Grandma 'Harlem Shake' Video Gets San Rafael Man International Attention

Marin man makes a viral video with popular Internet meme and his two dancing grandmothers.

San Rafael resident Hank Rao initially made his “Harlem Shake (Grandma Edition)” video with the intention of only sharing it with family and close friends. 

He didn’t expect the video with his dancing two octogenarian grandmothers to stand out among the thousands of homemade videos inspired by the Internet meme of the moment.

But his Harlem Shake video (see it above) has garnered more than 5 million views in roughly 10 days and also has been aired on TV stations around the world. 

“I’ve had friends from around the world say they have seen it on TV,” said the 22-year-old Rao, adding that he heard it’s been aired in France, the Philippines and India. Even his grandmothers, Po Tsang and Yu Qiong Cai, have heard from relatives in China who saw them on TV, Rao said.

“It’s been pretty crazy. I’m still kind of in shock. It’s hard to believe it’s been so global,” Rao said. 

Rao and his grandmothers brought a level of simplicity to the trend. 

Most Harlem Shake videos begin with a lone dancer wearing some sort of mask or helmet while everyone in the background ignores the dancer and acts casual. But when the music drops, the video cuts to a large group of dancers, often scanty clad and with an assortment of props.

The craze has spurred a website, The Harlem Shakeup, to gather the slew of videos. Some have dubbed it the new “Gangnam Style,” but the freestyle dancing in Harlem Shake has made it much easier to replicate. It’s been interpreted by everyone from UC Berkeley students to the U.S. Army to a YouTuber who set the song to the Peanuts Comic Strip cast

Rao said it took less than three takes to make the 30-second video. “Originally it was just a quick edit for friends and family, then it blew up. I didn’t spend too much time planning it or anything.” 

His grandmothers enjoyed making the video, Rao said. “They like dancing and they like going crazy. It was a good outlet.” 

To communicate with a growing number of fans, Rao made Twitter and Instagram accounts, where he has been taking the time to personal respond to comments and compliments.

Rao said the buzz has slowly been dying down, but he might pursue another viral video down the road. Until then, the recent Dominican University graduate will be keeping busy with his online business, the Lucky Pair, selling men’s underwear.

And while Harlem Shake might be slowly on its way out, the song itself, by Brooklyn electronic artist Baauer, became a No. 1 single on Billboard this week.

We found one other Harlem Shake video made in Marin and also added some of our other favorites above.


What’s your favorite Harlem Shake video? Tell us in the comments!

Lumphish February 25, 2013 at 09:02 PM
My favorite takes place at Georges Nightclub on Fourth Street in Central San Rafael. Check it out. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Kcx3SSmJHm0
Jessica Mullins February 25, 2013 at 10:03 PM
That Georges one is hilarious! I just added it to the selection of videos above (it should be the last one). Thanks for sharing, Ralph.


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