Internet fads hit every month or two, but rarely are they as popular in the real world as in the meme-o-sphere. The “Harlem Shake” has divided the Internet into two parts: those who made a video and those who hate the whole thing with a passion. I find myself in the former category. I like the fad, but I agree with its critics as well. The Shake has no redeeming artistic value and is a bandwagon of easy video editing and acting like a fool on camera. This is the exact reason why I love the Harlem Shake, it’s simple, fun and has a massive potential for putting your own spin on it. That’s why when I saw the Harlem Shake – Radford Edition on Facebook, I didn’t think twice before joining. I was not alone in this thinking; within days of the page being created, it had a following of over 100 people and wasn’t slowing down. It topped off at 473 members within two weeks.
With RU’s full support, the Shake went down during halftime at the men’s basketball game against Campbell University. The bleachers were packed with students and as the beat dropped, they became a sea of colorfully-dressed flailing. Though some weren’t impressed, the general feeling was that this was one of the better college Harlem Shake videos out there. I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
I spoke with Mahdi Torabinejad and Jeffrey Kadak, two of of the brains behind Radford’s Harlem Shake and asked them a few questions about this quickly fading fad and how they put it all together.
What inspired you to make a Radford “Harlem Shake” video?
Jeffrey: I mean, honestly, other “Harlem Shake” videos inspired us. First the ideas were small, then the idea came to get the whole university involved.
Mahdi: As soon as Jeffrey showed me the video, which I’d heard about but he made sure I saw it that night, we instantly agreed we had to do this, and in the subsequent conversation, [we] realized this was something we HAD to do as a school event.
Jeffrey: At first we thought, “Hey, we could do this in the dorm, but then, hey, we could do one WAY bigger.”
Mahdi: We had been trying to think for a while how to get some school pride going, and this just took the bait. We wanted people to come to the basketball (and sports in general) games and this was too good an opportunity to pass up.
You guys did a lot of work getting everything organized and people hyped up. What was the hardest part of bringing this all together?
Mahdi: I think getting people to believe we could pull it off, getting people mobilized and letting them know we were serious about this. This was representing all of Radford [University]!
Jeffrey: The hardest part was getting people excited and motivated to go. We had to give people reason to believe that we were gonna do it right, that we wouldn’t let them down [and] that they could count on us.
Mahdi: A lot of people agreed it was a good idea, [we just wanted to make] sure they were as serious as we were about actually putting it into action. Otherwise there was enthusiasm for sure, just not certainty. There were always a lot of doubters.
Jeffrey: A lot of people said they’d go, but actually getting them to follow through [was hard].
How did you go about making sure that people would show up?
Mahdi: Especially since we started it out online, then moved onto some phone calls and after 2-3 days, actual meetings with administration/school officials.
Jeffrey: Keeping it organized and in a way as professional as possible to let people know we were serious. Literally, we had to keep telling and spreading the word. The more people that knew the more excited kids would get about it.
Mahdi: We had to make sure we were persistent in driving the point that this HAD to be big. We had to talk to different clubs, members of Greek life, etc. and just being persistent. Handing out flyers and personally connecting was important; having something tangible these days is pretty uncommon. (Jeffrey: It can go a long way) Yeah, especially since so many of these things just get lost in technology
Who in the administration did you talk to to make this happen?
Mahdi: Christian Compton in the Athletic Department first messaged me once he’d seen the page and let me know that the Athletic Department was truly interested in helping out. That was a key moment. Katie Berry in Marketing subsequently emailed me and let us know where to go from there: who to talk to, when to meet.
Jeffrey: Once the school officials contacted us, that’s when we knew that we could do this with the help of the school. The first meeting (with school officials) we met Clayton Metz, the Multimedia Coordinator. He was extremely helpful. He listened to us while giving us some of his own ideas, using his own experience. He also talked to others including Cory Durand, Director of External Operations. I honestly don’t believe any of this was possible without the school officials.
Mahdi: They kind of let us know that our vision could be implemented. It was great that it coincided with the Red Out, and they made sure that it could all fit together. Clayton was really helpful in just hearing us out really; he knew what he was doing for sure.
That’s fantastic that they were so supportive. We hear a lot about the university being an enemy of the students, not their partners. Were you happy with the way it turned out?
Mahdi: Cory really made us feel important, listening in and making all the decisions with our insights. Even on game night, he called me. Jeffrey and I would converse about it then relay the message back to Cory. He let us in on everything that pertained to the event.
Jeffrey: Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but yes, I’m very happy [with] the way it turned out. Had we worked on our own and without the school’s help, it would not have been nearly as good. In such [a] short time, I don’t think we could have done it any better.
I agree it went off without a hitch. So, Mahdi, how did you like being the star of the show?
Mahdi: The university definitely allowed and helped make it really get as big and successful as we could have wished for. Heck just hearing that people have seen the video and are either professing how proud they are to be a Highlander or that they (high schoolers) want to be a Highlander after watching the vid. Within six hours that Clayton had the video ready and we had released it onto the social networks, the RU hashtag on Twitter had gone up 900 percent (@Statweestics).
That’s honestly what makes it worthwhile, seeing people this proud to be at Radford. There were, and will always be haters, people who don’t help but want to complain, but we proved to them just how much we can do if we honestly trust and work with each other. Waiting for a reason to be excited always leads to disappointment. We wanted to make sure that mentality stopped manifesting itself. We did the best that we could with the time and other constraints. Honestly, [it] turned out better than we expected.
Mahdi: (Laughs) people are great. Without them, there’s no show. I’m glad I could be a part of it all. I won’t lie, for a minute there (you can see the part I’m talking about in the video) I felt like William Wallace leading a charge. (Laughs), nah. It’s just great to have done my part, and if that means Gangnam styling, dancing and getting people hype in my own way, I’m more than happy to assist. I love these people.
So tell me the deal with this #plaidswag thing I’ve been seeing on the sidewalks all over campus. I noticed that you guys were both wearing #plaidswag shirts at the filming.
Jeffrey: Oh yeah, #plaidswag is part of an on-campus movement to get students more involved with the school. SoRad [a club at RU] leads it; they helped get the word out to the students, as well in the run up to the event. I hope you’re seeing it more now because people are more proud to be a Radford student.
The plaid is associated with the school colors, Highlanders, etc.
Mahdi: Hey, can we just collectively shout out a few people that were also involved?
Jeffery: Antoinette Bruno and Travis Byrd who works at the Radford Fund helped with getting the word out. OJ Cabrisses and Samantha Emily definitely helped in starting the push, getting the word out through social networks and exchanging ideas. Everyone who helped out in the administration, the kind words from the officials. More than anything we want to thank the student body and everyone who came out or took part in any way. Could never have been done in any way without them. Gotta love our Highlanders. And thank you!
Mahdi : Definitely, all the athletic programs that came out and supported: cheer, dance, pep band, athletic director Robert Lineburg, who personally supported us.
I know the list is long, but we can’t take credit for everything; they really all deserve thanks.
And definitely the Highlander, and oh, President Kyle for sure, who communicated during the game that she liked the Harlem Shake so much that the replay should be shown in the second half, which happened!
Mike Brown, the entire basketball team, especially RJ Price for his kind cooperation in starting off the video tackling me.
And of course, Mike Jones.
So did this event plant the seed for a new era of school spirit? If the influx of RU themed social pages on Facebook such as RU crushes (all three of them) and RU confessions are any indicator then maybe. All I can say for sure is that I’m proud to have been able to shake it as a Highlander.