With their recent zesty, high-energy performance at this year’s Coke Studio, it’s fair to say that the Justin Bibis have come a long way when it comes to their musical journey. After having their cover of Justin Bieber’s 2010 hit Baby spread like wildfire all over Pakistani social media, the Bibis slowly faded into the background of a world with an ever-shrinking attention span. However, with their recent collaboration with Pakistan’s indie-pop darling Hasan Raheem in the CS track Peechay Hutt, the Bibis are back, and it looks like they’re determined on staying.
Hailing from Lahore, 21-year-old Saania and her 18-year-old sister Muqaddas Tabaydar recently sat down for a conversation with Al Jazeera, reflecting on their humble beginnings, viral success and their Coke Studio debut.
Raised in a cash-strapped but exceedingly musical family, with the Bibis’ father being a musical director and their paternal aunt, Naseebo Lal, being an icon of the Pakistani music scene, the sisters’ penchant for music goes deep. “Growing up, we saw our father being extremely busy while also working with our aunt. We were inspired by them. Also, since our background is from Rajasthan, music is culturally in our blood,” they shared.
The duo explained what music meant to them, “Since we were not educated, we didn’t dream big on becoming successful in other professions. The only thing that mattered was learning music and people across the world loving us for what we do.”
Sharing how the two dropped out of school early on due to lack of finances, they revealed, “We dropped out of school when we were in year two. We can’t tell the reasons but the situation was such that even our uniforms were worn out and torn apart.”
“Our extended family doesn’t view education as a positive aspect. They don’t even let men continue their education,” explained the Bibis.
Muqadas was the first to step into the musical spotlight by singing Lata Mangeshkar covers at the age of four, with her older sister eventually following suit. Sharing how they faced criticism from relatives due to their love for music and dance, the Bibis added, “Since we were girls, our extended family did not allow us to sing and dance. But it was because of our parents, their time and constant courage in supporting us that we have come this far.
Crediting their mother for nurturing their dreams despite financial hardships and societal expectations, they shared, “Our mother would consistently train us a couple of days every week. She even stood up for us when other people would disagree with what we were doing. She was really passionate about music, considering our maternal grandfather also played the tabla.”
In 2015, the sisters garnered millions of views after a passerby filmed them singing Justin Bieber’s Baby in the street, which led to the birth of the Justin Bibis. Reflecting on what prompted the two to perform the song despite not knowing the English language, the duo explained, “Our friends teased us a lot that day, saying we can’t sing an English song since we were not educated. We literally told them we can sing in English. All they need to do is ask us. And when our turn came, we picked Justin Bieber’s song.”
On the success of the video, they added, “We were shocked and amazed. We had no idea that our video grabbed so much attention in a few hours. Even today, we don’t know who filmed it but we are so grateful to that person.” However, the Bibis revealed that they faced criticism from their relatives, “Family members weren’t pleased with our fame, and taunted us.”
The sisters were married at the tender age of 16, with Saania sharing that she was pregnant at the time Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan’s (Xulfi’s) Coke Studio offer arrived. “We dropped everything and decided to meet Coke Studio’s team. That day felt like an adventure,” they recalled.
The Bibis had dropped a message to the music producer two years before the offer was made in 2019, with Xulfi reflecting on the duo’s ferocity and struggle, “I always found their story to be very honest and passionate. The moment they were singing that song [in 2015], it was on a road, and the way they performed, I could sense they had taken this as a challenge that they had to get done.”
“They need to keep making music, keep telling stories and keep collaborating. They are an amazing duo with an amazing story and they are a representation of Pakistan,” he added.
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