Ahmed Naji Sa'ad

Ahmed Naji Sa’ad, sometimes called the father of the modern Somali song, was a prolific Somali singer, composer, musician, and poet. More than that, however, he was a unifier. Born in 1939 in Mogadishu, Ahmed Naji Sa’ad found a passion in singing and linguistics at an early age. Because he was born towards the end of Italian colonial rule in Somalia, he was fluent in both Somali and Italian. As a young adult, he joined a popular local band called Luna Somala. His talents caused him to be recruited for Radio Mogadishu in 1962. As time progressed, he was made the head of Radio Mogadishu, and learned music production and composition along with performance. Beyond being a radio host, he was also a playwright and musician who played guitar, oud, mandolin, and piano. Naji’s music was informed by all areas of Somali culture from pre-colonial genres to post-colonial styles. He is known for performing in the Belwo style, which is often translated into English as “sorrow.” This style of music and poetry often deal with love and was created by the great Somali musician Abdi Sinimo.

Naji’s songs were filled with calls for unity and the end of tribalism in Somalia. Because of the hardships of the civil war, Naji left Somalia for Yemen and then moved to London in 1991, but he still continued to passionately create music about his homeland. He wrote songs and poems calling for the unification of Somalia such as “Soomaalaay Dalkaagii Mee?” (Oh Somalis, Where Has Your Country Gone?), and eventually, he was able to return to visit Somalia in 2011. He was extremely passionate about rebuilding the Somali nation and advocated for tranquility and peace. During the 2000 Djibouti peace talks in Arta, he was consistently a voice of reason and prosperity. Thousands of people attended his funeral in London and many took to the internet to pay their respects. Somalia’s Information Minister Daud Aweis said he was “Deeply saddened by the loss of Ahmed Naji Sa’ad, a true icon in Somali arts. His brilliance as a composer, singer, musician, and teacher will forever be remembered.” Naji passed away on September 4, 2023.