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Maritime Music of Brittany

The coast line of Brittany is equivalent to one fourth of that of all France, and Bretons have played a dominant role in European maritime history. At the end of the 15th century Brittany had a fleet of 1,800 to 2,000 ships and approximately 20,000 sailors (of a population of some one million). Fishing, shipping and service in the navy remain important occupations in Brittany. While the modernization of maritime industries has effectively eliminated the continuation of a work song tradition among sailors and fishermen, the transmission of song about the life related to the seas continue to be a part of Brittany's oral tradition on land. These relate maritime history--storms at sea, ship wrecks, naval battles, piracy--and speak of the hard life of fishermen and sailors and their long separation from family and loved ones.

An organization which has been active in researching and documenting maritime traditions of Brittany is Le Chasse-Maree. From collection with sailors and fishermen now in their 80s and 90s, young performers have been able to recreate maritime work songs for raising sails and anchors, turning capstans, rowing from ship to shore, or hauling boats into harbors. Also documented is the use of musical instruments on board ships--including fiddles, hurdy-gurdies, accordions and more rarely bagpipes--and the presence of Breton dances such as the Laridé and Rond.


Cabestan. (some of the more recent CDs) 
Femmes de Marins. Keltia Musique KMCD 81. 1998
Tempète pour sortir. Keltia Musique KM 58. 1995
La mer est trop vielle pour qu'on se moque d'elle. Keltia Musique KMCD 110. 2000. 45'34.

Le Best of - Chants de marins. Keltia Musique KMCD 132. 2002.

Le Chasse-Marée (
Chants de marins I: Chants de marins traditionnels des côtes de France. Chasse-Marée SCM 001. 1982
Chants de Marins II: Danses et complaintes des cotes de France. Chasse-Marée SCM 002. 1983
Chants de marins III: chants de bord des baleiniers et des long-courriers français. Chasse-Marée SCM 003. 1984
Chants de marins V: gens de rivières et bateliers de France. Chasse-Marée SCM 007. 1985
Series of excellently documented double albums of maritime music performed by various singers and instrumentalists.

The following are some of the CD recordings in a series called Anthologie des chansons de mer:
Chants de marins nantais. nouvelle series Vol. 1. Chasse-Marée SCM 018. 1991
A Brest la joie--chansons de ports. Chasse-Marée/Ar Men. 1992
Chants de Clippers. Vol. 5, SCM 029. 1994
Terre-neuvas et islandais, Chants de la Grande Pèche. Vol. 7. SCM 033. 1995
Chants de marins en fète (Pampol 1997) Vol. 12. SCM 039. 1998
Chansons de Bord. Vol. 13. SCM 040. 1999.

Djiboudjep en concert. Escalibur 833. 1991
Parfums d'épices et goût de sel. Coop Breizh CD 869. 1997
Latest CDs by popular group which specializes in maritime song.

De Brest Douarnenez. L'OZ Production. L'OZ 20. 1998
Escale L'OZ Produksion L/OZ 32. 2000
Three men on vocals with various acoustic accompaniment in arrangements of chanteys and new compositions about the sea.

Yann Fañch Kemener and Didier Squiban
Enez Eusa. L'OZ Produksion, L'OZ 2. 1995
Voice and piano arrangements of traditional songs related to the Island of Ouessant.

Kost 'ar mor--Chansons maritimes au pays bigouden. Ar Men/Le Chasse-Marée. SCM 027. 1993.
Song in Breton by Marie-Aline Lagadic, fiddler John Wright and guitarist Arnaud Maisonneuve.

Various performers
Autour de la mer. Creon Music. 2006. 10 singers and instrumental accompaniment interpreting songs and music inspired by the maritime tradition. 66-page booklet includes words to songs.

Chants de marins - L'Anthologie, Vol. 1. Coop Breizh CD950. 2004 & Chants de Marins - L'Anthologie, Vol. 2. Coop Breizh CD 961. 2005.  Two-CD set of recordings of various artists, richly documented in a hard-bound book the size of a CD.

Song Books

Chants de Marins. Nathalie Couilloud and Michel Colleu. Le Chasse-Marée. 144 pages. A collection of 50 songs with words and music, illustrated with old photos and drawings. A 73-minute CD includes 25 songs. 

Chants de Marins. Georges Boulestreau/Ondine Awen Korn. Editions Buissonnières. 2000. 48 pages. A collection of classic maritime songs with words, music transcriptions, chords for guitar and music for button accordion.

Chants de la mer et des marins. Tonnerre de Brest. Editions Buissonnières. 2000. 56 pages. Classic songs from the maritime tradition as well as newer compositions. 48 songs with music and guitar chords.