What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?

All six members of Gabare

All six members of Gabare

One half of Gabare

One half of Gabare

Before leaving France, I went to see a group called Gabare playing and singing beside the seaside. Gabare specialise in chants de marins et de mariniers, essentially songs about the sea (or sea shanties) and songs about seafaring men (and women presumably). I quite like sea shanties and songs about the sea and I really enjoyed Gabare’s performance. They sang (in French, naturellement) and played for about two hours. All six of them took turns at singing on their own or together, while some of the members also played accordions, spoons, and a percussive instrument that looked remarkably like an Irish bodhrán. The songs were great and I was able to make out some of the words and get the gist of them. Some of them talked of getting lost at sea, many more about leaving loved ones behind, and more still about seafaring men on shore leave who spent some time with ladies in exchange for a small fee. Like any good band, they were able to get the crowd to sing and clap along and their set was full of fun and humour

It was quite warm during their performance and I could see that all that singing was making them thirsty. I wasn’t sure what they liked to drink, but I reckoned that they might be partial to some beer. So, I wandered off and duly returned with seven cold beverages: a can for each of the lads and one for me. I presented my gift to the band at the interval and they were so delighted that they gave me one of their CDs in exchange. The look of happiness on their faces as I gave them the cans was reward enough for me, but I graciously accepted their generous offer. You can check out one of their songs below along with a few more sea shanties, songs about the sea, sea men and sea women


In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

The Ship Song – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Stuck On A Boat – Port O’Brien

When The Ship Comes In (Live) (Bob Dylan cover) – The Clancy Bros

Sea Shanty – The Pogues

Sea Chantey – The Muppets

Seafaring Song – Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Sea Song – Lisa Hannigan

Sea Lion Woman – Feist

Rolling Sea – Eliza Carthy

The Sea Calls – Richard Hawley

La mer – Charles Trenet

Partir sur un bateau tout blanc – Joséphine Baker

Les filles de Saint-Malo – Suzy Solidor

Jean-Francois de Nantes – Tonnerre de Brest

La Belle Francoise – Gabare

Amsterdam – Jacques Brel

The Moon Shifts The Sea The Sea Shapes The Shore The Shore Shakes The Sand The Sand Sinks The Ship – A.Armada

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