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Where did Folk Music Come from?

Folk music, unlike pop songs, are not that popular amongst listeners. But the likes of Bob Dylan and Belle and Sebastian have brought interest to contemporary folk songs. Contemporary folk music emerged in the 20th century and is associated with traditional folk music. The revival of folk music saw a new genre of popular music with Woody Guthrie singing traditional songs in the 1930s and 1940s and composing his own. The folk revival fostered a generation of singer-songwriters from Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell to Buffy Sainte-Marie. But where did folk music come from? Where is its origination?

The history of folk music

Many art forms came from oral tradition in medieval times, including folk music. Folk songs collected in oral tradition have been traced back to literary sources. During the expansion of Christianity in Europe, folk songs were suppressed because of their association with pagan rites and rituals. Though some aspects of European folk music became assimilated into medieval Christian liturgical music and vice-versa.

Origination of folk music

It’s not possible to know exactly where folk music came from since it probably originated in times beyond documentation and the beginning of the historical record. It is however often used to describe certain types of music from regions around the world.

However, in the 19th century, there was a movement to collect and document folk songs, which developed in the 20th century as a distinct music genre. Folk music in modern times is not associated with any regions but rather, with specific composers and musicians today.

Folk music and the church

Church music and folk songs have been often related. Church music applies religious texts to secular folk tunes. This is most commonly seen in the hymns of the Protestant Reformation and in the revival hymns of 19th century American camp meetings. They were also known as folk hymns due to their association with folklike groups.

What are folk songs?

Subject matter in folk songs range from rural life, commemorative, to urban life after the industrial revolution, including politics. Popular folk songs include ballads, lyrics that lead to narrative storytelling. The song structure is based around a repetitive chorus with changing verses. The chorus is designed in a way where multiple people can join in - such as workers in the field or in the factory, to help them get through the mundane aspect of their jobs.

Musical instruments played in folk music

The common musical instruments for folk music include the violin, acoustic guitar, flute, whistle, pipes, accordion, melodeon, mandolin, harmonical, and tenor banjo. There are also other less common instruments used such as spoons, the bodhran, and bones to more unusual instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy, hammer dulcimer, and the bouzouki.

If you love folk music or want to explore playing your favourite contemporary folk music, explore with us in a free trial at Ritmo Music Studio based in Singapore.

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