British Columbia

Surrey siblings using dance and comedy on TikTok to call out outdated cultural beliefs

Two siblings from Surrey, B.C., are aiming to bring some joy to a pandemic-weary world and challenge outdated cultural beliefs — one TikTok video at a time.

Amreen Gill and Swarndeep Gill, a.k.a. OGBhangralicious, have raked in more than 10 million likes on the app

Amreen Gill and Swarndeep Gill want to bring joy to the world with their dancing videos along with awareness about social issues like gender equality and mental health. (Submitted by BhangraLicious)

Two siblings from Surrey, B.C., are aiming to bring some joy to a pandemic-weary world and challenge outdated cultural beliefs — one TikTok video at a time.

Amreen Gill and Swarndeep Gill have raked in over a million followers on various social media platforms and more than 10 million likes on TikTok alone with their dance and comedy videos.

Under the name OGBhangralicious, the duo makes dance videos inspired by bhangra and Punjabi folk dance, along with witty satirical comedy videos that often make references to conservative views in their Punjabi culture.

They have been making YouTube dance tutorials since 2018, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began they took a chance to explore other platforms like TikTok in order to bring some light to dark times.

"Suddenly overnight, all of your social life is taken away and you're just left with staring at your phone in your in your bedroom," Amreen said about the impact of the pandemic. She added that social media also helped people feel like they weren't alone. 

Satirical commentary

The siblings grew up in Punjab, India, and went on to study in North America — Amreen in the U.S. and Swarndeep in Alberta — which helped them broaden their world view and adopt a progressive outlook, Swarndeep said.

They both moved to Surrey in 2018.

While their social media journey started with making bhangra videos, their content has evolved into a mix of dance and social commentary, Amreen says.

She says a big chunk of their viewership is Punjabi and some of them still hold outdated views. She hopes to empower women who watch her videos to speak up about their rights.

"I say stuff like, your husband should help you in the kitchen ... raising kids is not just your responsibility," Amreen said.

Swarndeep, meanwhile, says his comedic take on important issues like mental health has struck a chord with the viewers. 

Many people in the Punjabi community don't take mental health seriously enough, he says.

"People just don't believe you're depressed. They say, 'you're just hungry,' or, 'I'll just go and have a peg [drink] or two and I'll be fine,'" Swarndeep said.

The duo say their inboxes are flooded with messages whenever they post a new video. Most are from younger South Asian immigrants who miss their siblings, or young women who appreciate Amreen's messages about gender equality and Swarndeep's talks about mental health. 

Unique dance style

Viewers are also noticing the siblings' unique dance style. 

"Growing up in India, watching MTV, you're exposed to Beyoncé and like J-Lo, but you're also exposed to [Bollywood stars] Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi," Amreen said.

They both feel inspired by Punjabi folk dances and treat the bhangra style as the foundation of their choreography — but mixing their steps with hip hop has set them apart from other Bhangra dancers on social media.

The evolution of Punjabi music has also helped them keep their style unique, as modern producers move away from the beat of the dhol — the Punjabi traditional drum — toward more experimental, hip hop and rap-centred music. 

Amreen and Swarndeep say if they can empower at least one person through their videos, they will consider themselves successful. 

"If I can change one young woman's mind that you need to be financially independent, you need to stand on your own two feet, that makes me very happy," Amreen said.


CBC British Columbia has launched a Surrey bureau to help tell your stories with reporter Kiran Singh. Story ideas and tips can be sent to kiran.singh@cbc.ca.

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