If the sea is calling you nowadays, it might be through TikTok. While the video-based social networking platform might normally conjure up dance challenges, lip-syncing, and comedic sketches, the latest trend to wash ashore is to sing the songs of the old days.
The internet has dubbed this nautical moment on social media ShantyTok. Since roughly the end of December, TikTok has seen a deluge of interest in videos of people not only singing sea songs, but also making impressive a capella arrangements of tunes traditionally sung by the crews of merchant sailing ships. ShantyTok comes with multi-part harmonies and resonant basslines. So far, videos tagged with seashanty have received over 74 million views. And that number continues to climb. Tuesday, Google Trends tweeted that the “sea barracks” had been searched more than at any time in the history of the platform. Even Elon Musk tweeted about the barracks.
As it turns out, complaining about being stuck on a whaling ship when running out of rum is the prime mood for the first week of 2021.
Seemingly at the center of the whirlwind is 26-year-old Nathan Evans, a postman from outside of Glasgow, Scotland, whose December 27 performance of the 19th century New Zealand folk song Wellerman has surpassed one million views on TikTok and has been incorporated into countless other TikToks. The song tells the story of whalers waiting for a supply ship.
Le Wellerman. # seashanty # sea # shanty # viral # chant # acoustique # pirate # new # original # fyp # foryou # foryoupage # singer # scottishsinger # scottish
♬ son original – NATHANEVANSS
“It’s gone crazy. I don’t really know what happened, ”says Evans, who can be found primarily on social platforms like Spotify as Nathan Evanss.
Evans, who largely posts videos of himself performing Scottish folk songs, pop covers and more recently his own material, says he can hardly believe how much people love sea songs. around 45,000 followers on TikTok earlier in December, and that number has topped 347,000.
When were the songs of the sea invented?
That the songs of the sea ended up on a 21st century social networking platform is an unexpected development. According to the online history magazine Historic UK, sea huts date back to at least the mid-1400s. Signing together and keeping the pace would help crews stay in sync for tasks such as lifting sails, while everyone else. world had to push or pull at the same time. Usually there was a lead singer, or a singer, and the crew would go into the chorus.
As steam power spread over the following centuries and manual labor was reduced on ships, shipyards began to die out, according to Historic UK. By the 20th century, they had almost been forgotten.
What exactly is a Wellerman?
While it’s virtually impossible to determine who posted the first slum on TikTok and when, Evans posted his first (a song called Leave Her, Johnny) in July. It broke 1 million views, much to her surprise, and got her new followers and requests. On December 23, he posted The Scotsman, divided into three videos. It was Wellerman, however, who really took off.
“Soon the Wellerman is coming, to bring us sugar, tea and rum.” Someday when the tonguin is over we’ll take our time off and go ”is an unlikely earworm.
There was love for Wellerman already there. User Jacob Doublesin started sketching using the song in late October. His biography says he is “Sea-EO of Wellerman”. Earlier in December, user Rysmiith uploaded his version of Wellerman and created duet versions on TikTok (you can record your own split-screen video with another), adding harmonies. Google Trends showed a smaller spike in Wellerman’s searches at the time, but when Evans’ version arrived the search term exploded on Google. He says things calmed down a bit within days, but another jolt came when 19-year-old Luke Taylor added his surprising deep baritone into the mix.
Since then, people have added all kinds of harmonies:
duet with @ the.bobbybass SHANTY TIME once again! Added lower middle harmony 🙂 @nathanevanss @ _luke.the.voice_ @ apsloan01 # shantytok # wellerman
♬ son original – NATHANEVANSS
Added strings to @anipeterson’s version because I got so many requests! @nathanevanss @ _luke.the.voice_ # fyp # seashanty # wellerman # viral # violin
♬ son original – miaasanomusic
They made it into a club-ready remix:
# duo avec @ _luke.the.voice_ # bass # xyzbca # xyzcba # stitch # foru # foryou # fyp # banger # seashanty @nathanevanss
♬ son original – NATHANEVANSS
And many people laugh at the novelty of seaside huts, of all things, becoming popular on an app so often associated with youth:
If it’s not about the salty air and lover’s thirst, you must have left ashore I DON’T WANT TO HEAR # fyp # foryoupage # seashanty # shantyseason
♬ son original – Justin Mousseau
It’s hard to say why exactly this happened. It could be the weird factor or the allure of seeing talented people doing cool things. Or perhaps, as some studies have suggested, choral singing could have positive effects on people’s sense of well-being. Maybe after a year of peak stress and hustle and bustle, rich harmonies and a 4/4 beat provide some kind of balm.
“For me, it’s pretty therapeutic because it’s just vocals and a bass drum, and people blending in,” Evans says. “There are a lot of people together. ”
Whatever the reason, the songs of the sea continue to spread. Popular vlogger Hank Green recorded a duet explaining what Wellerman is and what exactly the lyrics “when the tonguing is done” (slaughtering the whale for meat) means. Another user named Hunter Evenson turns pop songs like Cardi B’s WAP with Megan Thee Stallion into vocals.
Evans, for his part, followed Wellerman with an 1800s tune called Drunken Sailor (an exploration of what one might shoot a drunken sailor, early in the morning, like shaving his stomach with a rusty razor), and he has more chants in store, mostly from requests he receives on TikTok. He is also planning to record a short EP and put it on the Bandcamp music platform.
Until then, the TikTokers will have to ration supplies and continue to wait for the Wellerman.