France’s coveted Grand Prix du Disque. Moğollar’s lineup changed a lot throughout the 70s—they had an especially hard time holding onto singers—but by the time they called it quits in 1976, the folks who’d stepped up to their mike included Turkish legends Barış Manço, Cem Karaca, and Selda Bağcan.
In 1993 multi-instrumentalist Cahit Berkay and drummer Engin Yörükoğlu (both original members) re-formed Moğollar with bassist and vocalist Taner Öngür (who’d played in the band from 1970 till ’74) and keyboardist Serhat Ersöz. In 2007 vocalist and guitarist Emrah Karaca (son of Cem Karaca) joined in time for Moğollar’s previous LP, 2009’s Umut Yolunu Bulur. Yörükoğlu died from lung cancer in 2010, and the following year, the band added Kemal Küçükbakkal on drums. Their new double LP, Anatolian Sun, is part of the Direct-to-Disc series by British/Dutch label Night Dreamer, which has also included releases by Seu Jorge, Seun Kuti, and American sax legend Gary Bartz—Moğollar recorded it old-school in a two-day session in Haarlem’s Artone Studio, cutting sides A and B on day one and sides C and D on day two. It consists of new versions of classics and deep cuts, and like most contemporary efforts by older bands, it has a modern sheen, in this case undoubtedly due to producer Murat Ertel (a member of danceable Turkish psych group Baba Zula). If you know Moğollar from J. Dilla’s famous samples of “Haliç’te Güneşin Batışı’” on his 2001 solo debut, Welcome 2 Detroit, you’ll have no complaints with the new recording of the track: it still swings, with a warm, organic feel and proggy Hammond-organ ripples galore. The guitars, synths, and beats sound a bit crisper on Anatolian Sun than on the original versions of these songs, but the new album rocks with the same vintage fuzzy glory. And the 60s and 70s tunes are indistinguishable here from the reunion numbers, among them driving takes on 90s cuts “Bi’ Şey Yapmalı” and “Dinleyiverin Gari.” Moğollar show their gentler, more traditional side on lilting, acoustic tracks such as “Gam Yükü” and “Buzlar Çözülmeden,” and they especially shine on the intensely psychedelic closer, “Alageyik Destanı,” originally released in 1972—its vibrating strings make the hairs on my neck stand on end, just like the first time I heard it 20 years ago. Bless Moğollar (and the folks at Night Dreamers) for keeping these illuminating Anatolian rock sounds alive. v