‘Isii Nafta’: why are Bella Hadid and Cardi B posting about a Somali wedding song?

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Somali artist and TikTok user Nimco Happy has gone viral

It’s usually a tune you’d hear at Somali weddings, but now Isii Nafta has gone viral worldwide after stars such as Bella Hadid, Cardi B and Trevor Noah posted about it on social media.

The song, which is more popularly known by its lyrics “I love you more than my life”, is by artist Nimco Happy, who didn’t even know it had been trending until just over two weeks ago, when she was contacted by Polydor Records, a subsidiary of Universal, according to Buzzfeed News.

In the song, she sings in Somali, English, Arabic and Swahili.

“Wallahi, I felt happy, elated,” Happy told the publication of learning about her song going viral. “I can’t describe it in words, but I felt overjoyed. I felt like the world had finally recognised me. That I’m known internationally.”

She is most certainly known internationally. More than 100,000 videos on TikTok have featured her song, American rapper Cardi B posted a video of herself and her sister dancing to it on Thursday, and earlier this month, Palestinian-American supermodel Hadid reposted a video of Nimco performing.

Meanwhile, South African comedian Trevor Noah also posted a video of him singing along to it on The Daily Show‘s TikTok account.

Naturally, the original clip is now being used as meme fodder, and on one post Canadian rapper Drake commented, “This song so hard”.

It’s not a new song – it’s actually five years old, and two years ago people across East Africa embraced its catchy hooks.

Happy began her music career in 2015, posting songs on YouTube and performing live in her local area, and the popular video of her performance of Isii Nafta was recorded in 2017 for an Eid show on Kenyan Somali channel RTV, according to Buzzfeed.

Up until now, Happy wasn’t receiving any royalties for the song, as people accessed it via YouTube or unauthorised uploads, and yet it’s been listened to millions of times and spawned numerous remixes. As of this week, however, since she signed with Polydor Records, it’s had an official release and the song is available on streaming platforms worldwide.

Somali people are happy to see their culture being celebrated in mainstream media.

“It makes me so proud,” British Somali TikTok star Akafi Ali told The Guardian. “It’s like a room is being created for us, a space is being made for us. I feel like this is what we’ve always been waiting for.”

Updated: October 30th 2021, 11:41 AM

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