be 600km from the nearest sea or ocean, but that doesn’t stop more than 200
sailors from swarming the Polish city every February for the International Sailing Songs Festival.
Known as the
"Shanties”, the festival celebrates classic sailing songs (also known as sea
shanties) during four days of concerts performed by 40 singing groups from Poland
and around the world. The songs, which often borrow melodies and rhythms from
local folk music traditions, owe their history to when sailors had to chant in
unison to pull up anchor or change the direction of a sail.
While sea shanties
started primarily as an English tradition thanks the dominance of British
merchant fleets in the 19th Century, the genre has remained popular
in Poland with nearly 100 such festivals held in the country every year.
Started in 1981, Krakow’s International Sailing Songs Festival remains one of
the largest, attracting more than 11,000 people annually.
Over time, Polish
sailors and citizens have put their own spin on the events, which have broadened
to include women’s shanties, where women sing about a beloved out at sea, and children’s shanties, written for young children to perform. The
festival, which runs this year from 21 to 24 February, incorporates these traditions
with a children’s concert at noon on Friday and Saturday, and female-fronted
groups such as Flash Creep playing throughout the weekend.
be purchased for individual performances and concerts, but an all-access pass
costs 260 Polish zloty and will also get visitors into the Stary Port Tavern, the local pub where after-hours concerts and drinking continue in true
salty sailor style.