Art & CultureNews

Legendary Artist Ali Birra Passes Away

ADDIS ABABA – Dr. Ali Birra, one of the most influential Ethiopian Artists and Oromo icon, has passed away at the age of 75.

The artist best known for his Legendary Oromo songs died on Sunday evening, according to the Oromia regional communication bureau.

Dr. Ali – a vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist and poet – has made a mark in the music industry and hearts of people in his nearly 60 years long music career.

In a statement, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed said Ethiopia mourns the legendary artist’s passing and called him “an icon for many”.

Through his music, Ali sung about “unity, endurance and culture,” Abiy said. “Ethiopia appreciates all of your works.”

Born in Dire Dawa City in 1947, Ali Mohammed Musa began his music career at the age of 13, joining Afran Qallo band.

He went on to get his stage name ‘Ali Birra’ meaning ‘Ali the spring’ in Oromifa – through the singing of the ’Birra dha Barihe’ song.

Ali produced his first album in 1971, the first in the history of Oromo music, according to MusicInAfrica.

He then recorded successful hits such as ‘Hin Yaadin,’ ‘Asabalee,’ ‘Ammalelee,’ and ‘Gamachu.’ His albums included Sudanese songs such as ‘Al-Habib Ween’ and Harari songs such as ‘Yidenqal.’

Speaking about his musical philosophy to travel book Culture Trip in 2016, he said: “I believe in small incremental changes to my music while staying faithful to its origins”.

“I have tried to use new technological means while respecting the past,” he added.

Ali said his music study in the U.S. allowed him “to better analyze music and its scales”.

“At the same time I can play many different instruments,” the artist said. “Many new musicians today are only vocalists or they can only play one instrument.”

The artist received an honorary doctorate of music degree from Jimma University in 2010 for his outstanding performances and unique songs whose messages touched the hearts and minds of millions.

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