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You can join in on this year’s 600-year-old hit song!5 min read

January 22, 2021 4 min read


You can join in on this year’s 600-year-old hit song!5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you ever sat and wondered: How on earth did ancient sailors co-ordinate all their movements? Yes, this is obviously one of the most crucial questions that have plagued us through this global pandemic.

Well, TikTok and now every social media platform ever has the answer.

It’s Sea Shanties.

From TikTok to Broadway, everyone's getting in on the sea shanty trend! |  TAG24
Image: Tag24

Sea Shanties are songs that early European sailors sang while they toiled away at sea. They would sing these songs to match the rhythm of the menial task that they had to perform. This way, sailors could work together as they fared the wild seas, fished and carried goods around the world. Not only that, the sea shanty would create a sense of community and comfort as the sailors often lived through harsh conditions, risked their lives, and left their families behind. The shanties would often tell the stories that described the struggles and joys of being a seaman.

Catapult | How Shanties and Songs of the Sea Helped Me Weather the
A painting depicting sailors as they try to navigate their ship through a storm while singing shanties. Image: Catapult

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Shanty comes from the French verb “chanter”, which means to sing.

So what’s TikTok got to do with all of this? Well, like everything else, these old-timey songs found their way on to TikTok, and just a few days into 2021, they created a cyclone. One particular shanty truly exploded the internet.

The Viral Sea Shanty

It all began when Nathan Evens, a 26-year-old Irish Postman, uploaded a video of himself singing a 600-year old tune called the Scotsman. Once it was up on TikTok, it quickly became rather popular. So, Evens decided that he would post another shanty. The new shanty was called “Soon May The Wellerman Come “.

Scots postie behind Tik Tok sea shanty trend quits day job for music career  - Daily Record
Nathan Evans finally quit his day job as a postman to follow his dream of becoming a singer. Image: GIPHY

Soon enough someone saw this as an opportunity. Another TikTok Singer decided to harmonise with the first track and posted the two of them singing together. Well, sort of, they were both in different countries at the time. Soon enough, the world realised they could all do this, a cat sang, a violinist added a bit, a DJ made it into an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) track and an animated frog sang along. Millions of people have viewed this song and its many versions, and if you haven’t already had a chance to listen to it, here you go:

“But it can give you a sense of having a group. You can collaborate with other people and make friends so easily.”

Nathan Evens

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Soon may the Wellerman come is, in fact, not a sea shanty. It is a whaling song from New Zealand. It was probably sung as people gutted whales for their flesh. The difference between the sea shanty and a whaling song is that whaling songs merely tell a story. They aren’t really sung to keep time while performing a task.
Evens simply took the whaling song and set it to the catchy rhythm of a sea shanty. In fact, you can do this with any song under the sun.

Why are these songs so popular with people who’ve never been at sea?

Sea Shanty TikTok: How Scottish postman Nathan Evans brought 'The  Wellerman' to an entirely new audience
Nathan Evans and one of his TikTok collaborators. Image: TikTok

Well, you heard them. First of all, sea shanties have got a nice ring to them. Secondly, experts believe that with ongoing lockdowns, increased isolation and the constant fear of Covid, people aren’t that, unlike the ancient sailors. They are afraid their lives, often isolated from their families and crave a sense of community. What better way to feel together than to sing together?

You can join in too

Sure, TikTok is banned in India but that doesn’t mean you can’t join the fun. Yup, that’s right just add your own voice to the chain of singers and upload your video onto your favourite social media platform. Don’t forget to share the link to your video below.

Here’s another sea shanty, because can you ever really get enough?

With Excerpts From: The Guardian, The Guardian, The New York Times