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The origin of Sea Chanteys

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George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 May 01 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,folklorist 18 May 01 - 11:21 PM
Mark Cohen 18 May 01 - 07:07 PM
SeanM 18 May 01 - 06:28 PM
Metchosin 18 May 01 - 05:32 PM
Metchosin 18 May 01 - 05:21 PM
Shields Folk 18 May 01 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,folklorist 18 May 01 - 04:59 PM
lady penelope 18 May 01 - 02:12 PM
Charley Noble 18 May 01 - 01:34 PM
GUEST,Melani 18 May 01 - 01:32 PM
Metchosin 18 May 01 - 01:20 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 May 01 - 11:12 AM
radriano 18 May 01 - 10:42 AM
Naemanson 18 May 01 - 08:35 AM
Charley Noble 17 May 01 - 08:04 PM
radriano 17 May 01 - 11:41 AM
Metchosin 17 May 01 - 03:06 AM
SeanM 17 May 01 - 12:57 AM
Wotcha 16 May 01 - 11:18 PM
Mark Cohen 16 May 01 - 08:05 PM
Charley Noble 16 May 01 - 07:43 PM
Uncle_DaveO 16 May 01 - 07:08 PM
SeanM 16 May 01 - 06:41 PM
Charley Noble 16 May 01 - 08:48 AM
Naemanson 16 May 01 - 07:54 AM
sophocleese 16 May 01 - 07:48 AM
Naemanson 16 May 01 - 06:11 AM
Chanteyranger 16 May 01 - 02:43 AM
SeanM 16 May 01 - 01:03 AM
Rebel135 15 May 01 - 11:50 PM
Mark Cohen 15 May 01 - 11:27 PM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 11:16 PM
GUEST,petr 15 May 01 - 11:00 PM
Charley Noble 15 May 01 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,Pete M at work 15 May 01 - 09:49 PM
SeanM 15 May 01 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,Melani 15 May 01 - 02:21 PM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 15 May 01 - 01:43 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 15 May 01 - 01:13 PM
IanC 15 May 01 - 12:41 PM
Naemanson 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM
IanC 15 May 01 - 12:05 PM
Ma Fazoo 15 May 01 - 11:32 AM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 11:12 AM
Dave the Gnome 15 May 01 - 11:02 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 09:08 AM
Charley Noble 15 May 01 - 08:53 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 06:45 AM
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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 May 01 - 11:23 PM

Charlie, No problem. Enjoy!


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,folklorist
Date: 18 May 01 - 11:21 PM

Hey, just to show you there are no new arguments under the sun, here is the very first paragraph of Roger Abrahams's 1974 book Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore:

"There are certain musical types that seem to arise only in areas in which Afro-Americans and Euro-Americans perform together or at least witness each other's performance forms--Jazz, jody calls, cheerleading, to use some American examples. The sea shanty is one of these. In Chanter-response performance type, with a high degree of voice overlap and interlock, these work songs are more in African singing style than European (with the possible exception of Celtic singing in groups). Yet they arose and thrived at a time when Afro- and euro-Americans and Europeans worked together under sail, and it seems clear that it was this combination of ethnic groups pursuing a common purpose that provided the situation under which these songs thrived."

Roger then provides an excellent five-page survey of the scholarship on black contributions to shantying; from Sharp, who was skeptical but admitted that some shanties had black influences, to W.F. Arnold who, in a 1914 book called Songs of Sea Labour proclaimed that the majority of shanties are "Negroid" in origin. The origin issue has long been a vexed question, because the hard data are simply not there to be found.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 18 May 01 - 07:07 PM

Charley Noble, did you say ROPES??? Ain't no ropes on a ship! (Well, maybe one...)

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 18 May 01 - 06:28 PM

Naemanson...

What I was speaking of about the state of folk in the US Navy was personal experience from the early '90s, along with friends who were either still active until recently or are still reservists.

While I won't debate that there are exceptional individuals enlisting in the military, I will stand by the assertion that the majority average is pretty far down on the overall scale of life. Quite simply, the enlisted forces don't recruit from those that would be considered 'exceptional'. Those 'exceptional' individuals who are considering military service usually end up in the ROTC programs, and normally end up in either Officer Candidate programs or in the higher 'tech skill' jobs.

I can attest personally to the lack of folk music amongst the 'rank and file' on board my ship at the time that I was there. I can attest to specific events - the 'working party' loading supplies on board prior to departing from port in Dubai, who when the Filipino CPO running suggested that we might like singing to make the work go faster was met with repeated yells that 'Hey - we aren't fags!' and similar enlightened suggestions.

Maybe I just was unlucky and got in with a truly sadsack vessel, but I fear that it's a service wide malady. I've often pondered if some of the various excesses that I read of (the manifold rape charges, near international incidents caused by drunken sailors, etc.) might be at least partially curbed if some of the old shanties and other traditions were seriously taught to the new sailors. Give them pride in what they do, and they may think twice about doing something to tarnish the service's reputation...

But this is rather drifty. My apologies... back to the Shanty talk.

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 May 01 - 05:32 PM

I would have thought so Sheils Folk, but Paul Clayton who is American spells it "Shanty".


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 May 01 - 05:21 PM

A further documentation of the African influence regarding Shanties is noted in the liner notes of an old record I have entitled Whaling and Sailing Songs from the Days of Moby Dick by Paul Clayton (1956). The performance of the songs is a bit weird, but he does seem to have done some research.

Regarding the Shanty Blood Red Roses he notes:

"It is thought that this fine old halyard Shanty is of Scottish origin. It is mentioned by Captain R.C. Adams in his book On Board the Rocket (1879) as being sung by the Negro crew of an American ship in mastheading the maintopsail, but is unquestionably of earlier origin than this mention." Unfortunately he doesn't say where he got the information regarding the Scottish conection.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Shields Folk
Date: 18 May 01 - 05:13 PM

Is the chanty/shanty spelling question an Atlantic thing, chanty-west(america), shanty-east(British Isles).


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,folklorist
Date: 18 May 01 - 04:59 PM

It seems CY's main point was that the call-and-response work song was originally African and came into shantying by way of African sailors. Others point out that there were shanties going back to the 1500s and that waulking songs are call-and-response work songs in the Celtic world, presumably unrelated to African models. I'd add to this that songs associated with threshing sometimes used call-and-response form. In Brittany, the came kind of Kan-Ha-Diskan that is used for plain dancing was also used to tamp down the threshing floor so that it would be hard enough to thresh on. Throughout France, and especially the northwest coastal areas, call-and-response is one of the most common types of singing, both for shanties and for other purposes. From all this, I just don't see any evidence that shanties ORIGINATED with Africans; there seem to have been call-and-response work songs elsewhere, and the shanty seems to have originated before Africans were a major part of the workforce.

CY's use of movies like Mogambo and Zulu as evidence is also a bit dodgy. Calling their tradition "centuries-old" and the song used to haul a rhinoceros out of a pit a "long drag chantey" makes it SEEM like africans invented the long-drag chantey centuries ago. But what we really have is a twentieth century movie of modern Africans using a song structurally similar to a long-drag chantey. It's not a centuries-old document, nor is it clear whether this tradition is connected to the shanty. It could even have been staged by the director.

BUT, I think it's fairly obvious that Africans, West Indians and African-Americans have had a huge impact on shanties, especially the English-language tradition.

Now for my main point: to say that historians and folklorists have ignored this is untrue. Every folklorist I've ever heard talking about shanties presents the evidence that Africans had a major influence, and talks about the theory that the name originated due to moving homes in the West Indies. Roger Abrahams has done some very important work on West Indian shanties (see his book Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore); I was just looking at his fieldtapes the other day, wishing I had a reel-to-reel deck! It's well and good to say that historians have neglected this and de-emphasized that for political reasons, but I don't think that applies to the African influence on shanties. The main problem, I think, is that most of what has been written on Shanties is quite old and the past few generations of scholars haven't written much on the topic. The standard books are still the ones by Hugill, who was neither a folklorist nor a historian, and wrote thirty years ago.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: lady penelope
Date: 18 May 01 - 02:12 PM

Thanks Mark I couldn't think of the proper word for me "tweeding" songs at the time.

Although there is still a lot of repetative work about, it is very rarely ( outside of places like the navy ) done in UNISON! People who work in factories are quite often doing different tasks in the same place and the rhythmn of the work won't allow that kind of call response song. Also sometimes people are told to be quiet! I work in a clinical laboratory and sometimes an odd phenomena occurrs. Spontanious Whistling! Usually of slow / laid back tunes such as the gallery theme from Vision on ( somebody from Britain help me out here I can't remember what it's called ) the whistling will go on for about ten minutes and then just die out.

And why is singing along to the radio a reduction? If there is no one alse to lead the singing why not the radio? Isn't it better that people sing along to radio than not sing at all?

TTFN M'Lady P.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 18 May 01 - 01:34 PM

Thanks for the link to David Stone.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Melani
Date: 18 May 01 - 01:32 PM

I did a research chantey for my husband the developmental biologist:

Oh, kill the rats and cut'em up,
Away, boys, away!
And then we'll all go out for lunch,
And we'll all go together!

They stopped me at that point.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 18 May 01 - 01:20 PM

Hmmmm...Cheese is good....Ben Gunn would have approved.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 May 01 - 11:12 AM

About Shanties/Chanties still being written, check out Dave Stone's "Anti-Chantey". It's on his recording "The Journey.

The Jouney


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: radriano
Date: 18 May 01 - 10:42 AM

Actually, Charlie, mining songs would be more appropriate as I work for the California Division of Mines and Geology, the state geological survey.

One of our products is a cd of photos of the old gold mines and I've been trying for some time (unsuccessfully so far) to convince my bosses that what the cd needs is a sound track of gold mining songs.

Richard


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 18 May 01 - 08:35 AM

Wotcha, are you talking of marching songs? I'm not sure that qualifies. From what I have seen of the US Navy there is little in the way of work songs.

Sean, your description of today's military ("This is prime Garth Brooks/Snoop Dog territory, folks. Be afraid..." doesn't completely jibe with my experience. Sure they are into modern music and experiences and they are generally pretty far right of center but they are not ignorant knuckle dragging buffoons either. That is more the Navy of my day.

And some of them are even into folk music!!

But they would never let themselves be caught dead actually singing it. That would be acting too far outside the actions of the common herd. It would be thinking too far outside the box. Because, whatever else they are, they definitely have a strong herd instinct.

I think your informant was giving you some bum information. The Navy is an all volunteer force with a high degree of professionalism. The kids joining up today are no worse than those working to become the leaders of our nation.

I have a friend who works as a part time instructor at UMASS Lowell. He was telling my just this morning about the poor quality of some of the papers he has to grade. If you want to fear anything you should be fearing them too.

(The above was written without animosity.)


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 May 01 - 08:04 PM

Richard, you wouldn't have to worry about customers if you'd just sing a shanty and persuade them with a belaying pin to do so useful hauling. You do have some ropes hanging around your office, don't you?


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: radriano
Date: 17 May 01 - 11:41 AM

For many people, in today's modern culture, music is thought of as something that is purchased and listened to while working rather than something that is an integral part of the work itself. In fact, most sea shanties sung today are not sung while working since the days of real shanty singing are long gone.

I was leading somewhere with this thought but I was interrupted by a customer coming into the office and now I've lost my train of thought.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 17 May 01 - 03:06 AM

Cranky Yankee, regarding your initial post, I'm not sure if I misunderstood you, but I have never heard the shanty South Australia performed to the tune of the Bananna Boat Song (Day O). But then again I have only heard it performed by Australians.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 17 May 01 - 12:57 AM

Unfortunatley, Brian, in my experience with the Navy, we were profoundly discouraged from singing at ANY point in service.

During Boot Camp, our 'leader' of our division struck up a tune while we were marching. He got (I believe) about three words into it before our Company Commander (the Navy equivalent of DI) stopped the march, broke us all down and busted us with pushups for about 45 minutes in the middle of the road. Held up traffic, even. All the while, he kept yelling "So you think you're a bunch of musicians, do you? Let's see your musical asses sing to this!" and other such endearments.

Little episodes like this discouraged the use of work songs. The only 'singing' we were allowed to do was the hideous Sunday Services, where we were all expected to raise our voices high to the travesty of "Proud to be an American". Talk about mental scarring...

At sea, as mentioned above, the general class of people enlisting these days isn't the kind that normally take to folk of any kind. An officer friend of mine once put it kindly with "The enlisted Navy isn't a life for a man who can survive on his own any more. I don't know what you're doing here, because most of the low rate enlisted can barely read, let alone hold a conversation." This is prime Garth Brooks/Snoop Dog territory, folks. Be afraid...

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Wotcha
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:18 PM

The Armed Forces (even Navy types who can find a place to run) may not call them shanties but they use work songs known as "Jody Calls" which originate from the Duckworth Chant of the 1930s according to our DT scholars. See earlier thread on that subject. The songs till function to take the mind off the monotony and pain of the road march or morning PT session. As a group, the U.S. military is probably the largest organization that uses work songs on a daily basis around the world. It preserves a rare folk tradition without even knowing it (it tarts it up with the likes of the 82 Airborne chorus though). It is not unusual to hear references to Bo Diddley and other greats and most kids have not a clue who they were ...
Cheers,
Brian


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 16 May 01 - 08:05 PM

soph, a number of years ago at the San Francisco Folk Music Club's New Year's Camp Harmony I was working in the kitchen (ably presided over by Debby McClatchy), and led shanties to help with the dishwashing. It's not that we all were heaving on a huge pot together, but it just helped lift our spirits and helped the time pass more quickly.

One of my favorite records, a National Geographic collection called "Music of Scotland", probably from the 60s, has a "waulking" song, sung by women who were banging with big pieces of wood on bolts of tweed cloth for what I presume is a good reason. The song is definitely call and response, with the head waulker singing a verse and the rest sliding in with the chorus in an interesting way. You can clearly hear the thumping of all those wooden thingamajigs on the table. I think that's what was being referred to as "tweeding songs" above.

I think CY's point is well taken, that much of the history of folklore, and of shanties in particular, has downplayed or ignored the African influence. Nevertheless, it's clear, and not at all surprising, that many cultures created, shared, and spread this kind of work song.

What a great discussion! People who kvetch about how the BS threads are "ruining" the Mudcat should be gently reminded about gems like this.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 May 01 - 07:43 PM

Another good nautical read from a young Canadian woman's point of view has to be a new book by Annette Brock Davis (Jackie) MY YEAR BEFORE THE MAST, another in a series of books describing the experience in the tall ship grain races of the 1930's. Jackie was overheard singing shanties (see, on-thread) to herself on watch and almost died of embarrassment. As one of the first female apprentices on the grain ships, she was lucky that she survived at all. She was definately not there as a passenger, and won a very grudging respect for the skills she learned and practiced, and was gratified to be invited back by the owners to sail next trip as an able-bodied sailor.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 16 May 01 - 07:08 PM

There's further confusion about this word in the lumbering world. The "shantyman" is not a singer but a lumberjack; he lives in a shanty.

But there was a lot of overlap among the men who made their living as sailors, lumberjacks, and cowboys: Definitely the same class of otherwise unskilled, often rootless, generally penniless bachelor males, who had to make their living by the sweat of their brow and the strength of their bodies. Not only the same class, but in many cases the same drifters here and there. The interpenetration of these songs is nothing to be surprised at.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 16 May 01 - 06:41 PM

Glad to hear that SOME sea songs make it in to seafarer's activites still. Sure as heck didn't in the regular navy that I went through unfortunatley.

The 'transition' from sea to land in the shanties is always fun to look at. Quite a bit of Doerflinger's work seems to center on that point. It's a logical progression in a few ways.

Recently I read a book ("Mad Sea"), a semi-autobiography about a young Nordic lad who repeatedly attempted to get to sea (eventually stowing away so they'd HAVE to take him along) and then spent the remainder of the book trying to make it on land. He followed the same path that he notes MANY seamen did, hitting the west coast and heading north into the lumber camps, thus adding to the lumbering shanty tradition that was growing.

Fascinating stuff...

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 May 01 - 08:48 AM

A clear example of how work songs shifted from land to sea has to be "Old Moke" (in the DT), with verses a strange mixture of sea terms and references to railroads, and the chorus strictly railroad and an entirely different tune and rhythm ("Old Virginia Lowlands" if I'm not mistaken). The Boarding Party did a nice rendition of this one, with their usual excellent notes. This shanty was caught obviously in transition.

OLD MOKE PICKIN' ON THE BANJO

He-bang, she-bang, daddy shot a bear
Shot it in the stern, me boys, and never turned a hair
We're all from the railroad, too-rer-loo
Oh, the old moke pickin' on the banjo.

cho: Hooraw! What the hell's the row?
We're all from the railroad, too-rer-loo
We're all from the railroad, too-rer-loo
Oh, the old moke pickin' on the banjo!

The same nomadic pattern is true of many lumberjack songs, which also moved back and forth from sea to land, such as "Jump Her, Juber-Ju" where we find one song describing the demise and embarrassment of a boatman who failed to pilot his skiff successfully during a log run on the rivers, the same chorus used for a net hauling song from the British Isles, and used once again for another song about the most sluggish boat (The Bigalow) on the Great Lakes as it raced (or more correctly "chased") the fleet from Chicago to Cleveland. Just think of how they could have mixed things up if they'd had a chatroom...


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 16 May 01 - 07:54 AM

You can use a shanty to ANY repetitive labor. Just remember to depend on your body to set the tempo rather than use the tempo at which you are used hearing the song.

I have used shanties for anything from shoveling snow to mopping the kitchen. I once tried to use one to pull a boat ashore but the owner stopped me because I had latched on to the mooring line instead. I don't think I could have pulled that engine block out of the mud but the owner thought I might.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: sophocleese
Date: 16 May 01 - 07:48 AM

Two thoughts that crossmy mind reading this fascinating thread. There are very few modern work songs as sung by the workers. People still like to have music to listen to and sometimes work to but they more often put on the radio, tape or CD. Shanties have faded away to dentist chair pap.

The other thoughtis a question for Cranky Yankee mainly, but others who have ideas please feel free to post them. I like the idea that by experiencing rowing a boat or working on a ship you can really apply the shanty to the work and see how they connected. Purely for the purposes of rhythm and pacing are there any dryland activities that you can think of that might help a singer learn the right tempo for a song? As a light example, if I can't row, can I rake leaves?


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 16 May 01 - 06:11 AM

Sean, I can reassure you that in one corner of the Modern US Navy there is a little (a very little) shanty singing going on. I have been singing Leave Her, Johnny, (the nice verses) for Navy retirement ceremonies lately.

People seem to be impressed and touched by the song. They don't seem to understand that the sentiment in the song is an urgency to get the hell off the ship but that may be the result of my choice of verses.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Chanteyranger
Date: 16 May 01 - 02:43 AM

A point chantey collectors also make is that black and western European influences criss-crossed over several decades, so that a song that originated in some form by black laborers was picked up by, say, Irish laborers, taken to sea, adapted, and then picked up again by black seafarers and changed again. The process also may have started with songs originated by Irish seafarers/shore laborers, and picked up by blacks, be they African Americans or Caribbean sailors, etc. In other words, the folk process was at work in the "shanty mart" of Mobile that Hugill wrote about. "Hieland Laddie" is a good example. Scottish Highland pipers know it as a very old traditional march, chantey singers know it as a song adapted from the march with a slightly different melody, that dates back to the Dundee whalers, but was picked up, according to Hugill, in the great shanty mart of Mobile and mutated into several North American versions.

Though my reading of the collections and history doesn't point to the call/response form of those songs being totally of African origin, it's clear that the 19th Century form these songs took owes much, maybe more than we realize, to black influences. To add to Ma Fazoo's good point about how history has been written, there certainly has been a bias on the part of historians to pay more attention to cultures that have accumulated a written history, and less on cultures that have relied on transmitting their histories orally, down through generations. The vibrant oral culture of 19th Century African Americans was, for the most part, ignored by professional historians until recent times. Whether knowledge of the history of blacks and work songs aboard ships will be increased due to a wider consciousness on the part of today and tomorrow's historians, or whether those answrs are lost forever, who knows. Historians and folklorists are detectives, and hopefully we'll know more about Jody's theory at some point than we do now.

-chanteyranger


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 16 May 01 - 01:03 AM

Wes,

You're correct in your statements from Brand. If you REALLY want to get into some good stuff, look up Stan Hugill.

As to the modern use?

I can attest that in today's modern US Navy, shanty singing is not only dead, but generally reviled. Along with the general decline of the average enlistee down towards the common denominator has come the bizarre hatred for folk music.

Even in otherwise traditional (and still observed) activities such as the Shellback Ceremony, no music is used.

This MAY be different in smaller ships, but amongst myself and my few friends with service experience, shantying in ANY form pretty much died out after the rash of 'destroyer shanties' in WWII.

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Rebel135
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:50 PM

Im not an expert on music by any means but I have more than a knowledge of history.

Most songs are cultural and when the lights went you there were few things to do other than dance, sing or find a corner with a loved one.

(Studies were done about the effects of rural electrication and the children per capita were haved when people could see each other.

Back the the current question. I have in my posession two records that I would suggest you would hard put to find any where, Oscar Brand? Sea Chanties Vol 1 and 2.

Oscar Brand,if I remember his name correctly, wrote that sea chanties derived from different needs. Some sea shanties told a story.

Like Paul Jones...

That starts out. A Yankee Ship came down the river, blow boys blow. It tells the story of John Paul Jones.

As opposed to some that were considered "short drag songs" which were sung while working and helped establish teamwork.

Pulling up an anchor is hard work on a capsain and so the men would sing and pull in time with the tempo.

I dont know a lot about sea chanties but they served a purpose. I suspect that every seafaring culture there ever was had sea chanties but they were useful.

Wes Prichard


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:27 PM

Even though I know as absolute fact that the correct spelling is shanty, I've always gone with the story that it came from the French, "chanter", to sing.

Ian, don't tell 'Spaw what "bucke verteth" means, OK?

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:16 PM

Don't think this was mentioned on this thread before but the word Shanty is derived from the Irish words "sean" and "tigh" meaning "old house".


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,petr
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:00 PM

as far as work songs go , I believe the earliest song that is known is the shadoof song of the Nile, Shadoof being the basket mechanism used for irrigation. its maybe 3000 bc.

there is an oddball theory, but one that appeals to me, that there are ancient recordings of in existence if only we could play them back, namely in pottery that was thrown on a wheel which in a similar fashion to the gramophone recorded some sounds as it was being made. It has been proposed that the recordings" if any may be read back with a laser device. cheers petr.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 May 01 - 10:42 PM

Most of the shanty singers/scholars state that shanties died out in the 1600's and 1700's because the ships were not in a hurry and their crews were large, and that it wasn't till the 1820' and 1830's that shanties began to be revived as shipowners began to try to keep their ships on a schedule and complete aggressively with other shipping lines, designed faster ships, and cut down crew size to save money; this is the shanty theory in response to the pressures of the new industrial market system. I still find it hard to believe that such a useful training tool as shanties weren't used in the 1700's, and that it seems more likely to me that no one thought they were interesting enough to write down.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Pete M at work
Date: 15 May 01 - 09:49 PM

I know it was probably intended as a wind up Jody, but I'll bite. I'm with IanC about spelling, the etemology of a word can be very important in this kind of discussion. Also, if we are going to 'tackle' this problem I would have thought that the 'correct' pronunciation of words is no more, or less, inconsequential than their spelling.

Meanwhile, back to the plot. I would have to agree with Naemanson about the demise of the shanty as a true work song in 'Western' and Western influenced cultures. Certainly there are instances where these are used successfully in their 'traditional' setting by those of us with a common interest in shanties and ships, but in reality this is no more than an exhibit in a living museum. The true test is whether the form is still used to pace and assist repetitive work by those engaged in it on a day to day basis. My experience is as Naemanson says, is that it is not. I have come across several instances of the form in the Pacific islands in a traditional social setting, but not for working. That is admittedly a small sample on which to base a hypothesis and I may be being unduely pessimistic. What experience have others had?

Pete M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 15 May 01 - 06:00 PM

To get it back to 'call and response'... I'm going out on a limb here, but I seem to recall from my old college theatre classes that traditional Greek plays had the Chorus, with the Choral Leader. While not singing, they were working in a call and response medium, with the leader intoning his lines, and the chorus responding en masse. One instructor I had theorized that this was the start of the traditional chorus in music, and went further (without any backing but theorizing) that this development came out of the first agrarian societies as a way of passing the time.

So there. Shanties might just go back to when the first proto-human stopped in mid-chase and said 'blow this for a lark. I'm gonna plant beans and stop chasing those bloody great beasts with horns and all. Who's with me?'

That could also be why it's so hard to pin down a specific reference from where shanties started - if work songs DID originate before the dawn of history, who's to say WHERE they came from? If you accept point *a*, then point *b* which follows would be that work songs are universal, and that any attempt to track down their genesis will get muddled over the intervening thousands of years...

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Melani
Date: 15 May 01 - 02:21 PM

I'm told "Twist and Shout" works well as a chantey, and I've also heard "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" used.

There are still people writing new chanties. I have just heard a tape by David LoVine (thanks, chanteyranger!) that consists entirely of songs and chanties that he wrote about the Lady Washington. The chanties sound traditional but are not, the words pertain to the ship and her crew, and they sound perfectly useful as work songs. Great tape, by the way.

I think traditional chanties sound the way they do because they tended to reflect the popular music of the time. Cranky Yankee's story about the teenagers is the modern-day version of the same thing.

Not to mention that traditional chanties get new verses all the time.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 15 May 01 - 01:43 PM

There she was just a swinging to the beat
Singing doo wadda diddy diddy dum diddy doo
Sitting on the capstan and stamping her feet
Singing doo wadda diddy diddy dum diddy doo
She looked good she looked fine and we nearly broke the line
Yeah Shanties are not dead mates just used differently. Yours, Aye. Dave (a 21st century shantyman) btw if anyone cares to dispute the spelling step up and i'll explain why i'm right and you are wrong *Big F"ing Grin*


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 15 May 01 - 01:13 PM

Naemanson:

Thanks, Your posts are clear, well thought out and well informed. Let me assure you though that the "Genuine Sea Chantey" is far from extinct, at least in my little corner. I've related this in another thread, somewhere, but here it goes again.

HMS Rose's first winter was in the old, now unused, ferry terminal in Jamestown Rhode Island. None of the sailing crewmembers were still around, except for Donna, Myself and John Millar (Rose's owner ) John woke me up at 0600 one morning and told me that the ship had to be moved from the slip it was in to the one next to it. A former "Staten Island Ferry boat" was, at that moment steaming up to Jamestown to be converted into a floating MOTEL and restaurant, and it needed the machinery in the slip that was then occupied by "Rosie" The ferry was due to arrive around 1700. He had arranged for "Black Pearl's" crew to assist me, but they had to cancel at the last minute to pick up a new diesel in Providence.
Rose had no auxilliary engines at the time, so, it had to be warped from one ferry slip to another. Furthermor, he had to pick up his father at the T.F.Greene international airport in Warwick. That left me and the capstan. Along about 1500, it was becoming evident that there was no one to help me and I could see the smoke from the ferry's stack coming up Narragansett Bay.,BR. ,BR.i went ashore to the "drug store - soda fountain" where the high school kids had just started assembling. I chose the four biggest boys and told them to follow me. Jumping at the chance to go aboard "Rosie" to help out, they followed me. Once aboard, I explained that we were going to attach a long nylon rope, called a "Warp Line", to the next ferry slip, and, the wind and tide being just right, take in all the present mooring lines. This would then allow the ship to drift out of it's present location into the channel. Then we would use the capstan to pull in to where we wnted to be. They all indicated that they understood But, I neglected to tell them I was going to sing, so we started heaving and I started singing"Heave away Johnny". They began jumping up into the air and yelling "YAAA..HOOO....". Of course when all the slack was out of the warp line, we stopped moving.
I gathered them around me in a column of bunches, and explained that I was singing to keep us all in step, and that unless we were in step, we would sarve to death in he middle of Naragansett bay as there weren't enough of us to do the job without a coordinated effort. They understood this philisophically, but still jumped up and yelled YAA.......HOOOO....

So I started singing , "Come on Over Baby, whole lot o' shakin' goin' on"
Come on over baby, baby you can't go wrong.
I aint fakin' Whole lot o' shakin' goin' on"
Then they chimed in with "Shake Baby Shake, shake baby shake" etc. When the singing got them into step, the ship began to move again and they felt the difference. You could almost see a lightbulb go on over their collective heads.

"Rosie moved into place and "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On'" became a genuine capstan chantey.

ANY DISSENTION?


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 15 May 01 - 12:41 PM

Well, here's some more thoughts about the timing of the growth of the British merchant fleet. I don't think you can really blame it on the shanties, though.

British sea power was growing during the C16th but started to become particularly important at the end of the C16th after the defeat and destruction of the Spanish Armada. There was a large increase in traffic to the Americas at the end of the C18th. This was because of the Napoleonic war when, for the first time, the French began to compete seriously with Britain for trade with "The Americas" (by then Britain had a virtual monopoly in Europe due - I think - to Spain's involvement in the War of the Austrian Succession). By then, also, the British were heavily involved in the trading of slaves from the West African coast to "The Americas".

It would appear to be the case that, by the end of the Elizabethan era, (about 1600) traditional shanties, such as "A-Rovin", were already in common use - probably in The Netherlands, Flanders and France also.

Cheers!
Ian

PS ... re: the spelling ... it obviously has an important influence on how you understand the etymology of the word and hence what light can be put on the origin of the songs. Whall, in the introduction to his 6th edition (1927) is with Jody (historically rather than etymologically) to some extent in that in that he claims the earliest collections of Shanties were called "Songs from the Shanties" and later "Shanty songs" before being called simply "Shanties".


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM

"...most work songs mainly died out when repetitive physical work was no longer required."

In an interesting drift, Ian, there is still a lot of repetitive physical work being done, even in our great First World societies but work songs are NOT used.

I believe this is due to a range of reasons. To start with today's First World laborers haven't got either the heart or the lungs to sing. When faced with a dull repetitive job they either attack it full throttle and get it done or they feel so oppressed by the prospect of the job that they cannot sing. And there is the peer pressure of the other workers on the site. And the cigarrettes have stolen enough lung capacity that they need it all for the work. Etc.

They have forgotten the value of the work song. There is also a perception that you have to be able to sing like a paid performer. This is largely due to the electronic media (I firmly believe) and will not change. The work song, with a few exceptions, has been relegated to the role of entertainment.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM

Thank you THANK YOU. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR when I started this thread.

Except for the few crackpots who want to argue about completely inconsequential (so I can't spell, so what) things, I think there's enough good, solid argument here for me to start forming my own conclusions.

Oh yes, somewhere in the "Forum" the comment was made that English sailors did not pronounce T A C K L E, as Tay-kul. All I can say to that is I've shipped with many a lime juice sailor (no ethnic slur here) and they all pronounce the word, "Tay-kul".

Once again, thank you and keep the opposing viewpoints coming.

Jody Gibson


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 15 May 01 - 12:05 PM

MF

Get me not wrong. I'm loving this. Effete's my word by way of a wind-up. Thought it was good myself.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Ma Fazoo
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:32 AM

Ian c, this is meant as a joke, too, so don't take offense either, right? I don't much care wheter it's spelled chantey, shantey, chanty, shanty, chantez, xianti or tondelayo, as long as it works,and it certainly does in my experience. Sailing a 500 ton squarerigger through the Bay of Fundy two days after a hurricane with a green crew of 20 women and men would have been physically impossible without the use of chanties. I thinke we'd be out there yet, if not for them.
History, at least for the last couple of centuries has been largely written by white European of white North American males,
History is about 40% speculation and 60% self-promotion, in my humble but crazed opinion. Question authority, it's good for your noodle.
"Effete" gave me the best laugh I've had in years. If Louie Killen is somehow out of cyril Tawney by way of Roy Acuff, Cranky (Jody to his friends and enemies alike) is out of Popeye by way of Leonardo da Vinci, with Daffy Duck as Godfather.
Overstating his case a little? Remember all thhose Europeen historians and let him chime in a little bit for a less popular notion.
I'm so glad this thread has generated such intelligent and fascinating information. I love this Mudcat place!


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:12 AM

Well, so far we have the earliest documented records for work done by sailors to call and response aboard British ships, as noted by Whall, from The Complaynt of Scotland in 1450.

Then from the Blood Red Roses thread, Hugill is quoted as saying that the earliest he could find documented were Venetian, heard and noted by a Dominican friar, Felix Fabri of Ulm, Germany, in 1493.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 15 May 01 - 11:02 AM

Adding my two-pen'urth. I think I read that on Cooks voyages to the south seas it was recored that the islanders used songs to row to. They went into the melting pot as well and we got such good 'uns as 'John Kanaka'. BTW in deference to my Polish origins I think I will use the spelling Zanties ...

I am in full agreement with the African bit as well. Not just black African either. I think the North African / Arabic influence must be taken into account as the Moors and other races of the area were also great sea-farers.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 15 May 01 - 09:08 AM

Great!

It's, of course, not the case that there are no call/response songs in any other form of English Language folk music. As with the singing of shanties aboard ship, most work songs mainly died out when repetitive physical work was no longer required. In the farther flung parts of Britain, however, some survived into the 20th Century, and there exist video recordings of (e.g.) people on Harris singing traditional work songs, including call/response forms. Most of these forms were not really appealing to early folk song collectors, even if they saw them, as they were generally more interested in what they considered to be the earliest "pure" ballad forms. This bias in collection can be well illustrated by the fact that (e.g.) choruses/refrains were considered to be a very late addition despite the fact that the first recorded song with music was a chorus song (Sumer is Icumen In, rather badly set out in DT)

Here it is, laid out as it appears in many anthologies (sometimes the 4 half-lines of the "verse" are written separately)

Sumer is icumen in, lhude sing cucu.
Groweth sed and bloweth med, and springth the wode nu.
Sing cucu, nu, sing cuccu, Ne swike thu, niver nu

Awe bleateth after lomb, Lhouth after calve cu;
Bullock sterteth, bucke verteth, Murie sing cucu.
Sing cucu, nu, sing cuccu, Ne swike thu, niver nu

The form of this (ABC DEC) is, in fact, more similar to the (ABCD EBFD) form of many working shanteys than any of the various forms found in Courlander's "Negro Folk Music, USA", 1963 though I am making no claim that it was a work song(!)

Play songs, especially those associated with work, frequently preserve older work songs and there are many of these, some still being used in childrens' playgrounds round my way, which use a call-response format. I can provide more details, given a little time, if this cannot be taken as established.

Perhaps, along with what has already been said about the naturalness of work rhythms, there is no real necessity to take the origin of Sea Shanties out of context with other work songs. If this is so, it seems most likely to me that the form naturally evolved in situations where it was found to be beneficial. However, having said this, I think I'd be inclined to agree that something apparently took the shanty form to its peak in the early C19th, and this may well be as Cranky has said.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 May 01 - 08:53 AM

I'm loading my guns with A.L. Lloyd's Folk Song in England which has a great discussion on the origin and development of the "shanties." Then when I'm much wiser, I'll blow everyone away with my insights. ;-)

Haul the sheet back with one hand,
Set yer drink down, if ye can,
And we never sail outta sight of land –
Tanqueray-martini-o!


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 15 May 01 - 06:45 AM

Yes, but what I'm interested in is the development of the particular form - i.e. Call and Response work songs as used on board sailing ships.

We can look at the development of this form here, with some very informed people, so perhaps we may be able to address the question of how and when they developed into what they are.

Cheers!
Ian


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