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The origin of Sea Chanteys

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CRANKY YANKEE 14 May 01 - 01:01 PM
IanC 14 May 01 - 01:07 PM
Wolfgang 14 May 01 - 01:18 PM
Micca 14 May 01 - 01:24 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 14 May 01 - 01:34 PM
Mrrzy 14 May 01 - 01:59 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 14 May 01 - 02:07 PM
Don Firth 14 May 01 - 02:12 PM
Naemanson 14 May 01 - 02:21 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 14 May 01 - 02:44 PM
Charley Noble 14 May 01 - 02:46 PM
lady penelope 14 May 01 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,Albamist 14 May 01 - 04:20 PM
radriano 14 May 01 - 04:41 PM
SeanM 14 May 01 - 05:03 PM
Charley Noble 14 May 01 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,Barry Finn, still out & about 14 May 01 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,Pete M at work 14 May 01 - 07:39 PM
toadfrog 14 May 01 - 08:01 PM
SeanM 14 May 01 - 09:44 PM
Margo 15 May 01 - 12:06 AM
GUEST,John 15 May 01 - 01:31 AM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 02:54 AM
SeanM 15 May 01 - 03:33 AM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 03:38 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 15 May 01 - 04:31 AM
KingBrilliant 15 May 01 - 05:21 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 06:19 AM
Naemanson 15 May 01 - 06:26 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 06:45 AM
Charley Noble 15 May 01 - 08:53 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 09:08 AM
Dave the Gnome 15 May 01 - 11:02 AM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 11:12 AM
Ma Fazoo 15 May 01 - 11:32 AM
IanC 15 May 01 - 12:05 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM
Naemanson 15 May 01 - 12:10 PM
IanC 15 May 01 - 12:41 PM
CRANKY YANKEE 15 May 01 - 01:13 PM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 15 May 01 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Melani 15 May 01 - 02:21 PM
SeanM 15 May 01 - 06:00 PM
GUEST,Pete M at work 15 May 01 - 09:49 PM
Charley Noble 15 May 01 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,petr 15 May 01 - 11:00 PM
Metchosin 15 May 01 - 11:16 PM
Mark Cohen 15 May 01 - 11:27 PM
Rebel135 15 May 01 - 11:50 PM
SeanM 16 May 01 - 01:03 AM
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Subject: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:01 PM

First off, let me offer some historically factual statements.
In the early 18th century, merchant ships flying the British Flag, which, of course, included the colonies, began hiring sailors from the West Coast of Africa. The reason for this being that they were not Crown Subjects and therefore not elligible for impressment into the Royal Navy.

It was immediately apparent that they were excellent sailors, dependable, resourceful and hard working. So, Thousands and thousands of Africans were eventually signed on to these merchant ships.

fact #2
Africans have a centuries old tradition of coordinating the efforts of more than one person, by singing. In the movie "Mogambo" starring Clark Gable, which was shot on location, there is a scene where several Africans are hauling a Rhinocerous out of a pit while singing a long drag chantey. In "Trader Horn", also shot on location, the Watusi People are portrayed by real Watusi, there are other examples, also they are paddling a boat while singing a chantey. Michael Caine's "Zulu" < also shot on location, the "Zulu" are portrayed by real Zulu. The move troop formations around, issue and acknowledge orders by singing.

In the 19th century, there were so many African Sailors employed on British and American ships that the State of South Carolina perceived them as a threat to "Domestic Tranquility" in the port of Charleston that they enacted the infamous "South Carolina Negro Seamen "act which stated that any Negro crewmen on ships entering Charleston Harbor had to be locked up in the city jail until their ship left port, and the cost of their upkeep was the responsibility of the ship's Captain. If the captain could not pay the required sum of money, his sailors would be sold into slavery to satisfy this debt.
This almost caused another war with the Mother Country when an English ship lost it's entire crew in this manner.

fact #3
Oliver Hazard Perry proved to the world that "Brittania did NOT rule the waves of lake Erie" with a force from my hometown, Newport, Rhode Island, consisting of (most historians agree)50% free African American Sailors.

The above facts are offered to show that there were a LOT of African and Afro American sailors on English speaking merchant ships. Now here comes my theory, The African sailors brought the tradition of singing to coordinate work aboard with them./ This quickly caught on when the other sailors saw how much smoother and easier the work became. Sthe ship owners, found that with this practice they could operate their ships with fewer crewmen and did so, thereby enabling them to cut costs (Crew requirements being the larges operating expense) and undercut the rates of every other country's ships. The result being that we, US and British, eventually had huge fleets of sailing merchant ships, their numbers being way out of proportion to our population.

The "call-response" form of sea chanteys, is exclusively African. There are no examples of this in any other English Language folk music. Irish people are extremely prolific and diverse in their composing folk songs. But, to them the music is an added bit of beauty to a poem. The tune makes the poem easier to recite. It also can add "dramatic " effect to the poetry. Here's one more bit of corellation. In the TV Movie "Mandella" , at the end of the movie, some zulus are singing a song with African words that is identical to "Little Sally Racket" and THE CAPE COD CHANTEY (ALSO KNOWN AS SOUTH AUSTRALIA) IS IDENTICAL IN FORM TO THE BANANA BOAT SONG. "Day Oh, Day oh" is exdactly the same melody as "Heave away me bully bully boys" (or "heave away you ruling king")


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:07 PM

Hey, Cranky

Just to wind you up, here's another fact.

Wall, who's excellent book I'vbe got a 1st edition of, claims that the use of the spelling Chanty or Chantey is effete, not being historically accurate.

He is the only person sailing before 1872 (since when he claims there were no decent shanties sung) who appears to have ever published anything about shanties and claims he never ever heard them called, described as or spelt with a "C"

Any feelings?

;-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Wolfgang
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:18 PM

Good thread, my only tiny objection: Please don't start a thread about music with BS. On busy days I filter BS threads away and I'd hate to miss such a thread. I hope Joe (clone) will correct that.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Micca
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:24 PM

IanC, in support of your statement as I have said before on here, Chantey is a Glaswegian slang word for a pisspot or Gezunder (it Gezunder the bed!)in all other places Ive seen it in use in the British Merchant navy in the 60s it was ALWAYS spelt Shanty...


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:34 PM

Ian C. Frederick Pease Harlowe's book "Chanteying Aboard American Ships" which is an excellent read, also gives some credit to African Chanteymen, stating at one point that the two best chanteymen in his experience were both Black.

I submitted the above when I did because AOL has a nasty habit of kicking me out before I'm finished. I have one more thing to add.

Given what is stated in the first part of this thread, do any of you, upon reflection, think that with all those African Sailors around (Fact) a "British Islander" came up with the idea of using music as a coordinating tool?

None of the "experts" (except harlowe) even considered the notion that African's had at least some part in the early development of real sea chanteys.

SO MUCH FOR EXPERTS who write books. Never completely accept what any "Expert" tells you, (that includes me, not that I'm Expert, only somewhat profficient) THINK FOR YOURSELVES, QUESTION THE "EXPERTS">.

IanC. Harlowe spent most of his life as a sailor on large square rigged merchant ships in the 19th century. The guy who wrote the book you quote must have been somewhat concerned about his own manhood to have written such a piece of claptrap. I quit being concerned about such things somewhere around 1969. Look in the P.M.'s for how come.


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Mrrzy
Date: 14 May 01 - 01:59 PM

Interesting, very interesting!


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 14 May 01 - 02:07 PM

MICCA: You want to start a Brew-ha-ha about how something is SPELLED?????

stand up straight
look intelligent
and
Don't drag your knuckles

Ian, O.K. I see the smiley face.


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 May 01 - 02:12 PM

(Actually, that's spelled "brouhaha")

Don Firth (ducking and covering)


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 14 May 01 - 02:21 PM

Actually I agree with Cranky Yankee about the probable origin of the shanty being African. I have seen plenty of examples of African laborers working and singing. Be that as it may, it was then taken on board by sailors of many nations and modified to fit the language and customs of those sailors.

One additional source of African sailors was slavery. Sometimes a slave was sold or even rented to a ship captain. For some it became the path to freedom.

Anyway, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the experts were guilty of a little racial prejudice in their research and glossed over the African origin of the custom of using songs with labor.

I think Hugill mentions a work song dating from Elizabethan England. Any more info on that?


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: CRANKY YANKEE
Date: 14 May 01 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for your input Naemanson. It's my understanding, though that Chanteys (or shanties) were only used on "English Speaking" vessels and while there are now foreign language translations, they've never been used functionally except on our ships and that is the reason for the huge fleets of merchant ships that were way out of proportion to our population.

As for Mr Hughill's statement about Elizabethan sailors singin a songs about their lives, SO DID EVERYBODY ELSE, IN EVERY LANGUAGE AND ABOUT EVERY OCCUPATION.


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 May 01 - 02:46 PM

I'm sure CY is correct in given Aficans credit for playing a major role in the development of shanties, chanties, or whatever they're called, although I'm sure that work chants were also alive and well in England, France, Scandinavia on land and on the sea. I believe Stan Hugil gives Africans in the Caribbean and Southeastern US full credit for many fine shanties references to the Mobile Bay shanty factory.

As an aside I remember waking up one morning in rural Ethiopia (the Gurage Agar) to the sound of a "shanty"; the neighbors were transplanting big banana-like plants (Ensete), and heaving 'em up with a modal chant quite like "Blood Red Roses." When I asked my students what the words meant, they were all embarrassed; they claimed "They're not singing the right words; what they're singing is very rude!" Well, I've got it all on tape and some day Roll & Go will sing homage to the great Thunder God "Boja" and whatever he was doing with that lovely young lady...


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: lady penelope
Date: 14 May 01 - 03:13 PM

I've got to disagree with the Cranky Yankee, there have been work songs in just about every culture in the world. And as for the Irish only singing as a form of art???? There are plenty of recorded "tweeding" songs from the west coast of scotland that the women sang as they cured the tweed. It took as many women as were available to work the tweed and they had to work in unison, hence the songs. If you look at the Norse, I'm sure you'll be able to find Viking work songs, 'cos that's all a shanty is.

TTFN M'Lady P.


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Albamist
Date: 14 May 01 - 04:20 PM

Lady Penelope, you took the words right out of my mouth (meatloaf I believe) Have you ever noticed the distinct similarity between the gaelic tweeding songs and native American chants? Some of them are almost interchangeable

In a similar vein to Charlie Noble, I once worked in the copper mines in Zambia, the work crew were moving a heavy piece of equipment into place underground and were chanting as they worked. Thinking I was lucky to be hearing some ancient tribal chant I asked the elder mechanic about the meaning of the words. He replied, "Young Frank there(the junior mechanic) has just bought himself a motorcycle and he looks like a pea on top of a mountain, so we are chanting oh he who looks like a pea on a mountain-------Push" Disappointed or what?

Albamist


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: radriano
Date: 14 May 01 - 04:41 PM

Good thread and I agree that the BS should be removed from the title.

Although I've been singing shanties and sea music for quite a while now I must admit to a very meager knowledge of their history.

Is the call and response form exclusively African? Or did the industrial revolution erase any form of this type in white cultures? I admit to not being much of a historian either so I may be off the mark. Where did the call and response used in training by the Marines come from originally?


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 14 May 01 - 05:03 PM

Hugill mentions two shanties as of probably Elizabethan origin, with one even earlier - "A-Rovin'" being the Elizabethan, and "Haul on the Bowline" being of probable earlier genesis. Admittedly, the reasoning given for the dating is that the bowline ceased being a 'heavy work' line some time in apparently the 14th century, and thus not needing a full shanty for work purposes.

'Shanties of the Seven Seas' covers a lot of this topic, along with Doerflinger's work and a few others... After reading what they've written, as well as other independent sources (encyclopaedias, national histories, etc.), I don't agree that African influences were responsible for the evolution of the sea shanty. They were a definite shaping influence, but not the MAJOR influence.

The closest conglomerate explanation that I'd agree to is that sailors were using 'call outs' or 'sing outs' (rythmic yells and stamping in time to the work) to time the pulling. While African tribes may have been doing this before sailors sailed, it isn't much of a stretch to imagine that sailors could independently develop similar ideas due to the nature of the work (i.e., 'if we don't all pull together, that sheet ain't going nowhere, so everyone pull on my mark and signal that you're doing it by responding with a yell'). From there, it's even less of a stretch to imagine the sailors, once presented with a steady beat, would start using favorite songs from home to time the work with, and then from there start developing songs of their own. Art finds the strangest beds to grow from...

In all this, it's entirely reasonable to assume that EVERY nation that sailors came in contact with would add to the blend. After all, it was a common practice to bolster diminishing crews by taking (hopefully) willing natives to sea as pilots, and some would stay on as full time sailors... Some ships would even man whole crews of 'natives', as noted by Dana in 'Two Years Before the Mast'. There, in California, he records a ship entirely manned by native "Kanakas" (Hawaiians).

Plus, as sailors signed on to different routes, their experiences would go with them... so on an Atlantic trade vessel, you might wind up with a Pacific South Seas sailor sharing the songs and shanties he'd learned on his previous voyages... and vice versa. That's part of what makes tracing where shanty influences definitively came from so difficult.

Anyway, that's my take on it. Do with it as you will...

M


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 May 01 - 05:43 PM

Transplanted from the Blood Red Roses thread:

Hugill does mention in his introduction to Songs of the Sea that the earliest reference he could find to shanty singing (a crew pulling on a rope, with a lead singing coordinating them) was in the book of a Dominican friar, one Felix Fabri of Ulm, Germany, "who in 1493 sailed aboard a Venetian galley to Palestine."

Let's all raise a glass to Friar Felix!


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Barry Finn, still out & about
Date: 14 May 01 - 06:21 PM

IMHO, I'd go as far as saying that African culture has had more influence on shanties than any other one culture. They've been lords of the West African coast line since the first European explorers hired them. As far back as can be recalled they've anyways used singing to help with group labor. Other cultures of course used singing for labor but were they also heavily envolved in open sea transportation, not as much as the African. They may not have been the first but when steped onboard & started to go shoulder to shoulder with the rest they made their presence felt & known. To further support CY, I'd say they eventually became cream of the crop, the old men of the sea. Before they were eventually driven from the sea & left with the cook or steward's positions, they were the sailors that had no other empolyment opportunity as did their white counterpart who only needed to make a few passages or one every so often. Unlike a lot of the fellow sailors (whom it seems were becoming younger & had fewer responsibilities) many had families & communities that strongly depended upon them for more than their daily bread. Like the black cowboy, black sailors numbered around 20% or so during their hayday but it's all in who writes the histories. Family's leaving thee Library so I gotta go, great thread CY. If I can get my computer up & running again I stop in. Barry


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Pete M at work
Date: 14 May 01 - 07:39 PM

Just to be pedantic CY, "African" is not synonomous with negro. The evidence both acedemic and empirical would indicate that the seafaring tradition in Africa started and was concentrated around the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, not those areas below the Sahara. I agree that the use of "call - response" work songs is widespread in the African continent, but I would argue that this suggests a parallel development to a common situation, rather than radiation from an original source. Similarly the use of shanties or shanty form chants by Polynesians has already been mentioned, so I would very much doubt your hypothesis, even without the evidence of brother Fabri.

Having said that I must agree about the influence of seamen from the West coast of Africa on the development of those shanties still extant.

Following on from Barry's comments about them being 'the cream of the crop' there is a documented incident of a ship hiring crew in Glasgow (in the 1880's I believe) whose master displayed a prominent sign that he was hiring crew but that no Irish or Niggers need apply. Of course members of both these communities came to remonstrate with him and he "allowed" himself to be persuaded to "make an exception" for the best those who showed up. He ended up with one watch of Irish and one of negros between which he encouraged rivalry and achieved one of his fastest and most efficient trips.

Pete M


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: toadfrog
Date: 14 May 01 - 08:01 PM

It is awful hard to believe that call and response is "exclusively African," or whatever. I've heard travellers from China remark on call and response work songs from there. We can speculate on where chanteys [effete and otherwise] came from, but shouldn't get too doctrinaire about it. Hugil says, the widespread use of chanteys was from about 1830-1870, and originated on the packets. But for sure, those weren't the first work songs ever sung at sea. I think there is a 14th Century one that goes something like this:

Heisa, Heisa!
Vorsa, vorsa!
wow, wow!
One long pull!
Young blood!
More mud! [or mude]

Anyone familiar with that?


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 14 May 01 - 09:44 PM

I've also got to side with the 'melting pot' theory...

Before there was extensive evidence of African sailors, there was evidence of the stamp 'n' go callouts and such (at least according to the historic references I've read). I'm not going to knock the contributions of the MANY African nations to the shanty, but I'd also say that a large majority of the traceable influence comes from the 'golden age', long after the art of shanty singing was already established.

One MAJOR way that has been surmised that this influence hit was from some plantation owners sending excess slaves to sea during the winter 'fallow' seasons. They could sell the slave off, thus saving themselves the expense of maintaining slaves during periods when the large numbers needed to plant and reap were not needed... in the process, these slaves would take with them their work songs, which would then very easily spread if not in exact form at least in spirit amongst the other crew.

It's a hard call. I've read some VERY persuasive essays that say that the African trade routes were the genesis of shanteys. I've also read some VERY persuasive essays that say that the Irish 'coffin' ships (starting with the earliest emigrants) were the genesis, that traditional Norwegian whaling songs were, and that many other nations were. Me? Once again, I think it was the real melting pot in action, melding together every influence that caught a sailor's ear into what could stand as one of the only truly international folk art forms.

Gee, that sounds important.

:^

M


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Subject: RE: BS: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Margo
Date: 15 May 01 - 12:06 AM

There is a very interesting article on this page about music and working. Not too far into the article he mentions the Volga boat song. I haven't had time to read up on it, but I wonder how old it is? Couldn't find lyrics either. That's ok, I don't know Russian... :o) Margo


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,John
Date: 15 May 01 - 01:31 AM

It seems to me that we should pluralise the topic, and talk (if we must) about the origins of shanties. There seem to be at least several, which in more recent times have become intermixed. There is no reason why shanties could not have had several origins - many other human inventions have! (How many races independently developed the bow and arrow, or the wheel?) It would not be surprising that if you were able to travel back in time to the construction of the pyramids you would not hear something clearly recognisable as a shanty. Many things simply don't get recorded by contemporary commentators because they are seen as a commonplace.

Even more important - what is the future of shanties?


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 15 May 01 - 02:54 AM

I am toadfrog.

That Shanty noted is from a mediaeval work called The Complaynt of Scotland which was written about 1450. W. B. Whall, who IanC mentioned above, cites the work in his book Ships, Sea-Songs and Shanties. Also from the Complaynt of Scotland are the following lines, which Whall also notes in his introduction:

"And now ane marynal cryit
And all the laif follouit in that same tune"

Or in plain English
"one mariner sings out and the rest follow in the same tune" the following as they haul anchor:

"Caupon caupona, caupon caupona
Caupon hola, caupon hola
Caupon holt, caupon holt
Sarrabosa, sarrabossa

Than says the narrative, they maid fast the shank of the ankyr."

Whall also notes in his collection, among others from the Complaynt of Scotland, the following Shanty of 550 years ago:

"Yellow hair, hips bare
To him all. Vidde fulles all.
Great and small, one and all,
Heisa, heisa."

Many cultures have used call and response in work songs; it is not the prerogative of just one people. One only has to listen to some of the work songs of the Ruthenians of the Carpathian Mountains and the Ukraine, which the women sang as they laboured in fields, to gain further appreciation of the form. Any repetitive backbreaking work elicits this form of music from the human soul.

A modern case in point was the song a friend made up which mimicked the sound of the machinery and kept him awake and in sync while working on the green chain on the night shift in a plywood mill. Only in this situation the machine called and he answered.

Records indicate that the ancient Greeks understood the advantages of, and practiced, uniform work methods. Their soldiers were instructed as to how their weapons and equipment should be laid out in case of a surprise attack. They also employed work songs to develop a rhythm, in order to achieve a smooth less fatiguing tempo, to improve productivity. It is not too much of a stretch to believe that some ancient bright spark took the inspiration to get his Greek Armies to work in unison from work songs that originated in the field or were sung on ancient Greek Pentekontors and Triremes by the oarsmen or vice versa.

The earliest recorded work songs, are from the Shih Ching or Book of Songs, an anthology of 305 lyrics of various types, in the section called Feng, literally translated as "wind" and sometimes interpreted as "folkways or folksongs", compiled ca. 600 B. C.and which may represent work, dating from the Shang dynasty as early as ca. 1700 B. C. And it would follow, that a thousand years later, workmen, as they laboured on the Great Wall of China were singing these same songs as they toiled.

And who knows what Jesus and his mates sang on the Sea of Galilee, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of it was naughty, so they couldn't put those parts in the Book.


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: SeanM
Date: 15 May 01 - 03:33 AM

Well put, Metchosin/toadfrog

As to the future? Well, I can't speak for the FAR future, but I unfortunatley think shanties have had their 'golden age'. They'll still be around whenever the work calls for it, but barring some new developments in technology, I don't think we'll be seeing as much of a need of them as the sail trading fleets had.

However, there IS a fairly brisk trade in commercial sales of shanties as, well, entertainment. I know a couple bands who base a large part of their sets off of them - heck, a group I perform with does as well. Hopefully, enough people will stay interested to keep the old ones alive, and enough others will generate the occasional new one to keep the form alive.

M


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Metchosin
Date: 15 May 01 - 03:38 AM

ribitt


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 15 May 01 - 04:31 AM

I posted this to an earlier thread on shanties which may not do anything other than muddy the waters, but is an interesting theory on the origin of the NAME:
"Can't help with this ,but the thread reminds me that Cliff Hall of the Spinners always claimed shanties were West Indian in origin. His explanation (possibly a wind-up to annoy the shanty purists) was that the WI fishermen had temporary shelters (shanties, as in shanty town) on the beach where they gutted their fish (and no doubt smoked some wacky woodbines) which were on rollers made of tree trunks. When a storm was threatened they hauled them up into the trees for safety from tidal waves etc., singing the type of song we associate with capstan work on ships.[and, of course, the Spinners used to sing "Sally Racket" among other shanties so this thread hasn't crept too far!] "
Hugh Jones, the Spinners chantey expert and now a solo singer, is an occasional visitor to the Mudcat so might have a view on this. Cliff, I gather, is travelling the world in his retirement.
RtS


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 15 May 01 - 05:21 AM

Metchosin said above "Any repetitive backbreaking work elicits this form of music from the human soul"
I totally agree with that. Any rhythmic activity that doesn't demand too much concious thought will allow you to sing, and will encourage the mind to freewheel a bit & often result in a new song of the not too deep & meaningful variety.
The fact that these songs then reinforce the rhythm of the work is damn handy. So I'd go for the idea that work songs & chants will have arisen all over the place and at all times.
That sea shanties in particular were heavily influenced by the African call & response charting sounds very feasible indeed. Stan Hugill mentions that the African sailors were the best 'yippers' & that the Europeans could not quite achieve the same wild yells (which were integral parts of the shanties). Still - its always hard to find out the absolute truths of history (or even the present), su b*ggered if I know....

Kris


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: IanC
Date: 15 May 01 - 06:19 AM

Cranky

I'll admit I wasn't being serious last night, and I appear to have accidentally steered this thread more into the direction of spelling rather than history.

I'd like to get back to a slightly more rigorous examination of the history of Sea Shanties. To my mind, this doesn't involve people fighting with "facts" but rather using a working hypothesis and trying to find counter examples which take the argument further. If we can take your facts as working hypotheses from this point of view, we may make some progress. Is this OK?

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: The origin of Sea Chanteys
From: Naemanson
Date: 15 May 01 - 06:26 AM

Anyone who has spent any time at all engaged in strenuous repetitive manual labor knows that it is easier if you get into a steady rhythm. This is the case whether you are alone shoveling sand (or snow) or working with a team. And there is no better way to keep in that rhythm than with music in a slow rhytmic beat.

Therefore it is not a question of who originated the shanties. Anyone who has to work, in the old days before machinery, would have developed a singing work chant. This stands to reason on land or on the water.


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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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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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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,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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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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