Saania Tabaydar, 21, and her 18-year-old sister Muqaddas, from Lahore, eastern Pakistan, became instant hits in 2015 after a video in which they imitated Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ went viral .

It was the sisters’ favorite Bieber song and their mother could be seen strumming beats on a pot in the background.

The home video racked up millions of views, propelling the duo, now known as Justin Bibis (Justin Girls) to fame. They have been guest on TV shows for live performances and also featured in the 2015 Cricket World Cup Anthem.

However, their biggest breakthrough came this year when they debuted on the 14th season of Pakistan’s most acclaimed music performance show, Coke Studio, where they starred with Hasan Raheem in “Peechay Hutt”. (Back off).

But reaching what is now surely the pinnacle of their musical career was no small feat.

Hailing from the bourgeois neighborhood of Shadra Imamia Colony in Lahore, the girls lived a simple childhood and dropped out of school at an early age.

“We come from a very simple household, a typical middle-class family,” the duo told Al Jazeera.

The sisters completed each other’s sentences throughout the interview.

“We dropped out of school when we were in second grade. We cannot say the reasons, but the situation was such that even our uniforms were worn and torn.

The girls tried to return to school but had to drop the idea as their extended family was against it.

“Our extended family does not see education as a positive aspect. They don’t even let men continue their education,” they said.

The daily financial struggles for the family were an additional misfortune.

“We saw days where we had one meal a day and weren’t sure if we would have food the next day.”

For their mother, Shehnaz Tabaydar, there were days when “maintenance of the kitchen became impossible and the family had to borrow for food”.

Despite these problems, the girls tried to live their lives to the fullest by finding other ways to occupy themselves: household chores and playing with friends.

But it was music – a privilege they cherished most throughout their childhood – that offered them a ray of hope.

“Because we were uneducated, we didn’t dream big of succeeding in other professions. The only thing that mattered was learning the music and people all over the world loved us for what we did.

Their family hails from Rajasthan in northern India and has strong ties to the music industry.

Their father is a musical director and their paternal aunt, Naseebo Lal, is a renowned Pakistani folk singer who also featured in this edition of Coke Studio.

“Growing up, we saw our father being extremely busy while working with our aunt. We were inspired by them. Also, as we are from Rajasthan, music is culturally in our blood,” they added.

The sisters said that although their father was usually away due to his busy schedule, their mother always supported them and pushed them to push their limits, especially in front of family members and friends.

They also have a 15 year old brother who is a drummer. Together, they wanted to “one day have a band”.

But it was Muqaddas who entered the world of music first, singing one of Indian legend Lata Mangeshkar’s classics at the age of four.

Saania said she was shy, but as she constantly watched her younger sister perform enthusiastically, her confidence improved and she followed the same path.

Over the years, the support of their parents has also enabled the sisters to challenge social stereotypes against women, they said.

“Since we were girls, our extended family did not allow us to sing and dance. But it is thanks to our parents, their time and their constant courage to support us that we have come this far.

“Our mother trained us regularly a few days a week. She even stood up for us when other people disagreed with what we were doing. She was really into music, given that our maternal grandfather also played tabla.

Internet to the rescue

The Justin Bibis acquired no formal English education but, throughout their teenage years, admired Bieber and his music, learning his songs by transcribing them into Urdu.

“We were humming his song while doing chores – cooking, cleaning. It was non-stop,” they enthused.

The young girls were in love with music but their lives took a different turn.

They married at the age of 16 because, according to the sisters, “the families insisted on it to fulfill their cultural responsibility”. The duo were also repeatedly teased by their friends for being uneducated and unable to speak English.

But they still wanted to make a name for themselves in the music industry and the internet came to their rescue.

‘Baby’ in the park

It was just a normal day with their friends in a park when the girls sang Bieber’s “Baby” while playing Antakshari – a spoken word board game popular across South Asia.

“Our friends teased us a lot that day, saying that we can’t sing a song in English because we haven’t been educated. We literally told them that we could sing in English. They only to ask us. And when our turn came, we chose the Justin Bieber song.

Their talent was quick to attract the attention of passers-by.

“Someone randomly recorded us and suddenly our video went viral.”

By the time the girls got home that day, they were stunned to see their faces on TV.

“We were shocked and amazed. We had no idea our video had garnered so much attention in a matter of hours. To this day we don’t know who filmed it but we are so grateful to that person,” they said before adding that some “family members were unhappy with our notoriety and laughed at us”.

The struggles continue

However, despite a rapid rise to stardom, the time between that date and their Coke Studio appearance was spent struggling financially. Even today, the family cannot afford to buy their own car.

“The years after the video went viral, we still suffered a lot financially, but our demands were still simple, so we were able to survive,” they said.

Despite endless difficulties, the girls refused to give up.

In 2019, while constantly looking for opportunities, they texted musician Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan (Xulfi), who is the current executive producer of Coke Studio Pakistan, asking him to remember them for any future work.

“We texted him and forgot about him. Honestly, we didn’t even know he was involved with Coke Studio at that time.

Two years later, they received an unexpected call and an offer to perform at Coke Studio. At that time, Saania was pregnant but their excitement knew no bounds.

“We dropped everything and decided to meet the Coke Studio team. That day felt like an adventure.

According to Xulfi, the Bibis fight was fierce and he remembered them because of their viral video.

“I always found their story very honest and passionate,” Xulfi told Al Jazeera. “As they sang this song [in 2015]it was on a road, and the way they behaved, I could feel that they took it as a challenge that they had to overcome.

He added that the duo’s courage and resilience also fit the show’s theme this season.

“They have to keep making music, keep telling stories, and keep collaborating. They are an incredible duo with an incredible history and they are a representation of Pakistan,” he added.

After the success of Peechay Hutt, the Bibis are now aiming to continue their musical career. They want to continue working while making sure their children carry on their musical legacy.