Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 28 January 2020

Swedish rapper Imenella takes on Amr Diab's 'Habibi Ya Nour El Ein'

Swedish Somali artist Imenella says the song is a childhood favourite

The Swedish Somali rapper Imenella has released her own version of an Amr Diab classic hit. Picture by Pontus Hammarström
The Swedish Somali rapper Imenella has released her own version of an Amr Diab classic hit. Picture by Pontus Hammarström

One of Sweden’s hottest new music talents dropped a cover of an Egyptian pop classic.

For her new single, the rapper and dancer Imenella took on Amr Diab’s 1996 hit Habibi Ya Nour El Ein.

Released as part of Spotify Singles initiative, in which the artist records the song inside the streaming giant’s studio in Stockholm, the track has Imenella blending her tough hip-hop sounds with the oriental flavour of the Arab pop anthem.

The verses are initially rapped in Swedish before that familiar “habibi, habibi” refrain of Diab’s hit comes through. In an exclusive chat with The National Imenella – full name Imen Kalsan Mohamed – said she chose the song as she is a fan of Arabic pop.

“I am a big fan of Middle Eastern music and I have always been around friends who speak Arabic so hearing the songs was a part of that,” she said. “I listen to it regularly and have a playlist of my favourites.”

Born in Somalia in 1988, Imenella migrated to Sweden with her mother and four siblings at the age of six. She got a taste of the music life early, with her mother, Xabiba Wanaag, a renowned Somali folk singer who toured the world to perform for the country's large diaspora.

Dipping her toes into the industry as a choreographer and dancer, Imenella eventually focused on music from 2017. She scored a national hit with Chagga and went on to win the prestigious Newcomer of the Year Award at the 2019 Grammy Gala in Sweden.

Raised in a multicultural society, Imenella said Arabic pop was a steady soundtrack throughout her life. She explains that she worked to ensure that her version of Habibi Ya Nour El Ein was not only well done, but can hopefully offer some light hearted fun in what is already a cold and miserable Swedish winter.

“Nour El Ain was a very important song for me growing up,” she says. “I loved it from the first time I heard my friend play it. It has a feel good vibe and my goal with using the song was to make people dance and feel happy especially during the winter months when it’s so cold and dark here in Sweden.”

And if there is a chance to escape the chill and perform in the UAE, Imenella is ready.

"It would feel like a dream come true to perform in UAE, it is definitely on my bucket list of things that I would love to do,” she says. “I hope I get that amazing opportunity in the future”

Updated: December 4, 2019 05:40 PM

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