Chicago father and son hit all the right notes in viral singing videos

Father and son Gabriel and Kael Lim, 6, embrace in their home in the Avondale neighborhood. The two are sensations on social media for their duets.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

When then-4-year-old Kael Gabriel Lim’s cover of “Monsters” by Katie Sky garnered over 6 million views in 10 days on TikTok, his father, Jan Gabriel Lim, knew his son was something special.

Now 6 years old, Kael and his father regularly post singing videos to their Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube accounts. The videos are father-and-son duets as well as Kael solos of popular songs. They’ve gained over 300,000 followers across the platforms. 

“He’s actually a shy guy if you talk to him, but then when he sings, you won’t notice any shyness,” Gabriel said. “That’s how confident he is in singing.”

Kael was reserved and gave one-word answers when speaking with a Sun-Times reporter, but his excitement about music was palpable.

“I just wanna be a great singer,” Kael said. “I want to be famous.”

Gabriel attributed 80% of their success to his son. With his wife, Manel Carla Lim, behind the camera and Gabriel editing using skills he learned on YouTube, though, the production is a family affair. Gabriel said it’s something that has brought them closer together, especially him and Kael. 

The Lims record their videos in a homemade recording studio in their attic (“Our studio!” Kael said when it was mentioned). They post “as often as we feel like it,” usually once every two or three days.

Gabriel, originally from the Philippines, moved to Chicago in 2013, and Manel and Kael joined him here 10 months ago. Before that, Gabriel would visit his family in the Philippines for one month every year. 

On a visit home in 2022 after 11 months apart, Gabriel remembered watching 4-year-old Kael belt out the words to a Disney song during a movie. 

“That’s when we realized, ‘Oh, wow, this kid can sing!’ And then that’s when we started recording,” Gabriel said. 

Manel would film videos during Gabriel’s absences.

That distance was difficult to handle, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it even worse, so Gabriel quit his job as a bellman and moved back to the Philippines for a year in 2022. That was when he and Kael started posting on social media more frequently. Gabriel returned to Chicago in February 2023 and Manel and Kael joined him in March. The family now lives in Avondale.

Gabriel picks most of the songs that he and Kael perform, but there are some that his son picks on his own. Kael heard “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees at a mall a year ago and started singing it, so Gabriel decided to film a cover. The video now has over 800,000 likes on Instagram. Kael said the next song he hopes to perform is “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, his favorite musician other than his own dad.

Growing up, Gabriel’s parents and grandparents would wake him up every Sunday with American oldies. He’s passed his love of that genre of music onto Kael. Gabriel isn’t a professional singer, and says he’s doing this as a hobby and to support Kael’s dreams of pursuing a music career. 

“That’s actually our special bond together. We play and we swordfight and everything, but when he’s in the mood, this is what we do,” Gabriel said. 

Gabriel said they got an inquiry from “America’s Got Talent,” asking them to send in an audition tape. While he and Manel hope to see this dream and more realized, their main priority right now is making sure their son has fun. 

“We’re here to support whatever he wants to do. I mean, if he wants to be a singer, we’ll be there. But if he changes or anything, we’ll talk and we’ll see what happens. Yeah. The most important thing is we want him just to be a kid. We want him to enjoy everything,” Gabriel said. 

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