Why sea shanties are taking over the internet this week

As a longtime musician, I’ve been fascinated watching sea shanties take over the internet this past week.

Playing or singing music with others is always a great joy. It is one of the hardest parts of this pandemic, missing my fellow musicians for weekly practice.

This music taking over TikTok at this moment in time has several interesting threads.

a. Sea shanties aren’t difficult to sing. They have pleasant, simple melodies. They’re easily harmonized.

b. Thre are fantastic stories behind the songs. Some compare isolation on board ships with isolation in pandemic times. These stories are also very different than the usual run-of-the-mill pop song lyrics (seriously, how much can we sing about love and loss anyway?).

c. No music training or instruments are required to participate. (Although in the latest versions, we have instruments added, including a beat track!)

d. And this is critical – TikTok made it happen, because they allow EASY layering of your video on top of others. No Garage Band, no special software, just a free app with amazing usability.

Now someone with no music training and few technical skills can join in the fun, creating something bigger than themselves with people they don’t know in a time of isolation. What could possibly be more appropriate to this moment in history?

Jen Kramer @jen4web