Activism and music in the life of a legendary singer
The following is an interview of Dr. Ali Birra with the Ethiopian Reporter.
Some of the rumours have it that you had a tumour, some say that it is cancer and others that one of your eyes is blind?
It is all true. For the past three years, three major things affected my life. Three years ago, I was diagnosed for colon cancer and had surgery; they were able to remove it. After the follow-up, now I am free from cancer. After a year, I was treated with glaucoma, they opened my head to correct my eyes and through the process they made a mistake, which cost me one of my eyes. The other eye as well only sees half of things. The surgery was performed in Canada and they did a mistake during surgery. They scraped the nerves while trying to remove the tumour. All I do is pray to God to make it all for good. Now, I feel fine.
We have also learned that you have been away from music for a while to focus on charity work. Can you elaborate on that?
I have not completely abandoned my musical work. It has been forty-nine years since I embarked on a musical career and for the celebration of my 50th anniversary next year, I am planning to release my last album and retire. But for now, my priority is charity work. The organization, which was founded by my wife and me, works on education and health in Ethiopia. It is really sad to see kids going to school without breakfast and torn, shabby uniforms; and we wanted to do something about that. When we were discussing the issue we realized that we had the opportunity and the access to help some of the kids. It is really sad to see the situation and not doing anything about it; in a way it makes us ignorant and we decided to start the Birra Children’s Education Fund.