By Robert Lalah
People of Jamaica - you have lost your minds. What's that you say? This couldn't be true? Well if you require proof, just do a search for 'Harlem Shake Jamaica' on YouTube, and watch a few of the videos. See what I'm talking about now?
For those still blissfully clueless about this Harlem Shake craze, it's what's known as an Internet meme that went viral on YouTube early this month. The madness started on February 2 when five teenagers from Queensland, Australia uploaded a video of themselves dancing around in crazy costumes. They were doing a parody of a sketch done earlier by comedian Filthy Frank that featured a number of costumed people dancing to the song Harlem Shake by Baauer.
But it was this Queensland quintet's version that got people from all over the world in on the action, replicating the moves and adding their own touches, then posting their videos online.
The videos generally last about 30 seconds and always feature an excerpt from the same Baauer song. Usually, the clips begin with one person (helmeted or masked) dancing to the song for about 15 seconds, surrounded by other people who are not paying attention to the dancer. When the bass drops, the video suddenly cuts to the entire crowd doing a wild and crazy dance. In this bewildering second half, the dancers wear either less clothes than they had on before or crazy costumes while wielding props that have no meaning or relevance to anything else in the video.
Like I said, it's completely insane. The odd thing about it though, is that as loony as it is, it's quite mesmerizing. I spent way too much time one evening last week watching these videos online. I chuckled a few times then felt overcome with shame and guilt. It's the kind of shame that makes you want to hop in the shower and just keep scrubbing.
You never know what's coming next in this Internet age. Not long ago, people were going nuts over an invisible-horse dance called Gangnam Style, and we thought it couldn't get any stranger. Now this.
On February 10, 4,000 Harlem Shake videos were being uploaded to YouTube every day. As of February 11, about 12,000 versions of the Internet meme had been uploaded, garnering over 44 million unique views. By February 15, about 40,000 Harlem Shake videos had been uploaded, totalling more than 175 million views.
Included in this tally are videos from Jamaican university students, athletes Usain Bolt and Warren Weir, CEOs of major corporations, and even the (usually) hard-working staff at The Gleaner. As an aside, clearly I'm biased, but The Gleaner video tops all others in comedic lunacy.
WHY SO POPULAR
The Washington Post ran an article recently suggesting that the meme has become so popular so quickly because of the hypnotic beat of the song, how short the clips are, and how easy they are to produce.
Now, even as the world joyfully indulges in this decline in collective human dignity, the people of Harlem, New York, are not amused.
"I don't know what that is, but it's not the Harlem Shake," said one resident in a video also posted on YouTube. Other Harlem residents were equally annoyed at what they said was the disrespect of a dance that is part of their identity.
The original Harlem Shake dance was introduced in 1981 by a local dancer called Al B. Harlem has held this dance in high regard over the years and residents are not pleased with the outrageous, madcap gyrations now claiming its revered name.
"The movement is all wrong. That's not the Harlem Shake at all. That's zombies gone wild," the Harlem man said. "Don't come around here with that."
As Jamaicans, we have a pretty good idea of how they feel. We've been ripped off many times too. It's irritating going to a restaurant overseas and sampling 'authentic Jamaican' jerk sauce, only to be confronted with what amounts to little more than strawberry jam.
The best thing for the good people of Harlem to do, though, is just wait it out. All this will pass in a week or two and we'll be on to the next episode of Internet frivolity. I'm actually thinking of getting it started myself, with the hope of achieving instant worldwide fame. Plans are still top secret though.
All I can share for now is that it involves pyrotechnics, a baked potato and a two-legged cat named Spud. Pending approval from the KSAC, it may also include the statue at Emancipation Park. But you'll hear more about this later.
Robert Lalah, assistant editor - features, is author of the popular 'Roving with Lalah' feature. Email feedback at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org