Thais Turn 2013 Romanian Pop Song ‘Panama’ Into Dance Meme

Singer Suteewan Thaveesin, or “Baitoey R Siam” dances to “Panama” in a video posted to her Instagram Nov. 8. Image: Bitoeyrsiam / Instagram

BANGKOK — A horribly catchy 2013 Romanian pop song has become a dance meme among Thais, to the surprise and pleasure of the original artist.

Net idols, netizens and celebrities en masse have been dancing to “Panama” this month, a 2013 song by Romanian artist Matteo. The steps are simple: Draw a Z in the air, do the hula twice and then a twerk.

“Yaw guys! I can’t understand a thing you are writting [sic] here, but I am glad that you like my song,” Matteo wrote on the comments section of his music video earlier in November. “Btw the #Panamadance is so great! I’m thinking about making it also. We’ll keep the touch [sic].”

But why “Panama” and why now?

The meme of people dancing to “Panama” seems to have originated from Chinese video-sharing app DouYou, where people shared short clips of themselves dancing to the song as far back as late September. The tune then caught on among Thai net idols in October before really exploding among celebrities and fleet-footed Thais this month.

According to YouTube commenter Fern ja, “Panama” had about 8 million views “when the song started being a hit.” It had gained 13 million views by Nov. 3 and as of Saturday had more than 20 million hits – judging by the comments, they were mostly from Thais.

Celebs that have joined the Panama craze include actresses Janie Tienphosuwan and Chotika “Noey” Wongwilas as well as singer Suteewan Thaveesin, or “Baitoey R Siam.”

Curiously, the “Panama dance” is absent in Matteo’s official video. In its description, a Thai phrase – presumably added recently – says “Full version. Go dance and have fun with it!”

Net idols dancing to “Panama.”

Thai celebrities dance to “Panama.”

A Thai cover dance group dances to “Panama.”