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How Daler Mehndi's "Tunak Tunak Tun" Became A Global Viral Phenomenon

The story begins in the year 2000, before YouTube was even born...

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It was the beginning of 1998, and Daler Mehndi was a sad man. Critics refused to acknowledge his talent, and wrote off all his success to the use of attractive women in his videos.

SonyMusicIndiaVEVO

Instead of sulking, Mehndi decided to shut them down by making "Tunak Tunak Tun" – a high-art music video that featured no props, no sets, and no human beings other than four dancing Dalers.

The song was one of the country's first to make such extensive use of green screen and CGI.
SonyMusicIndiaVEVO / Via youtube.com

The song was one of the country's first to make such extensive use of green screen and CGI.

In the most awesome clapback in Indian music history, the track became one of the biggest Indipop hits of all time. The legend had proven he needed no one but himself to sell his music.

Mehndi would go on to sell millions of copies in India and around the world.
SonyMusicIndiaVEVO

Mehndi would go on to sell millions of copies in India and around the world.

Mehndi moved on and created several other 🔥 tracks. But with broadband internet just taking off, "Tunak" was still slowly reaching new audiences every day. The song hadn't even begun hitting true virality yet.

It took until 2000 for the first "Tunak" parody to surface on the internet, courtesy American comedian Dannel Gomiller's website Lord Of Dance. But when it did, it blew up almost instantly.

In the super low quality video, Gollimer tried to recreate Mehndi's cult dance moves in different locations around his house. At its most viral, the video got over 17,000 views daily.
lordofdance.com

In the super low quality video, Gollimer tried to recreate Mehndi's cult dance moves in different locations around his house. At its most viral, the video got over 17,000 views daily.

Despite the parody's unprecedented success, it would only get mentioned on internet chat forums for the next few years. That was until 2005, when EVERYTHING changed:

The launch of YouTube saw the parodies taking off again, after Gollimer re-uploaded his video on the new platform. People from around the world tried hard to channel their inner Daler.

The parodies soon began getting more elaborate and creative. From gamers to phonetic translator and former YouTuber Buffalax (R.I.P.), everyone was earning millions of views paying homage to this jam.

The World Of Warcraft parody above actually led to "Tunak" being incorporated in the game by its developers in 2008.
youtube.com

The World Of Warcraft parody above actually led to "Tunak" being incorporated in the game by its developers in 2008.

Every few months, a new viral parody involving "Tunak" has surfaced without fail.

Over the past 15 or so years, the meme has survived and adapted to all the countless changes and phases internet behaviour has been through, including the dark days when cats took over everything.

It should be noted that it's not just the video. The song itself is viral and refuses to die. It reached #28 in Belgium's official top 50 charts earlier this year.

That's 18 whole years after it first released.
ultratop.be

That's 18 whole years after it first released.

And while Mehndi himself has been part of other amazingly viral content, nothing has touched the scale and spread of his original creation.

TL;DR – "Tunak" was viral internet content before viral internet was a thing.

BuzzFeed

And while we wait to see how people adapt it in the years to come, please enjoy the latest viral iteration of the most historic meme India has ever produced:

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