Monday, July 9, 2007

Pirates and Concertinas: History or Myth?

Sea chanties are often the music most associated with pirates in popular culture, and the instrument most associated with sea chanties and pirates is the concertina.



As it turns out, the concertina (and other related instruments like the accordion) were not invented until about 1829 (verified in numerous online encyclopedias), a hundred years after the golden age of piracy (1690- 1730). Nevertheless, concertinas appear in The Pirates of the Caribbean rides and movies as well as in Disney's adaptation of Peter Pan.



Of course it can be said that Peter Pan is pure fantasy, and not really set in the golden age. Interestingly, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was originally planned as walk-through exhibit featuring historical pirates. Of course, it evolved into something much more fanciful, and we all love every bit of it.

So what did pirates play? They did play jigs and shanties. According to The Idiot's Guide To Pirates, pirate musicians were very popular aboard ship. Author Gail Selinger writes that pipe and drum units were kept on naval ships. Pirates would spare the lives of musicians who were willing to join them. She mentions instruments such as bagpipes and lyres, but she also mentions the concertina. She probably wasn't writing about the golden age.

The Pirate's Realm (website) also mentions trumpets and fiddles.

So how do I feel about the concertina? I don't mind it a bit. History be damned, its part of the great pirate mythos.

"A pirate's life is a wonderful life You'll find adventure and sport. But live every minute For all that is in it The life of a pirate is short."

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