To preface this yarn I would like to warn those unfamiliar with The Wellerman that you’re about to be consumed by the wonders of the sea shanty. You may scoff at this – I did, and then I dived headfirst into ShantyTok. I’ve been humming Wellerman to myself for the past hour ever since. Somebody help me.
Sea shanties are just the latest viral trend to completely absorb TikTok.
So, what is a sea shanty?
Sea shanties are work songs that were once sung aboard ships – old-timey vessels that needed dozens of sailors to function. The songs were used to build community and to keep rhythm during work.
How did this all start on TikTok?
It mainly started with one Scottish man, 26-year-old Nathan Evans, who joined TikTok last March to fill his days during lockdown.
He spent most of the year uploading covers of other, more modern songs like Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish.
And then he started singing sea shanties.
First, Evans sung The Scotsman, which currently has over 2 million views. Then he uploaded a video of himself singing the New Zealand folksong The Wellerman.
At the time of writing, Evans’ video has over 4 million views.
Evans’ is hardly the first person to share sea shanties on TikTok. Jacob Doublesin, who calls himself the “Sea-EO of Wellerman” has been posting sea shanties on his TikTok since late October.
But something about Evans’ Wellerman stuck in the hearts and minds of every TikToker/sailor watching, and thus, ShantyTok took off.
Show ! Us ! ShantyTok !
The Wellerman is currently everywhere on the platform thanks to the innumerable amount of people – professionals, sea shanty enthusiasts, and Kermit the Frog – who have spun their own version of the folksong using TikTok’s duet feature.
Think harmonies, remixes, and again Kermit the Frog.
Is it in your head yet?
Making sure everyone who has been liking the sea shanty tiktoks has seen the Kermit one pic.twitter.com/84H7SxDxU5
— rachel strolle ✨ (@recitrachel) January 13, 2021
Kermit singing Wellerman isn’t exactly how I saw my day going, but I’m not mad about it.
All Star by Smash Mouth turned into a sea shanty is just the most perfect intersection of meme culture pic.twitter.com/TAuPyyGksA
— Jenna Guillaume (@JennaGuillaume) January 13, 2021
Closer to home, it appears sea shanties are quite the rage in some spaces in Sydney. My lovely colleague Michael wrote about it, if you would like to know more.
To conclude: here is a gift.
Image: TikTok / @nathanevanss
2021 is the year of the sea shanty pic.twitter.com/ohOAGvkbtC
— Tim – Poster of Hugo Pics (@Beertheist) January 11, 2021