Playlist: Aar Maanta Youtube hits


Still from Aar Maanta's music video
Still from Aar Maanta's music video "Dhaayaha." (Courtesy of the artist.)

This playlist is a bonus feature of The Current Rewind, the podcast putting music's unsung stories on the map.

Listen on Apple PodcastsSubscribe: Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RSS, Spotify, Stitcher

The Current Rewind is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Culture Heritage Fund.

Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has become one of the largest social media platforms. It's a space where musicians showcase their work and connect with listeners from across the world. YouTube has also become an indispensable tool for Somali artists to share their music and create an online community.

"It's really a flourishing musical ecosystem that exists outside the idea of labels and the ways music is dispersed and the ways artists are cared for by the community," the Cedar Cultural Center's director of marketing and communications, Alana Horton, told The Current Rewind producer Cecilia Johnson. "It's totally a different model from what I've seen. The main place where [Somali] people are finding and consuming [music] — is still YouTube."

"Social media, especially YouTube, has its negatives, but it also has a lot of positives as well," Aar Maanta told Johnson. Aar Maanta is a Somali musician who lives in the U.K. His YouTube channel hosts dozens of videos, including music videos and live performances that have collectively accumulated more than 7 million views. Aar Maanta also posts blog-type videos called "Diary of a Somali Singer," where he talks to his audience and fills them in on what he's been up to, from traveling to Minneapolis for the Cedar Cultural Center's Midnimo residency to visiting refugee camps.

"I used to put them on my YouTube channel when I went to the refugee camps so that regardless of where you are, you could see what you've been up to," Maanta said. "It's very important."

To give you a sense of the music and stories that exist on Aar Maanta's channel, we've put together a list of some of the singer-songwriter's videos.


This 2009 music video is the most popular video on Aar Maanta's YouTube channel, with over 1.2 million views. The video's comment section is flooded with notes from listeners from Kenya to Australia and Minnesota, who have connected with the song.


"Deeqa means "suffice" in English, and is one of the most popular Somali female names," Aar Maanta said. "It has also become the nickname of Somali Airlines, which ceased operations in 1991, the same year that Somalia's civil war broke out. "That song was in response to the struggles of Somali people when they can't fly, and [are] always under suspicion just [because] they happen to be American citizens or European citizens."

In the video, two British immigration officers flood Aar Maanta with a tirade of questions, which are based on notes from real interactions that he had with European immigration officers. "To this day I get people emailing me and telling me the significance of that song and how almost everyone, like a member of their family, was able to relate to that song, and this is how they treated us all."

"I think one of the human rights lawyers tweeted," Aar Maanta continued. "He was telling me how he now used that particular video to train some of the immigration officers not to deal with people."


In this video, Aar Maanta sings and plays the oud, accompanied by a percussionist. The video description explains that the song is a Somali song in the traditional Qaaci format, meaning performed with oud and percussion. "In this song, Aar Maanta talks about the current political impasse in Somalia and the social issues facing the Somali people," the description reads. "The song also touches the moral changes that have happened since the start of the civil war."


Aar Maanta originally wrote "Tahriib" as an a capella song, in response to a family member who was a victim of human trafficking. The song's title has been translated to "Dangerous Crossings," and the original video reached thousands of people within the first day of posting.

The United Nations reached out to Aar Maanta and asked him to re-record the song to use for their anti-human trafficking campaign. Soon after, five versions existed — one of each in Arabic, Oromo, Amharic, Tigrinya, and Somali (the original language). The music video features a number of collaborators, including Egyptian musician Hany Adel, Aar Maanta, and Ethiopian singer Yeshi Demelash.


"Dhaayaha" begins with a staccato keyboard and synth melody, and the video begins by panning over lush greenery in Nairobi, Kenya.


"Ugdoon" is Aar Maanta's newest music video, released in March 2019. Aar Maanta recorded the song with producer Bini Bana and recorded the video in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Aar Maanta's band plays on a rooftop overlooking a hazy sunset, which illuminates the city's skyline.