First Iranian National Anthems: Ey Iran & Others


M. Saadat Noury
by M. Saadat Noury


Originally published online on March 29, 2005

DEFINITION & HISTORY: Many scholars define the National Anthem as a generally patriotic musical composition that is formally recognized by a country's government and it expresses the popular feeling for the country. During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, with the rise of the national state, most countries adopted a national anthem, which in some cases coexists with other commonly sung patriotic songs. The oldest song claiming to be a national anthem is the "Het Wilhelmus" from The Netherlands or Holland, and it was written between 1568 and 1572. Another old song is UK’s God Save the Queen, which has been described as British National Anthem since 1825. Both are unusual among national anthems since they do not refer to a country but to a monarch. More typically, anthems seek to reflect the unity of a nation by galvanizing the history, traditions and struggles of its people. This is what one can see in the other oldest songs like La Marseillaise and God Bless America, which are the national anthems of France and the USA respectively.

IRANIAN NATIONAL ANTHEMS: The history of national anthem of Iran can be traced back to the early 1933 and in the period that Reza Shah was in power (1926-1941). During his reign the anthem was named Salamat Baad Shah or Stay Safe King (SSK). SSK’s poet and composer are unknown. The same anthem was in effect until 1944 during Mohammad Reza Shah who ruled Iran from 1941 to1979. Between 1946 and 1957, the national anthem of Iran was Sorud-e-Ey Iran. This was replaced by another song named Sorud-e Shahanshahi or Imperial Salute (IS) in 1957 and it was in use until 1979 when Islamic Republic took over and established its own anthem. The poet and the composer of IS are documented as S. Afsar and Lieut. N. Moghadam respectively. Among these anthems, Sorud-e Ey Iran is believed to be the most popular national anthem of Iran. Ruhollah Khaleghi composed it in 1946 to the lyrics of a poem entitled as Ey Iran, written by Hossein Gol-e Golab (HGG).

THE POET: HGG was a botanist, musician, poet, and scholar. He was born in 1896 to a family of music connoisseurs in Tehran, Iran. HGG was the son of Abutrab Khan-e Mossavarolmolk (AKM). AKM was a famous painter who was also familiar with the art of music. HGG received his first education in music at an early age from his father. He later joined the classes of the distinguished masters of Persian music, Agha Hosayngholi and Dervish Khan, where he learned to play theTar and  Seh Tar (Persian long neck lute).  He then applied to the first music school in Iran, founded by Ali-Naghi Vaziri, and became one of his first students. HGG was particularly talented at composing songs since he was both a poet and an accomplished musician familiar with standard music notation. This so impressed Vaziri that he invariably asked HGG to write the lyrics of his compositions. HGG also composed Persian lyrics for the music of Georges Bizet’s Carmen and Charles Gounoud’s Faust. HGG was educated at Elmyeh School and Darolfonoon in Tehran. Upon graduating in 1916, he was employed as a teacher at Darolfonoon. He also enrolled at the newly established School of Law and graduated with a degree in law and political science in 1922. HGG began teaching natural sciences in 1919, and by 1928, when he was tenured at the Department of Medicine of Darolfonoon, he had published twelve books in this field. It is documented that HGG was the first Iranian who authored the first textbook on Natural Sciences (in Persian: Oloom-e Tabii) to be taught at Iranian schools. As the Department of Medicine became the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tehran, HGG was awarded a doctoral degree in 1935 and he was appointed as the professor of botanical biology in 1940. He was also a permanent member of the Academy of Persian Culture (in Persian: Farhangistan-e Iran) and the director of its secretariat since 1935.

He retired at 70 in 1966 and a year later became the first eminent professor of the University of Tehran. In Farhangistan-e Iran, HGG along with Professor Mahmoud Hesaabi (an eminent Iranian scholar), was particularly active in the medical, pharmacological, and botanical sections of the Academy. His work, which continued even after retirement, had a major influence on the scientific vocabulary of modern Iran. He died at 88 on 12 March 1984 in Tehran.

THE COMPOSER: Ruhollah Khaleghi was born in 1906 in Kerman, Iran, in a musically minded family. He first became acquainted with tar, but later learned to play violin. As soon as Ali-Naghi Vaziri established his Music Academy, Khaleghi left school and joined the Academy where he studied for eight years. Soon he became Vaziri’s master-assistant and in charge of teaching music theory. At the same time, he studied the theory and harmony of Western Music and Orchestration through a correspondence course with a university in Paris. He later continued his education and obtained a BA degree in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Tehran. In 1944, Khaleghi established the National Music Society. Upon his efforts the School of Music (in Persian: Honarkadeh-e Musighi) was founded in 1949. His three published volumes of The History of Iranian Music (in Persian: Sargozasht-e Musighi-e Iran), took shape between 1955 and 1960. Khaleghi’s other published works include Harmony of Western Music, Theory of Western Music, Theory of Iranian Music, and Instrumental Methods for the Study of Tar and Sitar. For many years Khaleghi worked as a musical advisor for Radio Iran, and he was one of the founders of the program known as Colorful Flowers (in Persian: Golhaay-e Rangarang). He also conducted the Golhaa Orchestra, for which he composed many pieces and revised the old and authentic compositions of Persian musicians. Khaleghi's compositions are not limited to what he wrote for Golhayeh Rangarang. In addition to Ey Iran, his masterpieces include May-e-Naab (Pure Wine), Ah-e-Sahar (Sigh of Dawn), Hala Chera (Why Now?), and Changg-e-Rudaki (Rudaki's Harp). He also composed many other songs with orchestral accompaniment, instrumental pieces, and patriotic hymns, such as Sorud-e Azarbaijan (a hymn for the liberation of Azerbaijan). He died on November 12, 1965, in Salzburg, Austria, following complications from stomach ulcer surgery.

Epilogues (Posted August 2012)
1. Today, many Iranians give credits to both poet and composer of Ey Iran and the echo of that beloved song is still on the air. And let's remember late Hossein Gol-e Golab (HGG) who has been quoted to have said: "In 1944, the footsteps of the invading armies in the streets were enough to rattle any patriot and inspired me to write this anthem. Ruhollah Khaleghi wrote the music and despite all the political opposition, it found its way into the heart and soul of the people".
2. It should be noted that in the lyric/poem/ anthem of Ey Iran no single Arabic (regardless of Dorr & Khorram) or any other foreign word is used.
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

View the Persian Text and English Version of Ey Iran


Aftab Website (2004): Online Article on “Ostad Gol Golab”, (in Persian).

CHN Website (2004): Online Article on “The Foreigners occupied our homeland; he composed the Song of Ey Iran “, (in Persian).

Fathalizadeh, A. (2005): Online Article on “Ey Iran History”.

Khaleghi, R. (1956): History of Iranian Music, ed., (in Persian), Vols. 1 & 2, Ebn-e Sina Publications, Tehran, Iran.

Khaleghi, R. (2001): History of Iranian Music, ed., (in Persian), Vols. 3, Publications of Mahur Cultural Inst., Tehran, Iran.

Ruhollah Khaleghi Artistic Center (2002): Online Notes on the Biography of Ruhollah Khaleghi.

Saadat Nouri, H. (1933): “The Short History of Iran”, (A Persian Translation from an English Book authored by General Sir Percy Sykes), ed., Erfan Publications, Isfahan, Iran.

Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Various Articles on First Iranians.

Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Various Articles on Persian Culture and the History of Iran.

Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2005): Online Notes on National Anthem, Het Wilhelmus, God Bless America, La Marseillaise, God Save the Queen, Ey Iran, Hossein Gol-e-Golab, and Ruhollah Khaleghi.



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