Folk songs make unexpected comeback thanks to TikTok

Sea shanties are making a comeback after a postman from Scotland became an internet sensation with his versions of the famous folk songs on TikTok.

Nathan Evans, 26, from outside Glasgow, took the social media platform by storm after his rendition of Leave her Johnny gathered 1.1million views last year.

The aspiring musician later uploaded a cover of the 19th Century sea shanty Wellerman, which tells the story of the Australian shore whaling company Weller Brothers, and has since seen his video amass 4.3million views and spark a viral trendnamed #ShantyTok.

Mr Evans, whose covers have also led to social media users adding their own harmonies and melodies to his songs, described how he received his first request for a sea shanty in July last year.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today show the young musician said: ‘I did a sea shanty back in July 2020 just because somebody had asked underneath one of my videos in a comment.

Nathan Evans, 26, from outside Glasgow, Scotland, has become an internet sensation with his versions of sea shanties

Nathan Evans, 26, from outside Glasgow, Scotland, has become an internet sensation with his versions of sea shanties

The aspiring musician uploaded his first sea shanty Leave her Johnny in July last year after receiving a request from a follower

The aspiring musician uploaded his first sea shanty Leave her Johnny in July last year after receiving a request from a follower

‘So I uploaded that and it reached 1.1million views so I thought it must have been in demand.

‘People were looking forward to more coming out after that one and they were commenting underneath every video after that saying ”can you sing this one?”. It was just a requestthrough fans that.’

As hisvideos gained popularity, Mr Evans began to notice that he was being recognised by local residents as he delivered their post.

He continued:’There’s been three or four occasions. There was one day I was delivering a parcel and as I was handing it over she just gave me a funny look and was like ”I’ve seen you before”.

‘I was like ”I’m not sure I’m quite new” and she said no ”I’ve seen you on my phone, are you on TikTok?”. I said ”yes”.’

The 19th Century song Wellerman tells the story of theAustralia shore-whaling company Weller Brothers that took to the seas along the southern coast of New Zealand from 1830 to 1840.

Sailors employed by the vessel’s employer would be involved in butchering whales after they had been caught in a process calledtonguing.

Explaining why sea shanties were now making a comeback, Mr Evans said:’I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.

Mr Evans said he would continue to upload more videos

The young musician said sea shanties were originally sung to get everyone involves

The young musician (left snd right on TikTok) said he was now begin recognised by residents as he delivered their post

Mr Evans, who hopes to become a professional musician, is planning on covering the sea shanty Roll The Old Chariot next

Mr Evans, who hopes to become a professional musician, is planning on covering the sea shanty Roll The Old Chariot next

What are sea shanties?

Sea shanties were sung among sailors as they carried out manual tasks onboard their ships,such as walking around the capstan or hoisting the sails, and date to as far back as the 1400s.

The word shanty is derived from the French verb ‘chanter’, which means ‘to sing’.

The folk songs are usually sung by a shantyman and his crew in a ‘call and response’ technique.

They were created to encourage a sense of community among the group and to help establish a rhythm to their work.

Among themost famous sea shanties are Spanish Ladies, whichdescribes the voyage from Spain to The Downs, in the southern North Star near the English Channel, from the viewpoint of the Royal Navy andWhat Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?

Drunken Sailor, which was was sung to accompany certain work tasks aboard sailing ships in the early 19th century, was revived as a popular song among non-sailors in the 20th century.

‘I think it’s the fact that sea shanties when they were originally sung, they were sung to get everybody involved and to keep them in time with their work.

‘I think it’s the fact that it gets everybody involved, everybody can join in and you don’t necessarily need to be able to sing. Anybody can join in with a shanty.

‘The words are simple and it’s just a beat and then the voices so I think it’s a bit of everything.’

The postman, who is now planning on covering the sea shanty Roll The Old Chariot, described how it was his ‘dream’ to become a full-time musician.

He added:’I hope so, that’s the dream and that’s the wish so it would be great if this led somewhere.

‘I’m going to keep doing music and singing and upload more anyway but if this led to something that would be absolutely amazing.’

Sea shanties can be traced to as far back as the mid-1400s when they were sung among sailors as they carried out manual tasks onboard their ships, such as walking around the capstan or hoisting the sails.

The songs, which were sung by sailors to create a sense of community and to help establish a rhythm to their work, would often see a solo-singer, or shantyman, lead the group.

A group of sailors would then join in with the chorus of the song in unison in a ‘call and response’ technique.

Among the most famous songs are Spanish Ladies, whichdescribes the voyage from Spain to The Downs, in the southern North Star near the English Channel, from the viewpoint of the Royal Navy andWhat Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?

Drunken Sailor,which was was sung to accompany certain work tasks aboard sailing ships in the early 19th century, was revived as a popular song among non-sailors in the 20th century.

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