What you need to know about the Ghanaian dancing pallbearers inspiring internet memes

With people across the world confined to their homes over COVID-19 pandemic, the internet is connecting people together as they socially distance themselves. From their homes, people are devising different means to kill off boredom and videos of the Ghanaian dancing pallbearers have come in handy.

The Nana Otafrija Pallbearing and Waiting Services based in Ghana and headed by Benjamin Aidoo has become global internet sensation helping people to kill off boredom with their unique style of honouring the dead.

In the past two weeks, you will hardly scroll through your social media timeline for five minutes without seeing a meme post of the dancing pallbearers dropping to the floor, spinning around, throwing a casket in the air and displaying different skills. The video inspiring the meme is set to a viral hit soundtrack 'Astronomia' by Russian singer Tony Igy and Dutch electronic musical artist and production duo Ruben den Boer and Victor Pools.

The footage of the pallbearer is not new, neither is their style of honouring the dead new to Nigerians. Nigerian pallbearers are also famous for displaying different forms of scary choreography when carrying caskets at funerals. The footage of the Ghanaian pallbearers could be said to have gained more prominence due to the present situation across the world and the infusion of the 'Astronomia' soundtrack.

Benjamin Aidoo who heads the company told BBC in 2017: "I decided to add choreography to it so if the client comes to us, we just ask them: 'Do you want it solemn or do you want a bit more of a display? Or maybe you want some choreography on it? They just ask and we do it.

"We make people happy. Because of what we do people always tell us we make hem laugh and not cry."

Creating humour in the midst of sorrowful event was what Benjamin had in mind when he infused choreography into his business, and that is what social media users are also doing with the video of the pallbearers, creating interesting memes and humour in the midst of global pandemic causing fear and killing thousands of people across the world.

Social media users have devised means of injecting footage of the dancing pallbearers at the end of what should be an incredibly grim video just to turn the content into a meme material for the purpose of humour. Some of the incidents in the original videos are not expected to be funny, they are injurious and tragic incidents, but in some ways, seeing the dancing pallbearers at the end of such video makes the difference, you will laugh it off.

Many internet users across the world are already obsessed with the Ghanaian pallbearers dancing and displaying different choreography skills with a casket. In Nigeria, it is gradually displacing fuji singer Abass Akande aka Obesere's 'Egungun be careful' song which at the beginning of March could be said to be the number one meme in the country. The dancing pallbearers and Obesere's 'Egungun be careful' meme to a large extent are used to pass similar message.

Obesere's song, which warns of a looming danger for a masquerade heading to the expressway (where motorists drive at high speed) to display its mystical skills, is used to caution people against taking actions that may end tragic or cost them their lives. This is the same message the dancing pallbearers meme also passes as it highlights an impending tragedy expected to be the result of an action, the meme goes further to turn the tragic event into humour. At the end we all laugh off the horribly tragic incident.

The meme has been used in different forms and recently it has been used to create awareness about COVID-19 to caution people to stay at home if they don't want to receive their last honour from the pallbearers any time soon. A viral image of a billboard bearing the picture of the pallbearers in their usual costume has been circulating on social media with the message "stay at home or dance with us".

As at 2017, Benjamin Aidoo told Aljazeera that his company had more than 100 employees and they do five to six burials every weekend. He added that he has been in the business for 10 years (now 13 years) and added that cost of hiring the service of his company depends on what clients want them to wear for the funeral.

"At first Pallbearers do wear black when people are being buried, so I decided to add some colour. Assuming it is a Scottish skirt it costs 800 cedis, Navy green costs 900 cedis and all white goes for 1000 to 1200 cedis," Benjamin said.

Three years after the interview, with the global recognition his business is gaining, costs are expected to have gone up, but efforts to confirm this from Benjamin proved abortive. He didn't respond to calls and SMS sent to his phone line and an email seeking enquiries sent to the company's official email address.

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