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Sea shanty storms UK top 40 following TikTok craze

24 January 2021, MVT 22:07
The viral ‘Wellerman’ sea shanty is also a window into the remarkable cross-cultural whaling history of Aotearoa New Zealand. PHOTO: THE CONVERSATION
24 January 2021, MVT 22:07

A 19th-century sea shanty has landed a spot in the UK top 40 as the traditional sailor songs are enjoying a new wave of popularity thanks to the popular short video app TikTok.

The song "Wellerman" performed by The Longest Johns, a band from Bristol in western England, is now at No. 37, in the Official Chart, which takes into account streaming of music.

The song is also at No. 1 in Spotify's viral 50, which includes social media shares, in the United States and the United Kingdom and at No.2 globally.

"Wellerman" is believed to have been written in New Zealand in the mid-19th century and tells the tale of sailors waging an epic battle with a whale they are hunting.

The traditional genre has captured attention during lockdown, particularly due to a Scottish postman, Nathan Evans, who posted his performance of "Wellerman" on TikTok last year. The video has now been viewed more than 8 million times and it sparked a worldwide trend known as "ShantyTok."

Music stars seized on the trend and performed their own versions. Pop singers Gary Barlow and Ronan Keating sang it together, while the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber made a TikTok video of himself playing a keyboard accompaniment.

Evans puts the song's popularity down to lockdown, saying that shanties were originally sung to "bring everybody together" and this strikes a chord when people are isolated.

"Especially in this time when everybody's stuck at home, they're doing their remote working - they can join in, and it kind of brings everybody together," he said this week.

Evans has now signed a record deal with Polydor and released his own version of "Wellerman" as a single this week.

London, United Kingdom | AFP