Pianist gives viral sea shanty ‘The Wellerman’ a ragtime spin and it’s wonderful

6 May 2021, 13:05 | Updated: 6 May 2021, 13:49

'The Wellerman', but it's ragtime
'The Wellerman', but it's ragtime. Picture: Scott Bradlee/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

If Scott Joplin had written TikTok’s beloved sea shanty…

‘The Wellerman’ has been on quite the voyage since its birth in the 19th century.

Once sung by New Zealand sea shanty crews, the now-viral whaling song became the official TikTok earworm after postman – and now, signed recording artist – Nathan Evans, performed it in his bedroom to a wonderfully reassuring accompaniment of thigh-slaps.

Since Evans posted his rendition of the whaling song, TikTok has been awash with musicians from all over the world putting their own spin on ‘The Wellerman’, from folksy violinists and gravelly baritones to actual Andrew Lloyd Webber.

And now, thanks to this wonderful pianist, we have been blessed with a ragtime version (watch below).

Scott Bradlee, an American pianist with a passion for arranging popular music in period styles, has delightfully “ragged” the popular shanty in a video that has nearly a quarter of a million (220,000) views on YouTube.

Read more: Musically, what is a sea shanty? We explain >

Strangely, ragtime actually evolved around the same time as ‘The Wellerman’ was born – but on the other side of the Pacific.

Ragtime, made especially popular by Scott Joplin, was the popular American music around the turn of the 20th century, evolved from honky-tonk pianism in the southern States.

Bradlee puts a wonderful ragtime twist on the viral shanty – grounding it with steady bass rhythms, but giving it that relentless forward impetus with an improvised and highly syncopated melody.

“The best music trend of the past year was clearly the rebirth of the sea shanty on TikTok,” Bradlee says.

“After all, what better way to keep morale high during the lockdowns of the past year than a genre of music designed to foster a sense of community on extended seafaring journeys?”

It’s literally impossible not to bop your shoulders up and down to this one. Bravo, Scott – sign up to his Patreon to get all his piano tracks, just here.