Pallbearers’ Coffin Dance – The Truth Behind Ghana’s Coffin Funeral Dancers

Pallbearers funeral dancers
The pallbearer dancers. Twitter images

Several bereaved families in Africa hire expert mourners to cry at funerals, though Ghanaians do it conversely. Hiring professional funeral dancers is trending now, and almost all West African countries, including Nigeria, are adopting the trend.

Many Ghanaian families employ pallbearers like any other country for that matter. But the new fad is Ghana’s pallbearers dancing while carrying a coffin to its destination, the graveyard. They must lift the mourners’ spirits and send off loved ones to the journey of no return in style. Some refer to them as the ‘grave-diggers’ showcasing ‘the coffin dance’.

Thousands have promoted the development of memes like the so-called ‘Coffin Africans’. This concept has now developed into a satirical asset for the coronavirus quarantine. Social media platforms like Twitter, applications like TikTok and content creators like AuronPlay and Forocoches have popularized the group of ‘grave-diggers,’ who feature at the end of most seemingly trivial videos about Covid-19 strategies. Over hundreds of years, Ghanaians have often employed funeral dancers to execute various songs, dances, and carry heavy laden coffins. They call their performance ‘the coffin dance’.

The Genesis of Funeral Dancers in Ghana

Pallbearers are men who hold a grave casket. Traditionally, they came out to dance with white hand gloves and uniformly dressed amid the sorrowful moments as they still do. But several pallbearers observe varying customs around the globe.

Death in traditional African society is the beginning of yet another existence in the ancestral realm, and not the culmination of life. Many families opt for a dance ride to escort their deceased relatives to the next destination, and funeral dancers are the best there is. Burial dancers in Ghana are not unique, but there have been exceptional dancers in recent years. Not only do dancing pallbearers stylishly send off the dead, but also, many view funerals as a means of earning a living.

Ghanaians invest a great deal of money in their funerals. Several of these rites take a minimum of three days. That is a weekend from Friday. Africans must uphold rituals and traditions for fear of upsetting the dead. Funeral events are important in Africa, and many entail dancing for the dead as Africans usually believe the dead are not dead. The proper outfit should be worn, typically red for the families of the deceased, and black for sympathizers. While funeral dancers have been present in Ghana for decades, none can compete with the skills of the modern dancers.

Ghana’s Funeral Dancers Change Burial Mood

The Pallbearers raise the mood with charismatic coffin dances at burials. Families continually spend lump sums on sending off their dear relatives in this unique way.

Some primary sources of this performance date back to a video posted on YouTube in 2013. The footage showcases an interview with a woman who traveled to Ghana to bury a loved one. She says, “I flew to Ghana and saw an unbelievable performance at the funeral of my mother-in-law. Confidently, the talented dancers honored the ‘homecoming,’ with incredible physical dexterity, deft footwork, and unparalleled energy, that would elevate any Ghanaian family to a new level.”

Usually, pallbearers are a group of four to six men. The duty duration differs according to the event and may last from three to seven days. The funeral dance service habitually costs an average of 13,000 cedis – Ghanaian currency equivalent to $2,300. However, the expense may be higher than usual. Besides dancing, music is also important at these funerals. They play reggae and evangelical types of music.

Ghana’s Best Funeral Dancers

Recently, the funeral arrangements are augmented with modern dancing pallbearers. Attendees are mesmerized and go home with happy memories. Many youngsters and ladies appear excellently-coordinated and well-dressed across all displays.

Benjamin Aidoo established the Ghanaian funeral dancers, one of the most popular groups. During an interview with Benjamin, he quotes one of his clients, “Daddy loved to dance when he was alive, let him dance once more.”

Though a huge crowd is welcome, few mourners at the funeral symbolize, the deceased has not been embraced in his community. In Ghana, for one to attend a burial, he needs not to have a relation to the deceased. The details of the deceased are made clear at the funeral service. Many funerals are expensive; therefore, most families depend on contributions to offset the expenses. Unfortunately, most sympathizers attend funerals to dine, dance, and make merry.

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Funerals are a Source of Income in Africa

Amid the gloom, every dark cloud has a silver lining. There are financial benefits to funerals as well. From graphic designers who design the posters and brochures to the printing press for advertisements, all earn an income. The event organizers, drivers, grave-diggers, and tillers have something to take home. Not forgetting the caterers, seamstresses, car hire companies, the coffin makers, and photographers, all get their share. Some hire mourners, especially in countries like Uganda, where mourning on funerals is a job.

Benjamin Aidoo, leader of Ghana’s famous funeral dancing group, says they offer their customers various packages. He also indicated the choreographic changes would showcase a spectacular performance for anyone who does not desire a solemn funeral. If one wishes a serious service, he/she may consider hiring funeral mourners instead.

Funeral Dancers Kill the COVID-19 Quarantine Boredom

Now, many people around the globe spend most of their time online due to the COVID-19 global lockdown. Videos portraying Ghana’s funeral dancers have gone viral. Most coronavirus videos are accompanied by pallbearers showcasing the coffin dance. Dancing Pallbearers in Ghana have triggered online jokes and memories amid sorrowful accounts of worldwide coronavirus deaths. The popular video portraying the unique coffin dance is backed by the soundtrack ‘Astronomia’ featuring Tony Igy.

The footage from a funeral service in Africa is cracking people’s ribs online. The pallbearers are dancing with the coffin in coordinated moves. They slide to the floor and spin around. Some other videos showcase the same funeral dancers tossing the casket into the air. Watch out for such entertaining videos during the long days of the COVID-19 quarantine. Such a rare ceremony, it is obvious, none can resist creating memories and making fun of the funeral service.

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