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Sea Shanty TikTok Trend Explained

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WWhile 2021 has already delivered a lot of miserable bombshells, the best surprise of the past two weeks may be TikTok’s biggest new trend: sea huts. As the world approaches the start of 2021, sea huts are transforming into a haven for social media users looking to take their minds off the day’s events with some (very) old entertainment.

It all started when Scottish musician Nathan Evans recorded a video clip performing a remarkably catchy performance of “Wellerman”, a 19th-century New Zealand cottage. It exploded online, garnering over four million views on TikTok alone. From there, it wasn’t long before other users took advantage of the trend by chanting the tune of whaling alongside Evans or debuting at their own sea hutch shows. And so #ShantyTok was born.

Despite the fact that recently the resurgence of sea huts is completely back on the Internet, their modern appeal certainly owes to its original goal: to synchronize individual efforts to achieve a common goal.

In centuries past, these call-and-response action songs were, of course, intended to keep a ship’s crew focused on navigating safely in often dangerous waters. Whether the task was paddling, hoisting sails or pulling nets, the hand strikes of sea huts were meant to help sailors keep time with one another.

But amid a global pandemic that has kept many people at home and isolated for nearly a year, sea huts can help foster a sense of community during a time when many are feeling lonely. As has been experienced before EagleCatherine van Arendonk, at her heart, Sea Huts are “unifying songs of survival, designed to transform a great group of people into one collective body, all working together to keep a ship afloat.”

They are also undeniably earworms.

Thanks to TikTok’s duo feature, which allows users to build on fellow TikTokers’ videos with their own plugins, Evans’ “Wellerman” solo show has been transformed into a complex split-screen harmony, complete with multiple audio parts and a helpful accompaniment. It’s a team project that everyone in the video has worked on individually, which makes its success even more impressive.

Confirming that the traditional shantytown format has a timeless quality, some people are even beginning to turn today’s popular songs, like Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” into sea huts in their own right.

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A video of a reluctant sea hut lover discovering the allure of these sea creatures has also gone viral. All it took was a car ride and an inspiring brother.

The 45-second clip perfectly shows how tin songs have a way of drawing others into the fold, or, as one commenter put it, “I think it makes sense when you think [about how] The art form arose as a means of providing pleasure, communication, and entertainment during periods of constant social isolation.”

So if you need a distraction amid everything that’s going on right now, #ShantyTok is here for you. Keep quiet and huts.

More must-read stories from TIME


write to Megan McCluskey at [email protected]

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