Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Explorations into the Musical Dialogue of Shetland’s Nautical Past

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Many of the songs and tunes in Shetland’s musical repertoire have been inspired by the islanders’ long associations with the sea and seafaring. A number of these were transported back across the Atlantic from whaling and fur-trading expeditions to the Arctic fringes and carry tales related to Shetland’s rich maritime past. During the time of the Greenland fishery in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most ships included a member of the crew able to play the fiddle and keep up the crew’s spirits. In this article, my main aim is to explore the concept of musical migration, particularly in terms of transatlantic musical flow, as an important aspect of both the Shetland musical tradition and the musical traditions of indigenous populations outside Shetland that have been influenced by the transatlantic nature of the music. In doing this, I will attempt to start drawing together two separate music histories, that of the Inuit musicians and dances influenced by European whalers and fur traders across the Arctic, and that of the Shetlanders who sailed to the regions and, for many years, shared a performance milieu with the indigenous groups that lived there.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages20
JournalFolk Music Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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