Sado Ali portrait painted by Ahmed Magare upon hearing the news of her death.
Born in Buuhoodle in northwestern Somalia, Sado Ali Warsame was discovered in 1973 by Said Salah Ahmed, the esteemed Somali playwright, poet, and professor.
Ahmed was visiting Sado’s family at the time and heard her casually singing in what would later became a nationally recognized voice. In an interview dated Oct. 2010, Sado said, “Said Salah was the man who discovered the talent in me when he heard me playfully sing in my house as a young teenage girl”. Shortly after being discovered, she joined Qalinle and Shankaroon, two of the most noted Somali actors and singers, who were then working on a play for Lafoole University graduates.
Unfortunately, the play didn’t make to the stage as it was banned by the Siad Barre regime. You could say Sado started her career as a singer, actress and activist at that moment. Later that year, Qalinle invited her to be part of a play he was leading. Entitled “Hadrawi and Garriye”, the play was written by Said Ahmed. Of the play, Sado said she was “lucky” to be part of such a daring production in which she sang the first song of her professional career, thus cementing her popularity as a singer. Popularity she would later use to help her fellow countrymen when she took part in a project intended to help the victims of the infamous 1975 famine. History repeated itself 40 years later when Sado reprised her role in that same play during the 2011 humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
Sado has always been a voice for the voiceless. Her drive to stand up against oppression was not only aimed at the Barre regime, she also stood up in defense of her hometown against the Somaliland offensive. More recently, she spoke about the Lower Shabelle crises after clan motivated clashes broke out. Sado Ali Warsame was not only an artist and a singer. Her importance to the Somali speaking masses went beyond her beautiful voice. For over 40 years, Sado was a cultural icon and symbol of freedom, fighting for oppressed people in Somalia regardless of class or clan affiliation.
However, her willingness to speak out for causes she cared about has gotten her into trouble with authorities on many occasions including being jailed. During Barre’s regime, Sado was deemed a dangerous Anti-revolution. This was after she had sung her now famous song “Land Cruiser” in which she indirectly criticized corruption of the ruling party. Along with her Waberi band colleagues, Sado travelled the world, representing her country in as far-flung places as Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, China, Kuwait and many other countries.
Following the outbreak of the Somali civil war in 1991, Sado fled to the United States but her love for Somalia had never diminished. She regularly took part in events around the world to help in the reconciliation of Somalis.
In what must have been the highlight of her long and illustrious career, in 2011 Sado was presented with a lifetime achievement award to acknowledge her role in the development of Somali music, her defense of human rights and promotion of unity and peace among Somalis.
In 2012 after 20 year absence from her beloved country and in what would prove to be a fateful decision, Sado returned to Mogadishu where she was elected as a legislator in the country’s federal parliament. She was shot dead on July 23rd, 2014, less than 2 years after her decision to take part of the rebuilding of Somalia. She was killed along with another civil servant in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu.
By Mohamed Haji