Shanty Soundtrack

HMCS Ville de Quebec

So I’ve been able to do some pretty cool trips during the past four years in Africa. My five days aboard a Canadian frigate, HMCS Ville de Quebec, were probably among the most fun. The frigate was pulled away from its Nato duties in the Med a couple of months ago in order to escort WFP deliveries of food into Mogadishu. The ship is due to head back towards the Med at the weekend, leaving aid officials wondering how they will manage to feed Somalia’s starving millions. (Although it’s starting to sound like the Canadians will stay on…)
Anyway, while my “rack” was anything but luxurious, I have to say that life on board for visitors was pretty good. I ate some of the best cake I’ve had in Africa (or slightly off the coast of Africa, I guess) which apparently had come all the way from Canada in the freezer and it turns out that there’s much more to Canadian beer than watery Labatts.
But the best bit of all was discovering that sea shanties are still enjoyed by the sailors below decks. I had loaded up my iPod with Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in project (excellent by the way), and frankly wondered whether I was being a bit stupid to imagine that today’s sailors still listened to songs of the sea. Turns out they do. Much of it comes from Newfoundland, as do many of the crew. Great Big Sea who blend traditional seafaring songs with a modern edge were rarely off the iPod in the Main Cave, where the sailors relax over a Keith’s. Stan Rogers has a more more straightforward sound, but best of all were the Irish Descendants, every bit as raucous as you’d expect.
For someone brought up with The Dubliners and The Chieftains its great to stumble across a new chunk of related music. And even better to know that these songs are still being written, performed and enjoyed by new generations – and that this is not just museum music.