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Sea Shanty TikTok Trend Explained

WWhile 2021 has already delivered plenty of miserable bombshells, the best surprise of the past two weeks might be TikTok’s biggest new trend: sea shacks. As the world hurtles headlong into 2021, the seaside shacks are becoming a safe harbor for social media users looking to distract themselves from the day’s events with (very) old-fashioned entertainment.

It all started when Scottish musician Nathan Evans recorded a Video performing a remarkably catchy rendition of “Wellerman”, a 19th century shack of New Zealand origin. It exploded online, garnering over four million views on TikTok alone. From there, it wasn’t long before other users jumped on the trend by duetting the whaling tune with Evans or debuting their own sea shack performances. This is how #ShantyTok was born.

Although the recent resurgence of sea shacks is due entirely to the Internet, their modern appeal certainly goes back to their original purpose: to synchronize individual efforts to achieve a common goal.

In centuries past, the purpose of these call-and-response work songs was, of course, to keep a ship’s crew focused on navigating safely through often dangerous waters. Whether the task was rowing, hoisting sails, or pulling nets, the hand-over-hand rhythm of sea shacks was meant to help sailors keep time with one another.

But in the midst of a global pandemic that has kept many people home and isolated for nearly a year, the sea shacks can help foster a sense of community at a time when many feel alone. As he expertly pointed out vultureby Kathryn VanArendonkAt heart, sea shanties are “survival and unifying songs, designed to transform a large group of people into a collective body, all working together to keep the ship afloat.”

They are also undeniable worms.

Thanks to TikTok’s duet feature, which allows users to build videos of other TikTokers with their own additions, Evans’ solo performance of “Wellerman” has been transformed into a complex split-screen harmony, complete with multiple vocal parts. and instrumental accompaniment. It’s a group project that everyone in the video worked on individually, which makes its success all the more impressive.

Claiming that the traditional shantytown format possesses a timeless quality, some people have even started converting popular songs of today, such as “All Star” by Smash Mouth and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. “WAP” in sea shacks in their own right.

A video of a reluctant sea shack aficionado discovering the allure of these nautical ditties has also gone viral. All he needed was a car ride and an inspiring brother.

The 45-second clip perfectly shows how shantytown chants have a way of drawing others into the fold or, as one commenter puts it, “I guess it makes sense when you think [about how] the art form originated as a way to provide pleasure, connection, and entertainment during periods of sustained social isolation.”

So if you need a distraction in the midst of everything going on right now, #ShantyTok is here for you. Keep calm and move on.

More must-read stories from TIME

write to Megan McCluskey at


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