Renowned Somali musician Ahmed Naji Sa’ad, whose career spanned nearly seven decades, has died.
He had a huge fan base – young and old – in Somalia and across the world amongst the large diaspora community.
He too was based outside Somalia, eventually settling in London after leaving in 1991 when the country descended into decades of conflict.
Naji was a singer-song writer – famous for poetic and patriotic hits – and could play many instruments.
He was synonymous with rhythmic Banaadiri music from the south of the country, but was at the cutting edge of blending Somalia’s rich mix of musical styles with contemporary sounds.
Born in Shibis, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the capital, Mogadishu, in 1939, he finished school, as well as quranic school, in the city when it was under colonial rule.
He learnt how to read music and started performing around the age of 15 in the years leading up to independence in 1960.
“At that time, patriotic songs were sung,” he once said.
He was one of the founder members of the Sharero Band, famous for its funky tunes that was hugely popular in Mogadishu in the 1960s and 1970s.
He went on to become the head of music at the government’s Council of Culture and Entertainment.
Naji is remembered too as a great producer, bringing famous female singers like Fatumo Qasim Hilowle and Asha Abdow to the fore.
He also wrote plays, poetry and short stories – and helped many others break into the industry.
He reportedly last visited Somalia in 2011, but would often urge the young to return.
During a visit to the BBC studios in London in 2015, he said one of songs had the lyrics “your country is waiting for you” in which he urged young people to go home to rebuild the country as it tried to recover from years of civil war and an Islamist insurgency.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud praised Naji as one of the pillars of Somalia’s arts scene who would be much missed.
“His name carried weight in the arts community and with all Somali people.