The Evolution of Folk Music

Folk music is a traditional type of music that was passed down orally through families and communities. It is a type of music in which a gathering number of a community understand and participate, especially people of the lower class in the society that is illiterate peasants. The word ‘folk music’ originated from England. The terminal English language, Italian and French languages (music Popolare, musique Populaire) portrays the fact that the song is meant for ‘the folk’ that is the people. The function of folk music defers from place to place. To determine if a musical piece is folk music; its fans, singers, and participants have to agree on a specific pattern of performance, its social function, and its origin. As mentioned earlier, folk music has always been transmitted orally.

This means that folk songs are learned by listening to the wordings and rhymes of the song and not by reading. It is ever performed and passed down in informal gatherings. The transmission through oral methods learning in gatherings gave way to recording at the beginning of the 20th century. Unlike other types of musical genre that is mainly for entertainment, folk music is usually associated with work, life, games, rituals, and religion. Before the 20th century, folk music was traditionally performed by amateurs. Since the 20th century, professional musicians and experts instrumentalists began to use folk music as a medium for narrating the happenings in the society.

Folk songs were popularly used at the turn of the Romantic period. Beethoven and Josef Haydn were two favorite musicians that used the folk music style. In recent times, folk music became popular from the 20th century, when the first folk music festival was organized in 1928 in Carolina. Folk music continued to gain popularity in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Famous folk musicians like Jimmy Rodgers and Burl Ives made folk music very popular in the 30’s and 40’s respectively. The Weavers, Kingston Trio, and Harry Belafonte helped increase its popularity in the 50’s. Their style of fold music was prevalent till the 60’s just before the famous band ‘The Beatles’ took over.

In the 60’s, the phrase ‘protest music’ become commonly used. Folk singers focused on the ills happening in the society. They sang against the Vietnam War, capitalism and promoted the American Right Movement. In the 70’s after the Vietnam War issue and the success of the American Right Movement, the folk music slowly died. It was not until the late 1990’s that folk music was revived.

Although the folk music was restored, the popularity it gained was less than the demand it enjoyed from the turn of the 20th century till the 1960’s. Although little was heard of folk music in the 70’s and 80’s, famous musicians then incorporated parts of fold music into their musical style. In recent times, there are folk music festivals and folk clubs all over the world. The Cambridge Folk Music festival is always sold out in a matter of days; same goes for the Port Fairy Folk Music Festival that is held in Australia.

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