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Five Sea Shanties and Songs That Aren't Wellerman or Drunken Sailor


I have to be the first to admit that I really didn't think that TikTok was the social media for me. I thought it was something my students had and they just used it to do silly dances. I was far too old to be setting myself up on there. Then a week ago, my husband brought #shantytok to my attention. It turns out a 26 year old postman from Scotland, had posted a video of him singing Wellerman in December and it's just exploded. Other TikTok users have been adding their own harmonies, beats, instruments and even Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ronan Keating have got involved. If I'm honest it's the trend I've been waiting for. My husband has been singing shanties for years and there is something so joyous about hearing a group of people all singing a rousing rendition of one of these traditional sea songs. After almost a year of lockdowns and tiers, without realising, it was the content I needed to cheer me up. Even though we can't all get together, seeing all these different groups of voices popping up, sharing the love for this song is so wholesome. However, Wellerman isn't the only sea shanty of note. As the wife of a shanty man, I can attest that there are some pretty epic songs that come floating through our flat during his morning shower. Here are some of my favourites


Old Maui

This is a frequent soundtrack in my home, as it's one of the songs my husband leads in his shanty group. The Longest Johns are also definitely worth checking out and you can end up on a full blown YouTube safari on their page alone. I tried to go and watch them at Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival and it was impossible to get through the door of the pub, it was that rammed.


Roll the Old Chariot

My husband and I have been obsessed with this video for a long time. Just look at all these people united in song. It really is a most beautiful thing AND David Coffin, the guy leading, what a voice!! He asked me to duet with him on TikTok actually and I got so excited. Does this mean we're friends??


Le Capitaine de Saint-Malo

This one is a favourite due to hearing it sung by a French shanty group in Falmouth. The festival had ended and lots of the groups had just gathered in one of the pubs for a final sing. It was breathtaking. A French man with a booming voice stood up and started singing this song; soon the whole pub was joining in with the 'Ali-alo' parts. A true example of music transcending language.


Barrett's Privateers

I have to put this song in because again it's one that my husband leads. In that same pub where I first heard the French shanty, he plucked up the courage to start this one off (it takes some nerve when you're surrounded by lots of booming voiced shanty men). It was such a proud moment to hear him start something up and hear a whole group of strangers joining in and harmonising with him.


South Australia

Last but not least, we have South Australia. Other than my Grandpa singing me 'Drunken Sailor' this was my gateway drug into the world of shanties. I was watching the BBC Folk Awards one year and Fisherman's Friends performed this song. I was immediately hooked. I think one of the greatest things about this type of music is the camaraderie and the freedom of the voice. Hearing the big bassy notes mixed with shouts and harmonies is quite literally music to my ears.


I'm now off to plan shanty based warm ups and harmonies for all of my lessons! Happy singing everyone!


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