In the last month, millions of people on TikTok fell in love with a song usually played at Somali weddings, which made the song so popular that artist Nimco Happy got a distribution deal.
The song is called “Isii Nafta”, which means “give me life”, but it is better known by its catchy lyrics “I love you more than my life”.
Nimco spoke exclusively to BuzzFeed News from Mogadishu, saying that two and a half weeks ago she found out that her song had gone viral after she was tracked down by Polydor Records, a subsidiary of Universal.
“Wallahi, I felt happy, elated,” she said. “I can not describe it in words, but I felt overjoyed. I felt that the world had finally recognized me. That I am known internationally. ”
Cardi B posted a video of herself and her sister dancing to it Thursday, Drake commented “this song so hard” on a meme page, and Bella Hadid re-posted a video of Nimco performing, surrounded by smiling dancing police officers.
“I’m so happy to be here and have come this far,” Nimco said. “That I can be here with a Somali name, with my Somalinimo.”
This is not the first time the five-year-old song has gone viral. Two years ago, it became a hit among people in East Africa, thanks to its hook, where Nimco sings “I love you” in four languages: Somali, English, Arabic and Swahili.
This led to a meme where people say they can say “I love you” in multiple languages.
Nimco said she can confidently speak Somali and Swahili well and can only speak a little bit of English and Arabic.
In recent weeks, Nimco has been following and keeping up with all the TikTok trends using her song, saying she can’t pick a favorite. “I can not choose one. I want to say thank you. I want to thank them all,” she said.
The happy nature of “Isii Nafta” has united people all over the globe, where the song is played at parties, and celebrities like Trever Noah have participated in the fun.
A TikToker made a satirical video that sang the tune as if it were an indie ballad.
Hibak Iman, 24, based in Melbourne, Australia, told BuzzFeed News that the multilingual part of the song helped it go viral.
“Somalis are just protagonists,” Iman said. “We are such a supportive ethnic group of people. We constantly hyper each other so we were obsessed with the song and our energy is contagious so other people got obsessed too.”
Nimco loves to see people engage in Somali culture through its singing. “I love watching people sing in our language,” she said. “I’ve seen all the front pages. I’ve seen them by the white boys singing my song. I’ve seen the Asian girls. I’ve seen them all.”
When she was growing up, Nimco used to mainly listen to Somali women, such as Khadra Daahir, Sahra Axmed and Saynab Cige, she said. She first started playing music as a child and played guitar and always wanted to perform, but waited until she married children. Now she sometimes performs with her musician husband.
“When you are young in Somali culture, when someone starts performing with music, we tell them to sit down because they are too young,” Nimco said. “We tell them that’s it important. We tell them to stop. “
In 2015, she began her music career, where she posted songs on YouTube and performed locally.
The now viral video of her performance was recorded in June 2017, when she appeared on a show that was broadcast to Eid on the Kenya-based Somali channel RTV. She said she has now performed the song on almost every Somali TV channel in the years since.
After it recently gained traction on TikTok, people have mainly streamed the song on YouTube and via unauthorized uploads on Spotify. In total, these uploads have received more than 500,000 listens, none of which will count in Nimco’s official streaming figures.
The official version of “Isii Nafta” was made available on streaming platforms this week after Nimco signed with Polydor. BuzzFeed News understands that her team is working to remove the unauthorized uploads.
Now, Nimco said that since the hit went viral, she can not go out without being recognized, so she makes sure to always have a face mask on that makes her unidentifiable.
“Wallahi, my phone is not resting,” she said. She said people call her just to congratulate her or to tell her that there are various companies that want to get in touch with her. “People share their joy for me, with me,” she said.
Asked what was next for her, Nimco said she takes everything step by step. “You’re in a different place every day,” she said. “I want to go further in my career, make more achievements. Come on, work hard. “
And she had a message for her followers whose success she said she was asking for: “One love.”