Sat. May 28th, 2022

London, United Kingdom When Nimco Happy’s Isii Nafta (Love You More Than My Life) went viral on social media last year, many saw it as an important step towards Somali music enters the mainstream.

The multilingual song, sung in Swahili, English, Arabic and Somali, spread across the internet after gaining notoriety on TikTok.

For Fauzia, a British-Somali DJ and artist mentioning one name, the virality of the song by Nimco Elmi Ali, better known by her stage name Nimco Happy, is a sign of something more.

She told Al Jazeera that “to see this kind of emergence with Somali artists is really incredible, because I feel that it can now be seen for what it really is”.

Fauzia herself increased her contribution to the popularization of Somali music when she debuted her self-released EP album Flashes in Time at the Purcell Room – a concert and performance venue – at the historic Southbank Center in December last year.

“I initially wanted to build an installation. “I wanted to focus on the history of Somali music and build an installation using Somali instrumentation and rhythms, but use the sounds of electronic music from the UK to build this crossover of sounds,” she told Al Jazeera.

Somali music tour

Fauzia’s Somali music journey was started by her parents as a child, but it was only a few years ago that she started discovering artists herself and incorporating them into the NTS Radio program she had for the past four years.

“I think the last few years I have just started listening to Somali music properly, deliberately unlike my parents who have it on,” she said. “And I was like, wow, that’s absolutely amazing. Then last year I did a mix of just about all Somali music, which was very well received, and I really enjoyed doing the show.”

As the musical connection of Fauzia’s British and Somali backgrounds developed and introduced into her installation, she took it one step further.

She tried to find an intergenerational connection she could create with the Purcell Room, and found the Dur Dur Band.

Dur Dur Band, formed in the 1980s, is one of the most famous Somali disco-funk groups.

Their performances, based on the popular Somali oral tradition, rocked the famous Jubba Hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu – merging jazz, reggae and funk with songs about love and hardship.

But when the Civil War broke out in 1991, musicians fled the country and groups disbanded.

The new beginning

Dur Dur Band reformed in 2011 with one of the original members and artists of other Somali groups and now performs across the UK and Europe.

His music now includes Awesome Tapes of Africa and the 2017 Grammy-nominated compilation album, Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes from the Horn.

Hassan, an assistant manager and singer who joined during the coronavirus pandemic, told Al Jazeera that the group was doing well despite being hit hard by the pandemic with “24 posts canceled, including festivals”.

Hassan, who came to the UK from Djibouti at the age of 13, told Al Jazeera it was “fantastic” to see the rise of Somali music.

When he shared a stage with Fauzia, Hassan said: “I’m proud of what she’s doing. It’s out of context and out of everything we know. So to be on the same platform, it’s a fusion that was not for me like any other night. ”

Somali singer Nimco HappySomali singer Nimco Happy [Courtesy: Creative Commons]

On Nimco Happy’s song, he told Al Jazeera: “The smart thing she did was to add the Arabic and Swahili and then the English, which is great. That’s great. It’s simple. But, I love it. ”

Now Hassan says the group has plans to work with younger Somali artists, such as Sudan Serar, and continue performing.

For Fauzia, the rise of Nimco Happy and the performance with Dur Dur Band indicate a change for the better.

“I think a lot of people realize what a lot of people in the past knew… that this music is incredible. So it definitely feels like a very special time, ”she said.

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