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The viral sea shanty trend sweeping TikTok: We explain the phenomenon

#SeaShantyTikTok is currently dominating social media platforms, thanks to a rendition of 'Wellerman' by a Scottish postman and folk singer. Here, we provide a short history of sea shanties and explain what this viral trend is all about

Published: January 14, 2021 at 11:02 am
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Although they were originally sung by seamen aboard merchant ships and fishing ships in the 1400s, sea shanties are currently seeing a surprising resurgence – on TikTok. Scottish postman and folk singer Nathan Evans began the viral trend with a cover of 'Wellerman’, a 19th-century New Zealand whaler song.


Since Evans's sea shanty TikTok went viral, other singers have been adding to it.

Singers clearly weren't enough. Fiddles were then added.

Then the trend took on a new style. 'Wellerman' even got its own club remix.

TikTok is usually the home of lip-syncs, dance challenges and comedy sketches, but is now the epicentre of a sea shanty renaissance.

The phenomenon is sweeping the rest of the internet too now, thanks to its TikTok success. Google Trends tweeted on 12 January that 'sea shanties' as a search term had reached its peak in Google's history.

This isn't the first time sea shanties have entered the public consciousness: in 2019, the story of the Fisherman’s Friends, a sea shanty crew from Port Isaac in Cornwall, was adapted for film.

The film, starring Daniel Mays and James Purefoy, tells the true story of the Fisherman's Friends, who were signed by Universal Records and achieved chart success with their renditions of sea shanties.

You can watch Fisherman’s Friends on Amazon Prime, YouTube or Google Play.



Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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