When old sea shanties go viral we know that tradition matters

Press/Media: Articles in 'The Conversation'


ew people would have imagined that a 19th-century sea song from New Zealand would be the number one song in the UK music charts the first week in February. But it does show that in these days of isolation and separation we all need connection; taking part in communal traditions can help us get us through.

Traditional song is often thought of as a stable, unchanging inheritance from a bygone age, but much of its value is in the personal and social process through which we create, sing and pass on songs. This takes us right to the heart of this kind of singing: creativity and taking part.

Most folk songs originate, of course, as one person’s creative expression, but, as English song collector Cecil Sharp said, the community decides what becomes of it, whether it is set aside or taken up, added to and passed on, becoming “traditional” by its currency.

Period5 Feb 2021

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