Sea Shanties Take TikTok By Storm

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Madeline Dovi Contributor
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TikTok, the popular video-sharing social network, has turned its fanbase into swashbuckling sailors with its newest trend: sea shanties.

Sea shanties are sailor songs with repetitive choruses that follow a simple ‘call and response’ structure, according to Historic UK, an online history magazine.

The trend began when Scottish postman and musician Nathan Evans posted a recording of himself performing a cover of “Wellerman,” a 19th century shanty from New Zealand, according to CNET. Evans’s video went viral on TikTok, and users from all over the world used TikTok’s duet feature to join in his cover, or debuting their own shanty performances, including electronic remixes, and violin covers.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted about the trend.

“It went wild. I don’t really know what happened,” says Evans, according to CNET. (RELATED:

Sea shanties originate back to the 1400s, according to Historic UK. Sailors sang the songs in rhythm to keep them in sync while performing various tasks required to operate a ship.

Often led by a solo shantyman, the songs were performed by the shantyman and the rest of the working chorus.

The rise of steam-powered ships led to a decline in the practical use of sea shanties, but the songs were preserved by veteran sailors and eventually adapted for leisure and commercial entertainment, according to Frederick Pease Harlow’s “Chanteying Upon American Ships.”

A cappella performances of sea shanties are often performed at maritime festivals in the United Kingdom and across Europe by shanty choirs.

“For me, it’s quite therapeutic because it’s just vocals and a bass drum, and people harmonizing,” said Evans. “It’s quite a lot of people together.”

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Madeline Dovi