TikTok’s Latest Viral Trend Is Sea Shanties

In addition to its usual dance trends and viral songs, TikTok has now resurrected the centuries-old tradition of sea shanties.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica defines a sea shanty as a “sailors’ work song dating from the days of sailing ships, when manipulating heavy sails, by means of ropes, from positions on the deck constituted a large part of a sailor’s work.” According to shanty lore, one “shantyman” would be chosen based on his seamanship — not musical talent — to lead the crew in a call-and-response chorus as they work, resulting in vocals that were a little rough around the edges.

One of such shanties to take off on TikTok is “Wellerman,” a song of New Zealand origin dating back to the 19th century. Scottish TikToker Nathan Evans catapulted the song to popularity with his rousing rendition posted on Dec. 27, but this is not his first shanty — he has been covering them for months now, and has even posted a full-length version of the shanty “Leave Her Johnny” on YouTube.

As a result, many TikTok users have found the shanties inescapable, and are even demanding for the songs to be available on their favorite streaming platforms. Enter, the world now known as ShantyTok.

TikTok’s duet function has served perfectly to deliver the call-and-response aspect of the shanty, and users have gotten quite creative and intricate with their renditions, adding harmonies and even instruments. With repetitive lyrics often referring to sailors’ duties and instrumentation usually consisting of the fiddle or violin, shanties are proving to be the perfect breeding ground for improvisation.

Of all the TikTok trends to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this one may prove to be the most bizarre – but also the most delightfully wholesome.

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