Dive into the Viral Vault, our new feature exploring viral videos in the early days of the internet. Today, we look at the kinetic poetry of Gary Brolsma’s “Numa Numa Dance.”
The month is December, the year 2004, and Newgrounds.com is already the thing that the rest of the internet is only just becoming. Peer-to-peer sharing is fading, hanging on by a Lime(wire)-colored thread after Napster had been sued into oblivion. Revolution awaits, led by new platforms MySpace and Facebook, as well as YouTube, set to launch in a few months. But from our vantage point in 2004, Tom Fulp operates Newgrounds on the thrilling edge of internet culture: a site powered by user-generated content full of flash games, in-jokes, absurdity, and joy.
“The community was lively,” Fulp tells Consequence when reached by email in January 2023, “and partly as a result of me being a teenager when I made NG and the site coming up in the late ’90s, the vibe was best defined as ‘edgy.'”
On December 6th, a user named Gman250 posted a video called “Numa Numa Dance.” Fulp put it on Newgrounds’ front page on December 12th, and the internet would never be the same.
As with so many viral moments that followed, there are several layers between where the idea first began and the final, glorious product. “Numa Numa Dance” finds Gman250 — the then-19-year-old Gary Brolsma — lip-synching to the song “Drogostea Din Tei” by Moldovan pop group O-zone.
“Drogostea Din Tei,” which is Romanian for “Love from the linden trees,” or “Love of the lindens,” was released in 2003 as the lead single from O-zone’s third studio album, DiscO-zone. Initially only a modest hit, it soon began a Sherman’s March up the Eurochart Hot 100, slowly scorching every song in its path until camping out at No. 1 from June to September of 2004.
It’s the kind of irresistible synth pop that transcends language. The melody is simple enough and catchy enough to get stuck in your head after a first listen, and the pace of syllable allows anyone, anywhere, to sing along. Never spoken Romanian before? “‘Hello,” is all but universal, and if you can’t pronounce the finer nuances of “Ma ya hi” or “nu mă, nu mă iei,” well, none of the other people dancing in the club would be able to tell.