In the wake of their media show, wearing native dresses, Maasai, in the company of cows, Tanzania’s most recent TikTok sensations, siblings Kili and Neema Paul, are set to film their newest video.
The siblings set up a mobile phone on a tripod a few poles away from their house in Mindu Tulieni, in a little countryside in the eastern Pwani location. The closest town, Lugoba, is barely one hour away by foot. Due to no electricity introduction in the little countryside, Kili goes to the town daily to power his smartphone.
Putting themselves in position in front of the camera, Kili, 26, stands just at the back of his sister Neema. As soon as the music starts, the two of them take it, in turn, to lip-sync very well in Hindi and dance to some of Bollywood’s most popular songs.
In the past few months, their lip-syncing videos have become a wide sensation through out the whole of India.
Their most viral video, a performance of Raataan Lambiyan from this year’s Bollywood film Shershaah, touched over one million views within some days.
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It was shared by the film’s leading actors Kiara Advani and Sidharth Malhotra.The song’s original performer, Jubin Nautiyal, surprised the siblings when they took part in a live interview on one of India’s radio stations.
“Everybody knows you in India,” Nautiyal told them. “You guys are famous!”
Broadcast from Mindu Tulieni, where most of the countryside kinsmen do not own smartphones, Kili and Neema did not not believe their videos would get across millions of Indian population and even worldwide.
“In the beginning it was just about having fun, we never thought we would go viral,” says Kili. “So when I started seeing the amount of views and the responses from people in India, I was so shocked. My mind was blown.”
The inspiration for their videos comes from a love for Bollywood films, which Kili first watched when he went away to school in the capital, Dodoma.
Despite not knowing the language, he and his sister have taught themselves to sing in Hindi.
“Since I was young, I have been watching Bollywood films in the local cinemas in Tanzania and I fell in love with the movies and the songs. When you love something it becomes easy to learn,” says Kili.
“It takes me just a couple of days to learn the lyrics and to practise the song. I find out what the lyrics mean in English so I can also add the right expressions,” he says.
“Even before I understand what the song is about, I connect with the music.”
Initially performing the videos by himself, Kili enlisted his sister Neema, who shares his passion for Bollywood, to join him in the videos.
“When my brother asked me to do the videos with him, I refused at first because I was too shy to be in front of the camera,” says Neema.
“But then I started to get used to it. It is so strange what has happened – we never thought a day like this would come.”
The siblings, who formerly use their time to herd cattle and farming, now basking their time doing interviews for India’s largest television and radio channels. In their own country, they are also getting attention as Tanzania’s most famous TikTok stars. Kili’s verified TikTok account now has 1.8 million followers. He started his account less than a year ago – hearing about the app through friends. Neema has since set up her own Instagram account, which has nearly 65,000 followers.
But while the story of the siblings’ social media success has garnered international attention, their family and other villagers in the community have little idea about their new found fame.
“Many people here don’t have smartphones and they don’t know about social media. Even Neema doesn’t understand much. She just enjoys it but she doesn’t know the impact it is having,” Kili says.
“Everyone was very confused when journalists started coming to our village with TV crews.
“At first, my family wondered why I was singing and dancing instead of looking after the cows.
“Now they are starting to understand that I am doing something good.”
‘Dream come true’
The TikTok siblings haven’t still generated cash from their innovative creations, but soon they may be changing life in the country for a role on Tv.
Domestic media across India are reporting that offers from Bollywood have already started.
It is a dream come true for Kili and Neema, who say they have always wanted to be in the entertainment industry, but never believed it would be possible.
“We come from a small village outside of the city, so I never thought my dreams to be an actress and to be in front of the camera would ever happen. I just kept that in my heart,” says Neema, who unlike her brother has never lived away from Mindu Tulieni.
“To get the chance to travel to India would be amazing.”
With the world watching, the siblings say they are eager to start working on new content for their followers.
“We just want people to be enjoying the videos, that is why we started doing it,” says Kili.
“Big things are coming, so our fans should stay tuned.”
Priya Sippy is a freelance journalist based in London.