Apparently TikTok made sea shanties a thing now. Awesome! Because I'm a sea shanty nerd, I decided to make an "explainer". If you're new to sea shanties, or just want some recs, follow the thread!


sea shanties, rec list 

First: some people will complain that "it's not sea shanties, it's just Wellerman!" and "Wellerman isn't even a sea shanty!". If you meet those, I recommend smiling, nodding, and then ignoring the fuck out of those people. Shanties are a folk genre experiencing a revival - not only is it music that organically evolved, but is actively adapted and adopted by a new generation of singers and fans. There is no one true definition of a sea shanty!


sea shanties, rec list 

Sea shanties are songs of sailors: in the navy, the merchant marine, on whaling ships, etc. In the narrowest sense, specifically WORKING SONGS sung to keep rhythm. They often have a call-and-response pattern.

A great example is "Pump Her Dry" as sang by the Exmouth Shanty Men:

"Fire Down Below", sung by The Jolly Rogers, is another good one:

"Roll the Old Chariot" led by David Coffin is great:


sea shanties, rec list 

Aside from these, there are also "leaving songs": these are about leaving for a voyage, or leaving the ship after return. (Sometimes they're still also working songs.)

"Bonny Ship the Diamond" is about leaving the port: (a whaler song like the Wellerman, btw)

"Leave her Johny" is about leaving the ship (Johnny Collins):

"Don't forget your old shipmate" as well (Jerry Bryant and Starboard Mess):


sea shanties, rec list 

Obviously, there are also sea shanties in other languages! My favorites:

German: "Männer mit Bärten" (Men with Beards), here by Die Streuner:

French: "Guerre, guerre, vente vent" is beautiful:

And a Dutch one! "Daar Was Eens een Meisje Loos" - be sure to read the description here, you'll get a taste of what digging into a folk genre is like! :D


sea shanties, rec list 

Last but not least, there's what I call "modern sea shanties", or sea-shanty-adjacent. Some bands create completely new songs, adapt them into different genres, or are their own thing while being beloved by sea-shanty fans. Some examples:

"Northwest Passage", a famous song by the Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers:

"When the Boat Comes In", an English folk song (here by Friends of The Shipyard and Fisherman's Fayre):


sea shanties, rec list 

"Hoist the Colors", from Pirates of the Carribean:

"Twiddles" by Misbehaving Maidens - warning, very NSFW!:

"Ballad of a Female Shanty Singer":

"Keelhauled" by Alestorm (metal):

The pirate song from the game Monkey Island:


sea shanties, rec list 

One tip: if you're looking for long playlists of sea shanties, look for Assassins Creed! Shanties first appeared in AC III and became such a hit that they became a mainstay of the series. (BTW many current shanty fans got into them through AC, so if you're here because of TikTok don't worry about not being "real" fans :P)

AC: Black Flag:

AC: Odyssey has absolutely beautiful all-woman Greek songs:


sea shanties, rec list 

And a final rec: if you get hooked on sea shanties, check out this BBC documentary about maritime songs: It's really charming and has a ton of interesting tidbits (gutter girls!!!)

I hope this will be useful for someone! It's hilarious that shanties are blowing up like this, I hope it will get a lot more people to listen and sing and have fun with them.

I totally didn't manage to cram in all my favorites, so if you want more recs, hit me up!


A late addition to the thread: a really cool video by Adam Neely, "The Music Theory of Tik Tok Sea Shanties" -

He gets a pass for the "Wellerman is not a sea shanty" bit because he's not a jerk about it 😉

No, seriously, I learned a lot from this vid. Also, I got into shanties through that viral video by The Longest Johns. 😂 Aww, memories!

sea shanties, rec list 


February Album Writing Month (#fawm) is starting soon. Because of the popularity of sea shanties, someone proposed a community "sea shanty challenge."

FAWM is friendly to lyricists (there's a number of folks that only write lyrics) and there's frequently collaboration. Some folks -- myself included -- engage in lo-fi acapella. (I started recording with my phone.)

You say you're a sea shanty fan, but do you write any?

sea shanties, rec list 

@yam655 ah, no, I don't write lyrics/music. Sounds like a cool idea, though!

sea shanties, rec list 


That's fine. You're also welcome to peek in during February and listen to what folks make if you get curious. Folks should post in that thread when stuff is ready.

sea shanties, rec list 

@annathecrow A classic Irish shanty is "Trasna na dtonnta" (Across the waves), a song of homecoming:

sea shanties, rec list 

@annathecrow That sounds a lot like the origin of blues music. Just replace "sailors" with "slaves in the American South" and "in the navy, the merchant marine, on whaling ships, etc." with "on the plantations" and keep the rest, and you've got the origin of blues.

sea shanties, rec list 

@ND3JR definitely, I don't doubt that slaves would have working songs. And it makes sense to me, that they would inspire a modern music genre - modern Western music likes rhythm, and working songs are very rhythmical.

My favorite non-sea-shanty working songs are actually "waulking songs", which are from Scotland and were sung by women felting wool. Like this one by Kathleen McInnes:

@annathecrow Thank you for the explanation! As a French, i didn't know the words and thought that was just yet an other, obscure meme about some fish or something...
(yes, i could've checked 😅)

@annathecrow Thank you for all the recs! Love the pumping song.

There are a lot of French song I could list, but I especially like this one, as my parents used to sing it to me as a lullaby x)

@aearil oh, that's a fun one! I like the changing tempo, that would be fun to sing 😄

@annathecrow I've never noticed the changing tempo ^^

Also, this song is about fighting the british, so that's also a plus x)

@annathecrow Thanks for this thread! I always kinda liked shanties but never really got into them, since they've kicked up lately I've been wanting to look into them more, but wasn't quite sure where to start.

I think some songs of the shanty-ish style seem to make it easier for me to get up and do stuff too, so I expect having a good starting point to really get me into them will be /really/ helpful.

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