Where Does Polka Music Come From?

An accordion may be used to play polka music.
An accordion may be used to play polka music.

Polka is a kind of dance music that came into existence in the mid-nineteenth century. Its origin is in Bohemia, which is currently a part of the Czech Republic. It is also a common type of music across America and Europe. In various European countries, like the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Austria, polka is a kind of folk music, which is usually presented by traditional artists. In countries like Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Nordic countries, the dance music is performed but has local changes. Polka music is also seldom performed in Russia, Poland, and Italy.

Where Does Polka Music Come From?

The word "polka" originates from "půlka" which is a Czech word that means half. It stands for the steps in the dance which are short and done in halves. A young lady by the name Anna Slezáková is accredited for the spread of the polka music and dance. In 1830, Josef Neruda, Anna's music teacher, observed that her dance towards the folk tune "Uncle Nimra Bought a White Horse" was uncommon.

Anna named the dance Maděra because of its liveliness and her teacher, Nedura, spread it to others by teaching them how to dance it. As of 1835, the dance had propagated to Prague's ballrooms. By 1839, it had reached Vienna, and it spread to Paris the following year. A Prague dance trainer introduced it in Paris, where it was well accepted and termed as "polka mania."

The dance quickly extended to London and America. Up until the late nineteenth century, polka mania was the formal ballroom dance; it was then replaced by other dances. However, polka mania got restoration after World War II. It was made a cultural dance by Polish immigrants in the U.S who accepted Bohemian culture. Polka dances and music are still performed regularly by most residents of Central Europe.

Polka Music's Style of Play 

Although Czech polka music is still the original and main dance that is performed at official ballrooms, several modern polka styles exist. North American Slovenian polka in Cleveland is one of the styles. It uses instruments such as diatonic button box accordion and piano accordion. The North American Dutchmen polka is also a modern style. It uses a tuba and banjo to produce an ‘oom-pah' sound.

The Conjunto polka in Northern Mexico and Texas is also a kind of polka. It replicates the inspiration of polka-dancing European refugees. Another kind of polka is North American Polish polka which is divided into the Chicago Push and Chicago Honky. The former uses one trumpet and a clarinet while the latter uses two trumpets, accordion, bass guitar, and drums.

Lastly, there are the Punk polka and Pampas polka styles. Punk polka is created by American bands through merging polka with several rock styles while Pampas polka is created by playing an electric or acoustic bass, piano or button accordion, and an acoustic guitar. The Pampas polka has a quick beat and was performed with the aim of flattering the former gaucho warriors.


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