Two centuries ago, people began the song of sailors who stood firm against the whalers and eagerly awaited the replenishment of supplies such as sugar, rum and tea. Possibly the fact that it will cross the ceiling on platforms like TikTok in 2021 and become a cultural phenomenon linked to the pandemic situation has forced the world to pause and wait for better times for some time.
The creator of Wellerman’s global boom is Scottish postman Nathan Evans. Evans told DW, “I thought I would download Wellerman and then move on to the next song.”
At the end of December 2020 he posted his version of Cottages in New Zealand. The 26-year-old had previously uploaded other sailors’ songs, but his vivid Wellerman interpretation is now a viral hit. He’s already garnered millions of likes on TikTok – and his song was also a huge hit on other social media platforms. “It feels like a dream all the time. It’s just unbelievable,” said Nathan Evans.
Great ambiance on board
Sailors used to sing huts while working on their ship. Possibly the most famous sea cottage in the world is the “drunken seas”, and schoolchildren still learn it to this day. Chants were especially common in the nineteenth century, before steamships replaced sailing ships from the world’s oceans.
In the so-called “Call and Response Songs”, the sailor sang at home, then the rest of the crew began the choir. In the digital age, these TikTok users are the ones who accompany the original Polyphonic Evans:
The tin is owed by the nickname “Wellerman” to the Australian whaling company “The Weller Bros.” , Which operated primarily off the coast of New Zealand between 1830 and 1840. In the song, “Wellerman” is the name of the supply vessel that the company sent to the sailors with supplies and all necessities. The chorus says “Wellerman” will soon come to bring us sugar, tea and rum. One day, when the tongue is over, we’ll pack up and go. “Tongue” – this is the name given to the work of men who cut a whale into its individual parts after hunting it.
Hope for freedom
The fact that you learned about the hard work of slaughtering whales hardly made the song a viral hit. It is likely to reflect hope that confinement time will soon end – whether you are locked in a whaler while “tongue-licking” or not leaving your four walls in a pandemic.
“At a time when everyone is stuck at home, everyone is exhausted and their friends cannot watch this song,” Evans tries to explain the viral success of Willerman’s cabin. “Now everyone can join in, sing, stamp their feet, clap their hands or play an instrument. Everyone is involved, and that puts a smile on people’s faces.”
The TikTok format allows users to refer to Nathan Evans’ original post via video, reflecting the limited social life of the past year: Contacts with family, friends, and co-workers are often limited to video switching.
Variations of Willerman
“Wellerman” has always been an attractive melody available in countless forms and varied musical motifs. User Echo Alfa Bravo wrote on Twitter that he couldn’t get the song out of his head. That’s why he created his own version:
Even Kermit from The Muppet Show was implicated in the Wellerman mutation:
There are also remixes with different rhythms on the Internet:
2021 is the year of the shanties
Even Nathan Evans brought his rediscovery of the 200-year-old cottage to a record deal. At the end of January he released the movie “Wellerman” on the Polydor label and reached number one on the charts in several countries. Just a month later, a joint release with the German sailor contingent “Santeanu” ensued.
Evans is now giving up his job as a postman for the time being. However, he remains modest: “If I fail, I will be happy to look for another job and book it as an experiment.” Of course he would continue playing the guitar and singing. “It makes no difference to me.”
Adaption ins Deutsche: Susan Cordes