It was the start of the academic year in early 2020. Jamayne Feast was hanging out with two friends in Christchurch when they decided to shoot a song and share it on the video-sharing social networking site TikTok. When he got home, his phone was “going crazy” he tells Frank Film.
What’s the matter? Taipua Feast, he inquired of his mother. “My TikTok!” he exclaimed. “What’s TikTok?” She responded with a query.
Feast became an overnight TikTok sensation. The short capella, Fli Fla Flo – “Kumbalala, Kumbalala, Kumbala savesta” – has racked up 10 million views, boosted his follower base from 3,000 to 600,000, and unleashed a flood of impersonations. Within two weeks, brokers, owners, and producers were courting the soft-spoken sports fan. Since his video went viral last year, he’s signed with a French record label and posted a remix of Savesta.
What did he do with the money?
“I spent it wisely.”
Did he always know he could sing?
“Not well enough to get 50 million views. But it happens – it is what it is.”
Exactly what it is mystified his mother and infuriated his grandmother. When a group of young fans found out his address, Yvonne Apanui sent the group of girls yelling at the gate packing. “I was out that door. I said, I don’t think so.”
The Chinese-owned social networking service is also a mystery to his rugby coaches. “I walk past boys flicking through their phones in the classroom,” says one, “but that’s about it.”
But his classmates are all too aware of the social media star pounding across the pitch. As one says, “Around school everyone wants to be his friend because of all his TikTok followers.”
Living with his extended family in Northwood, Feast appears level-headed, unassuming, quietly proud. On returning home from school he might find over a hundred requests on Instagram from people wanting him to promote their products – “I delete them all. I just can’t be bothered with it.”
His dream, he says, is not about music stardom but sport – he has represented Canterbury and the West Coast in four different codes. As his mother says, “He’s pretty hot stuff when it comes to sport.”
In the meantime, he keeps up with the demand for new content, “to keep my views up and keep my followers alive.”
What sort of thing do you post? asks Frank Film. “Umm… you won’t understand.”