What Is Folk Music?

Simple instrumentation and connections to a cultural heritage are common to folk music from around the world.
Simple instrumentation and connections to a cultural heritage are common to folk music from around the world.

Folk music is a genre of traditional, often rural, music which was originally passed down through generations by way of oral traditions.The origins of folk music are not precisely known but are estimated to be as old as the originating community. Sometimes folk music is used to refer to music whose composers are not known and that which is recognized by a group of people, folks, as theirs. Folk music is sometimes seen as the original expression of the past culture or that which is about to disappear, preserved or that which has been revived.

5. Folk Music from Around the World -

Folk music is a bit of a universal, yet varied, musical genre, and one that can be found in practically all the societies of our world. Some of the recognized folk music includes epic songs and sea shanties in Finland and the Balkans. From Africa, folk songs include the soca, calypso, zouk, samba and Cuban rhumba which were practiced by Africans in the diaspora. In Asia genres such as Nadagam and Noorthy exist.

4. General Characteristics of Folk Music Forms -

Traditional folk music has several characteristics that distinguish it from other genres. For one, it was often transmitted as oral traditions rather than written, and thus had to be memorized. The music was related to the national culture of a particular region or culture. Folk songs are used in the commemoration of historical or personal events such as weddings, death or to mark yearly cycles such as harvest. The songs have also been performed over an extended period of time following the community’s customs.

3. Renewed Interest in the 20th Century -

Folk music had over time started to be ignored in some rural parts of the world until the 20th Century, when the genre was adopted by a number of different political and social movements. For instance, to further their nationalist objectives Nazi and Fascist movements of the 1920s through 1940s in Germany and Italy introduced folk music into their canons and military ceremonies. Folk music was also used by dissident groups that sought economic and social reforms. A famous composer of folk music during this time was Woody Guthrie who sang protests song and wrote numerous collections including this land is your land and union maid. The songs voiced the concerns of the rural and the working-class. Peter Seeger played a significant role in the revival of traditional folk songs through performing them after he reworked some or composed. His songs include we shall overcome, where have all the flowers gone. The revived genre of music has been named contemporary folk music to distinguish it from traditional folk music.

2. Contemporary Folk Music and Sub-Genres -

Contemporary, or revival, folk music is a variety of styles that emerged or evolved from traditional folk music during the 20th Century. Contemporary folk includes such genres as folk rock, electric folk, anti-folk, folk punk, Indie folk, folktronica, freak folk, Americana, folk metal, progressive folk, psychedelic folk, and neo-folk.

1. Greater Significance and Legacy -

After the revival of the traditional folk music and the transition into contemporary folk, the genre has continued to grow and be incorporated into a variety of musical aspects and other genres of music. This in turn has created entirely new genres. Vibrant artists, especially from the English-speaking world, had a significant role to play in the development and popularity of folk music. The revival of the genre sparked an interest in the younger generation who embraced and even composed their songs. Such acts include The Watersons, Martin Carthy, Roy Bailey of the United Kingdom, Bob Dylan, and Joe Strummer, among others.


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