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Ali Birra was born in Ganda Kore, Dire Dawa on September 29, 1947. His parents were separated when he was three years old, and subsequently raised by his father. He is one of the best singer and songwriter from Oromo. Oromo language is his mother tongue language. He attended Arabic school as a child, where he learned the Arabic language. In meanwhile he enrolled in local academic school and pursued his education till sixth grade.
In his early years, Ali would do small street-peddling in order to live without begging people for money to support his livelihood. When he was 13, he joined Afran Qallo, a cultural group which he was operating unofficially function to promote the Oromo music and culture. The first song that he sang on stage for first time called “Birra dha Bari’e”. After he sang the song, “Birra dha Bari’e”, people gave him a nickname called “Ali Birra”. Which “Ali” is his first name and “Birra: is the initial song name, when it comes together, it means, “Ali the Spring”. The government banned the Afran Qallo group in 1965 and arrested some of its members. Ali escaped arresting and moved to Addis Ababa.
After settling in Addis Ababa, he engaged in different activities along with singing. On this occasion, Ali came to know the nationalist Ahmad Taqi, and the latter bought him a guitar so that Ali could sing more widely. His fame increased dramatically throughout the city. He had the ability to sing in Amharic, Arabic, Harari, and Somali languages, in addition to Oromo, his mother tongue. He gained appreciation from different contemporary personalities including Eyoel Yohannes, at the time the head of Kibur Zebegna, who then recruited him as a solo singer in Oromo. He joined other famous singers such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Tilahun Gessesse, and Bizunesh Bekele.
He traveled with the group throughout the regions of the country, and even beyond to Sudan to sing with well-known celebrities like Mohammed Wardi. When he was in Addis Ababa, he would perform in large venues such as Hager Fiker and Ras Teyater, but following a discussion with his father, he left Addis Ababa. In the early 1970s, at the break of the Ethiopian revolution, Ahmad Taqi was killed in eastern Ethiopia while fighting the government army. Ali Birra mourned deeply and sang metaphorically,