Ali Birra


Ali Birra (born September 29, 1950) is a famous Oromo singer, composer, poet and nationalist. He was born in Lagaharre village in the city of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.

He was brought up by his father. He attended Arabic school as a child where he learnt Arabic language. He then enrolled in local academic school and pursued his education till the sixth grade. In his early years, Ali used to do small street businesses to support himself. When he was 13, he joined Afran Qallo cultural group which was then operating unofficially to promote the Oromo music and culture. The first song that he sung on stage was called 'Birra dha Bari’e' after which he was nicknamed him 'Ali Birra,' meaning 'Ali the Spring.'

The Haile Selasie regime banned the group in 1965 and arrested some of its members. Ali escaped arrest and moved to Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa, he was engaged in different activities along with singing.

Ali came to know the nationalist Ahmad Taqi, who bought him a guitar so that Ali could sing more widely. His fame increased dramatically throughout the city. He was able to sing in Amharic, Arabic, Harari, and Somali languages, in addition to Oromo, his mother tongue. This had gained him appreciation from different personalities including Eyoel Yohannes, at the time the head of Kibur Zebegna. Eyoel recruited him as a solo singer in Oromo. He joined other famous singers such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Tilahun Gessesse and Bizunesh Bekele.

With these groups, he traveled to all regions of the country and showcased his talent. He also traveled to the Sudan repeatedly and sang with well known celebrities like Mohammed Wardi. In Addis , he performed in large venues such as Hager Fiker and Ras Teyater, but on the advice of his father, he left Addis Ababa.

In the early 1970s, at the breakout of the Ethiopian revolution, Ahmad Taqi was killed in eastern Ethiopia while fighting the government army. Ali Birra mourned him deeply.

Ali Birra continued his career both as a musician and a composer. He produced his first album in 1971, the first in the history of Oromo music. 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.'


Track artwork
Ali Birra - Vol.1 Side B06 Hammalelee Acoustic
ETAddis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Ali Birra
Profile added by Stanley Gazemba on 22 Jul 2014