Thanks to social media platform TikTok, sea shanties dating back hundreds of years are making a comeback.
These catchy folk tunes were originally work songs performed by fisherman, sailors, whalers, and other seamen. The strong beats and sea-worthy lyrics made repetitive and laborious tasks more bearable and united crews.
The origin of the genre has been lost to time; sea shanties have been around for thousands of years, but no one knows when or where exactly the first shanty was written. Many historians believe that the form of shanties was influenced by call-and-response elements of African work songs. The name 'shanties' comes from the French word 'chanter,' which means 'to sing.' Sea shanties differed in their tempos and rhythms depending on the jobs sailors were carrying out; there were different songs for swabbing the deck and hoisting a sail.
In addition to providing hours of entertainment for sailors, sea shanties allowed crews to bond with one another while separated from their loved ones. The global COVID-19 pandemic has created the collective desire to connect with others, so it's not surprising that the shanties which have united sailors for centuries are on the rise once again.
TikTok users from around the globe have been posting videos sharing their favorite shanties or posting covers of the songs. One such TikToker is Scottish singer Nathan Evans, whose cover of shanty standard "Wellerman" amassed more than 15.8 million views and 2.1 million likes.
#Wellerman has 385.7 million views on TikTok, with the number still growing.
The song was likely written in the 19th century, and describes a "Wellerman," or an employee of the Weller Brothers' Shipping Company. The company was established in Sydney in the 1830s, with an outpost in Otago, New Zealand. "Wellerman" has been reworked and performed countless times over the years by musicians all over the world.
TikTok has been flooded with sea shanty content, from original shanties, to renditions of classics, to memes.
Trends may change with the tides, but it looks like sea shanties are here to stay. For more shanties, check out this playlist.