During the early years of the war, Iraq staged several air raids on Dezful. Sadeq Ahangaran sang a noha in memory of this disaster and it was broadcast a few times on TV along with captions from women and children martyred in Dezful. The next day, Imam Khomeini sent a message for Sadeq in which he said: “tell him to sing epic poems, our people are warriors.”
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Publish Date: 20 April 2017

About 60 to 70 years ago, two cousins got married in Ahvaz. They were both originally from Dezful. The woman used to live in Dezful but because of her husband’s work, she moved to Ahvaz and they started their married life there. They had 8 children, four daughters and four sons. Sadeq was the fourth child, with two older brothers and an older sister. He was born in July 1957. His real name was Mohammad Sadeq Ahangari.

The Ahangaris used to go back to Dezful during holidays or summer breaks. The peace and calm of Dezful was worth the effort.

Singing Nohas was a common hobby of their family. Sadeq’s uncle also had that talent. Good voices ran in the family and most of their men had pleasant voices. Mohammad Sadeq was gifted with a superb voice. Their neighbors were among the first to witness his talent. When he was only 5 years old, he used to copy the singer who came to his grandmother’s house. Sadeq walked in the neighborhood and sang with a stick in his hand, just as that singer did. The neighbors then told his mother that one day he would become a famous singer, and to take care of him.

At the age of 6 or 7, he made a name for himself among teachers at school. They asked him to stand at the front of the class and sing local songs in Dashti* style. (*a style of singing in Iranian traditional music)

Practicing Nohas

His first formal ceremony in Ahvaz was held at the Ali-Asghar Hey’at. Up until then, he had performed and sang several times in the streets with a loudspeaker, but this time he had been officially invited to sing on Tasu’a (the ninth day of Muharram). When his performance was finished, everyone praised him and took a liking to him, and asked him to sing on Ashura too. At that time, he was only 11 or 12 years old. "When the noha I sang, became noted and I saw myself capable of leading a large group, I thought to myself that I can be a fine singer. That was my start and little by little I made a name for myself in Ahvaz.”

He wasn’t much of a good student. Studying made him bored and he didn’t spend much time on it. Most of his time was spent on Nohas and practicing new styles of singing. His parents were fed up with his poor school performance but whenever there was a religious ceremony, they encouraged him to sing and enjoyed the praise and compliments he received.

A Big Slap in the Face

Once during his school days, he was slapped because of singing a noha. The Crown Prince wanted to make a visit to Ahvaz to take part in a ceremony held in Ahvaz’s stadium. The city officials were supposed to fill the stadium, so high school students, along with the teachers and everyone had to go to the stadium. Sadeq was by then a well-known singer, and just as the others, had no interest to be part of that plan, but it was the school principal’s order and they couldn’t disobey it. The moment the students turned into Naderi Street, he started singing a Noha for Imam Hussein. He did so and his friends accompanied him and sang along. The principal was informed and came to them, with anger written all over his face. He slapped Sadegh hard in the face and said: "now that the Crown Prince is coming, you’re singing about the thirsty shah? (In reference to Imam Hussein)” It turned out to be in his favor because he was sent home.

The Southerners’ revolution

When he was a teenager, there were whispers of protests and uprisings against the regime in Ahvaz, as well as in other cities. The youth gathered at the corners, in mosques and basements, and held meetings preparing for the revolution and the uprising of Imam Khomeini.

Alamolhoda, who was a well-known scholar in Ahvaz and the Ahangari family, lived in the same neighborhood. Some of local youth were always around Hussein Alamolhoda and partook in activities to pave the way for the upcoming revolution. Sadegh was also eager to join them. He went to the mosque they used to attend and approached them. Eventually Alamolhoda accepted him in the group.

At first he participated in local meetings and studied books which were brought to him secretly by Alamolhoda. His activities took a more serious tone when he participated in the sessions held by the city’s revolutionaries in Ahvaz’s Jazayeri mosque.

Leaving the Military Camp after the Imam’s Fatwa

In 1977 he was sent to Marivan for his mandatory military service and was assigned as a ranger. In those days, people from different cities were protesting and demonstrating in the streets. He and some of his comrades used to hold secret meetings and aided the revolution without the SAVAK being wise to i. Sadeq by then was the main Noha singer in Marivan.

In ‘78, when only a few months were left from his service, Imam Khomeini ordered soldiers to leave their military camps. Sadegh did so and returned to Ahvaz, taking part in demonstrations and secret meetings until February, 1989 when the Revolution was victorious.

Mr. Mayor!

In the early days after the Revolution, the Revolutionary Council hadn’t yet assigned any new authority for the city. As a result, Hussein Alamolhoda and his friends took charge of responsibilities such as maintaining the city’s security, executing law, collecting garbage and other such duties.

Sadeq spent a few months helping in these tasks. Then he became executive director of Friday Prayers in Ahvaz. At that time, Ayatollah Jannati was Ahvaz’s Friday prayer Imam. He used to preach against liberal parties, hypocrites, the MEK and anti-revolutionaries, and explained the principle of the Guardianship of the Jurist (Wilayat al-Faqih). Friday prayers were always crowded and sometimes there were struggles came about between people from different parties.

Ahvaz’s revolutionaries formed the "Parastoo Committee” which was led by Ali Shamkhani. Sadeq was made responsible for the armory. The radical "Khalq-e-Arab” group had begun to commit acts of vandalism and was supported by Baath party in Iraq and anti-revolutionaries. The committee was formed to deal with this group. Later the "Revolutionary Guards of Ahvaz” was established and Lahooti was assigned as its commander. He selected a few people to help him. Sadeq was among them, and his attractive voice was the main reason for this choice. Sadegh became responsible for Human Resources and Recruitment, and began serving the Revolutionary Guards in an official capacity.

Later they held training course for new recruits in which Sadeq taught Islam History, also singing nohas in his classes, yielding to his students’ requests.

He acted in a few plays because of his fine voice. He met Hussein Panahi and they performed on stage together. They mixed Hossein’s good acting skills and Sadeq’s pleasant voice. The performance was well-received, but Sadeq chose not to continue acting for long.

Tying the Knot

In February 1980, he got married. Before his family had asked the daughters of some other families, but they had all refused them for the sole reason that Sadegh was a member of the Revolutionary Guards. Finally, he met the woman of dreams. Wedding preparations, shopping, and everything else was done simpler than he expected. "All we bought for the wedding was a pair of shoes from the Iranian melli brand, a 300-toman ring and a piece of cloth for a chador (a garment for the bride) which cost about 500 tomans. The Bride only accepted the Quran, Mafatih al-Jinan and the Sahife Sajjadieh (also books) as her dowry. She was willing to hold the ceremony as simple as possible, away from formalities.”

They got engaged on February 1980 and got married on July of the same year. In their wedding party, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards made a speech and then Hussein Panahi performed a play.

The newly-weds’ house was on the upper floor of Sadeq’s family’s house. His wife became the first one to listen to all of his nohas and mournings. War had then begun and Sadeq was busy and could visit his family once every few days.

Habibollah Muallemi, The Poet of the War

War had started a bit sooner for southerners, even before the official announcement of Iraq’s invasion. The southerners had fought the Iraqis a few time at the border. When the war began, the Ahvaz Revolutionary Guards joined the Jihad of Construction (Jihad al-Bina’) organization. Sadeq would thus come to meet Seifollah Moallemi, the son of Habibollah Moallemi, who later became the writer of most of Sadeq’s songs and nohas.

"Peace upon you! O martyrs of Khuzestan” was the first poem Habib wrote for him. The poem was turned into a noha and was performed by Sadeq in Jamaran, in front of Imam Khomeini, and was broadcast on national TV.

Days of Fame for the War’s Singer

Hussein Alamolhoda requested to visit Imam Khomeini with a group of nomads from Khuzestan, in order to put an end to the rumor of their disloyalty to the Revolution. He also asked Sadeq to accompany them and perform in Jamaran. His performance was broadcast a few times on TV because of viewer requests to repeat it. It was then that the Iranian nation came to know this accomplished singerfrom Khuzestan.

He was invited to travel to different regions in order to recruit new members or raise morale. His acquaintance with Habibollah was a turning point in his life. Although Habib was a mere farmer and worked on his land from morning to night, he was an artistic and gifted man. He came up with his poems during work and when he was done, he used to meet up with Sadeq and together they worked to find a good melody for the poems.

Birth of the "Hey’at of Islam’s Combatants”

On the night of Tasu’a during the first year of the war, most citizens of Dezful had evacuated the city because of Iraqi air raids. Sadeq, Alamolhoda and some of their colleagues from the Revolutionary Guards, walked in the streets and held the usual mourning ceremonies of Muharram. They did it to preserve Muharram rituals in an almost abandoned city.

The inspiration for establishing the Sarallah Hey’at (Mourning Group) sparked in their minds on that special night. Later the name changed to the Hey’at of Islam’s Combatants. The Ahangaris didn’t leave Ahvaz during war. They had a large house in the city and his uncles and aunts lived there too. During the war, the basement of their house acted as a bunker for their neighbors. During air raids, the door of their house was open to neighbors who would rush to the basement to take shelter. Their warm and crowded house was like a miracle in the cold and emptiness of Ahvaz in those days. "Whenever I returned to Ahvaz from the war, the city was empty and cold, like no one had ever lived there before. But as soon as I stepped into my parents’ house, I was welcomed with the noise and liveliness of people there.”

Birth under A Barrage of Gunfire

On July 1981, his first son Mohamad Ali was born at a time when Iraq was hitting Ahvaz. He named his second son Hussein (born in February 1983), in memory of his martyred friend, Hussein Alamolhoda. Three years later his daughter was born.

Messenger of Martyrdom

In addition to singing and fighting, he was assigned another mission. He was popular and known as a Noha singer among people. So his friends chose him as the best person to inform families of their martyred members, about the loss of their children. It was easier for families to receive such sad news from him in person, but for him it was one of the most difficult tasks.

Fame, and the Reason behind his Name Change

When the Bostan region was liberated after Operation Beit ol-Moqaddas, Sadeq performed a graceful Komeil (a famous Du’a related by Imam Ali) ceremony with the combatants. The next day, captions of their ceremony were broadcast on TV along with news of the city’s liberation, as the news announcer said: "Ahangaran performed Du’a Komeil in Bostan.” Since then he became even more popular, but people came to know him as "Ahangaran” and not "Ahangari”.

Later on when he wanted to travel, buy tickets or do office work, it was impossible for him to use his real name without any questions as to his name. Finally, he was forced to change his last name officially to Ahangaran.

Imam Khomeini Said: "Sing Epic Songs”

During the early years of war, Iraq staged several air raids on Dezful. Sadegh Ahangaran sang a noha in memory of this disaster and it was broadcast a few times on TV along with captions from women and children martyred in Dezful. The next day, Imam Khomeini sent a message for Sadegh in which he said: "Tell him to sing epic poems, our people are warriors.”

For him, his singing was divided into two eras, before and after the Imam’s message. "After the Imam’s message, I left my own style and began to give my songs and nohas an epic style. Most of the time we put one of the Imam’s sayings at the beginning of a poem, such as "for the liberation of Quds, one must pass through Karbala”, "this is a war of destiny, O guards of the Quran!”

Arabs Liked Persian Nohas

During the war, some Iranian combatants were sent to Lebanon to give Hezbollah combatants military training. The Lebanese had heard a lot about the Iran-Iraq war and were following the news enthusiastically. Ahangaran’s nohas and songs were also part of the war. They adored him and listened to his songs to the point that they could even sing them in Persian.

He was invited to Lebanon during and after the war. He prepared songs in Arabic but they preferred the Persian songs more and even sang along with him.

False Rumor of His Capture

Operation "Before Dawn” (aka Valfajr Moqadamati) had failed and Iranian combatants were discouraged. The Iraqis had captured an Iranian soldier who resembled Ahangaran and made a fuss about it, saying they had captured Khomeini’s nightingale.

Sadeq went to Haj Habib to give him updates on the war and that he was supposed to perform at the Tehran Friday prayers to boost morale. The old man thought for a few moments and then wrote a poem that became one of the most well-known and popular nohas of the war.

"Along with sound of the caravan, set for the road my comrades, this convoy is departing for Karbala …”

He performed the song at the Friday prayer and everyone liked it. It remained the opening music of the national news on TV for a long time.

One can find other events in the chronicle of Ahangaran’s life. Things that all citizens in warzones experienced; fighting at the fronts in the South, Bostan, Susangerd, Khorramshahr, their liberation, the betrayal of Bani-Sadr (which had the most impact on the southern front), daily air raids on their cities, and living in the vicinity of the vanguard.

In ‘88, Imam Khomeini accepted the Resolution 598 which ended the war, much to his dismay and that of other combatants. What he heard later from the combatants, made it even harder for him to tolerate the situation. When Qader Tahmasebi (aka Farid) wrote the poem "martyrdom”, Ahangaran found the emotions related to that era in it and sang it in a sad melody.

This noha was chosen by Morteza Avini as the theme music of his documentary "Revayat-e-Fath”

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