Ahmad Ali Ragheb, Composer of Memorable Revolutionary Songs
Iran’s Political and Social Changes Were Never Neglected by His Creative Mind
October 8th, 2016
Ahmad-Ali Ragheb, an Iranian composer, musician and an eminent conductor of Revolutionary music, was born on May 2nd 1944 in Bandar-Anzali, Northern Iran. After his graduation, he taught at schools in the rural areas in the north of Iran and at the same time studied and researched folk music and the region’s local songs and melodies.
At first he was taught music by his mother and continued his training by himself, and also managed to write notable songs for local singers in his homeland. Years later he moved to Tehran and learned music by attending the classes of some of the great music masters of the time until he joined Iran’s Radio and Television Orchestra.
He continued his activities in Iran’s Radio and Television up to the chaotic days before the Revolution. When the regime revealed its tyranny against people, he and some of his colleagues quit their job on the 7th June 1978 and went to help the revolutionaries using their art. At that time, he was invited to some underground singing groups and practiced and performed some of his songs with them, such as “the Martyred Teacher” and “Melody of Unity”.
Artistic activities after the Revolution
Right after the Revolution, Ahmad-Ali managed to gather a few groups and began to produce revolutionary songs. The challenge he and a few other musicians like him confronted, was the lack of a proper model for the music of this new era. So he decided to look for inspiration among the slogans of ordinary people. His knowledge of folk music of different regions, that he had gained in his youth, came in handy and gave his work a distinctive color and style. It was the most fitting example of revolutionary music which was woven together from people’s local and religious beliefs.
Upon the resumption of radio programs, despite all of their problems and defects, the presence of people like Majid Haddad Adel as the head of radio broadcasting was encouraging for him. Ragheb continued his efforts and his intimate friendship with great poets and lyricists such as Mehrdad Avesta, Mahmoud Shahrokhi, Moshfeq Kashani, Hamid Sabzevari, Mohammad Ali Mo’alem and others, and made a number of song with them in the process. “Welcome our Imam”, “Cry of Freedom”, “Martyr Mofatteh”, “Holy Martyr”, “Shame on you USA”, “Melody of Theism”, “Melody of Unity”, “Dad was Bleeding”, “Hello Classmate” and more, became hit songs.
In early 1981, Ragheb was nominated by Ayatollah Beheshti to write songs for the Islamic Republican Party, the most famous of which became the official anthem of the party, and was praised by Beheshti who was then head of the party. This cooperation continued in the form of meetings with the heads of the party and officials, in which they discussed cultural and art issues. Ragheb became in charge of the art department in the Islamic Republican Party and formed a Choir.
After the terrorist attack on the party’s office and the martyrdom of Beheshti and his colleagues, Ragheb produced “Tale of Pain” (Withered Poppy Flowers), “Vafaryada” and “As Great as Beheshti” to commemorate the memory of Ayatollah Beheshti. When the “imposed war” began, Ragheb started to write songs about the sacred defense and songs like “Congratulations on this Victory” (which was about the recapture of Khoramshahr), “Happy Victory”, “We Fight until We Succeed”, “God, Save Khomeini Until the Revolution of Mahdi” were among his most successful musical numbers. According to the archives of Iran’s Broadcast Network, more than 1400 pieces of music have been registered to his name and he was given the nickname “man of 1000 songs” by his colleagues.
The Making of “Cry of Freedom” (aka God is Great, Khomeini is our Leader)
This song was produced before Nowruz in 1979 when Majid Haddad Adel was Head of Radio. The lyrics were written by Hamid Sabzevari and it was performed by Mohamad Golriz. The song was broadcast for the first time after Imam Khomeini’s Nowruz speech and people accepted it as a national song. On the other hand, although the song was praised by officials, they preferred to have a shorter song as a national anthem. Cry of Freedom is still broadcast on the Radio before 2 o’clock news and is considered one of the most memorable songs of the Islamic Revolution.
The Making of the Song “Holy Martyr”: Visiting Imam Khomeini and the Approval of Musical Activities
In 1980, on the first anniversary of Ayatollah Motahhari’s martyrdom, Ragheb was asked by Seyyed Ahmad Khomeini, the son of Imam Khomeini, to produce a song to commemorate the memory of Ayatollah Motahhari. Hamid Sabzevari wrote the lyrics and the final song was performed by Golriz. The song was well received, so the Imam invited the cast and anyone who had worked on the song to visit him in June 1980 and praised them immensely.
This incident was considered as the Imam’s approval for the resumption of musical activities after the Revolution – in an official capacity. Thus the Radio’s music department was formed and musical groups produced music more coherently and seriously.
The Making of the Song “Shame on you USA”
In June 1980, during their visit with Imam Khomeini, Seyyed Ahmad Khomeini spoke to the visitors about the Imam’s message on cutting ties with the US Government and asked them to write a song that tackles this concept. Ragheb composed this song whose lyrics were written by Hamid Sabzevari and asked Esfandyar Qare-Baqi to sing it.
The Making of the song “Congratulations on this Victory”
In 1982, when the country’s forces were getting prepared to launch a large attack on Iraqi forces in order to recapture Khorramshahr, officials in the Radio offered Ragheb to write a song on the victory, with the reason behind the song remaining secret, even from the composer and lyricist, until Khorramshahr was liberated. The song was broadcast for the first time on national radio after the Beit-ol-Maqdes Operation and the liberation of Khorramshar. It became one of the war’s most memorable songs. The song was performed by Golriz and Mojtaba Mirzadeh arranged it for Orchestra.
Musical Activities after the War
Iran’s political and social changes were never neglected by his creative mind. After the war, Ragheb was still busy writing songs to encourage children to learn, encourage people to participate in charity, and to help the poor. He also produced popular songs and made some music tracks featuring the folk music of his homeland in the North. They were all popular.
His resume is full of great music he made for the Revolution and Sacred Defense. He also introduced a special style mixing northern folk music with the people’s religious beliefs. These efforts led to the creation of a special color and style in Iran’s resistance music.