Folk music

Folk ( Folk Music, [ foʊk ] (English: folk " folk "; meant popular culture and folklore in terms of music) ) is particularly in North America and Europe is a genre of popular music. Melodies and lyrics of traditional music volkstümlicherer be re-arranged or imitated stylistically. The instruments are mostly traditional acoustic like guitar, fiddle, flute or bagpipes.

  • 2.1 beginnings
  • 2.2 North America to 1920
  • 2.3 radio and records ( 1920-1940 )
  • 2.4 folk revival and development of folk rock ( 1940-1970 )
  • 2.5 Folk music in Europe ( from 1970)
  • 2.6 Folk music in Germany after 1945


The English-language term for traditional folk music took on a new meaning, as in the United States from the 1920s with the emergence of modern mass media such as radio and record local, mostly rural music cultures were nationally popular and become national in the subsequent period, independent forms of music such as jazz and Country developed.


The term folk was taken under the influence of American urban folk movement in the 1950s and 1960s in the German language. The popularity of the North American urban folk rock in the 1960s also sparked in Europe from a great interest in their own musical traditions. Especially since the 1960s, a time of social upheaval in the U.S. ( black civil rights movement, anti- Vietnam war movement, and since about 1970, the women's rights movement ), the attention of folk rock was on the political and social problems of that time. It has been in Germany for example, the political rock developed. With the waning of the political movements in the 1970s shifted the importance of folk music to popular music such as the Irish folk. Nowadays place at numerous festivals, a lively international exchange and folk music is no longer limited both in production, distribution and consumption to individual countries or regions.


A shared understanding of the folk concept does not exist. Understanding is different in North America and Europe. In English, the term folk music covers both traditional music ( folk song, folk music ) and on the other hand modern popular music. Particularly in Germany, the music scene is embossed on the basis of the independent historical situation in the wake of the Nazi dictatorship from another self-understanding. Finally, the particular musicians and fans, what makes the term. Here, three different focal points can be distinguished:

  • Folk music as a modern form of traditional folk music,
  • Folk music as a collective term disparate styles of North American influenced popular music,
  • Folk music as a genre of international popular music, the style is based on traditional folk music.

The invested therein opposites - such as the question of whether urban or non- urban culture are represented - complicate a uniform understanding. Modern Folk Music has apart from their musical and stylistic inspiration from traditional folk music with this nothing more in common.

As a part of modern popular culture, folk borders next to the folksy music also on world music. The boundaries of world music are flowing. Although the mainstream of folk music refers to European traditions and thus settles from non-European tradition regarding the World Music, Asian, African and other styles of music are included as well. Also, many groups are moving in the intermediate areas to other music genres like rock, jazz and techno. Other related terms are Folk Rock, Roots Music, Americana, Vernacular Music, Poplore and filk. Some songwriters are referred to as folk musicians.


As of 1765, the Reliques of Ancient British Poetry appeared as revised and expanded a popular 1650 resulting manuscript songs. As a result of this publication was aroused beyond England 's interest in traditional songs. In Germany Johann Gottfried Herder published 1778/79 folk songs together with other pieces under mixed and coined the term folk song. Since the melodies were well known and less interesting for Herder, only the texts were printed. Corresponding melodies can be found, however, in Friedrich Nicolai satirical publication Eyn feyner Kleyner Almanac Vol schönerr echterr liblicherr Volckslieder, which already appeared a year earlier. Joseph Haydn's music relates numerous melodies and ideas from the folk music of Austria, Croatia and the Roma.

The English term folk song corresponded to the German folk song. Europe employed in the 19th century historian, musical and literary scholar with the collection of traditional music and culture. The classical music spread to national traditions, such as Schubert, Bizet, Smetana and Sibelius.

In the second half of the 19th century, developed with the opening of classical music to a broader civic and urban audience of the hit; early examples are the Viennese waltz and the operetta. The German pop music remains until the 1960s decisive for the German music market until they - despite adaptation to new listening habits (for example, opening for foreign-language performers, and texts in the 1960s ) - from rock music and New German Wave displaced and today the area of popular music is assigned.

North America to 1920

The early American folk music evolved from predominantly rural, musical traditions of immigrants. The traditional music of the indigenous population played no role. Here are the examples mentioned

  • The music of Québec with predominantly Breton origins,
  • The derived therefrom Francophone Cajun music in Louisiana,
  • Among the African American population, the work songs and Negro Spirituals (from the 17th century ) and is evolving, Black Gospel,
  • In the western expansion areas emerged in the 19th century, the Western Music.

At the turn of the 20th century caused many of today's known Genres:

  • Zydeco was the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities and takes elements of Cajun music
  • The blues of the African American society is an important precursor to the North American popular music ( soul, jazz and rock )
  • Ragtime and New Orleans jazz,
  • Hapa - haole music is Hawaii's 1900 popular on the American mainland - pioneered in the 19th century was the combination of indigenous traditions with those of immigrants and the establishment of an independent style.

In this era minstrel and vaudeville were important for the dissemination of traditional music that was otherwise often played only in the extended family circle.

Radio and records (1920-1940)

Shortly after, by the emerging record industry and radio a new interest in regional musical traditions and these were therefore also a new audience. In this era already the success of the hillbilly music of the Blue Ridge Mountains falls (later also called Old- Time Music ) in the southern Appalachian Mountains with their European roots. The region sings, among others, John Denver 1971 in the country hit Take Me Home, Country Roads. The Original Dixieland Jass band released 1917, the first jazz record. More first successful recordings were in 1920 Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues and 1923, Fiddlin ' John Carson's hillbilly pieces Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane and The Old Hen cackled. Both were recorded and produced by Ralph Peer. The city of Nashville in Tennessee soon established itself as the center of the media industry. Legendary is the weekly broadcast from there since 1925 Live Show Grand Ole Opry. The Bristol Sessions of 1927 mark the birth of country music with their first stars Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. The Library of Congress in 1928 directed the Archive of American Folk Song A - 1976 merged into the American Folklife Center. The first conductor was Robert Winslow Gordon. 1931 John Lomax followed him in this role, which was also a student of George Lyman Kittredge and his son Alan Lomax also worked for the archive. Numerous recordings of the archive Bascom Lamar Lunsford come from, who was the organizer of The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (annually from 1927) widely known. John Lomax made ​​from 1933 to blues musician Leadbelly known.

The success of the Hillbilly gave rise to numerous bands and are known. Since 1937 Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys developed the Bluegrass from the hillbilly music. Other important early representatives of this music are The Stanley Brothers and Earl Scruggs. In this early period the centers of folk music were in the southern regions of the east coast.

Folk revival and development of folk rock (1940-1970)

In the subsequent decades, the American folk music developed its own lyrics and melodies - while retaining the traditional covers. The first poet of the folk music was Woody Guthrie ( filmed in 1976 with David Carradine as Woody Guthrie ), who sang in the 1930s and 1940s, especially on the situation of people during the Great Depression. His song This Land Is Your Land is now an integral part of American culture. He popularized the talking blues as a form of chant. Also important was his friend and colleague Cisco Houston. In 1940 he got to know Pete Seeger and wrote with him some folk -oriented trade union songs. In the late 1940s, the Weavers and Pete Seeger were immensely popular. Pete Seeger was with songs like We Shall Overcome and Where Have All the Flowers Gone ( German: Tell me where the flowers are ) also widely known internationally as the first folk singer. Likewise, he also touched on the folklore of other countries. The urban New York established itself in 1940 as a center of these emancipated folk music; Folkways Records was an important record label. The new music this underlying idea to use the traditional music of European immigrants to give their thoughts and feelings expressed, led in part to persecution by McCarthyism.

In the 1950s, more and more young people began in the United States mostly white middle layer for the roots music - folk, blues and country - to take an interest in their country, the elements began to mix more often. The most important American event was the Newport Folk Festival, held annually since 1959.

With the development of rock music in the 1960s and the folk in the form of folk rock flourished and international popularity. The central role of the text made ​​him suitable for the protest songs of the various social movements. One example is the development of Bob Dylan - the one with Blowin 'in the Wind a hymn composed this time - from folk to rock musicians at this time. Other internationally famous musicians of the American Folk Rocks are Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie. First, the folk-rock was controversial as Bob Dylan's use of an electric guitar at the Newport Festival in 1965 showed. For this he was booed by the audience. With the end of the era of the folk revival, the festival was not held in 1971 and was revived only in 1985.

Listening: This Land Is Your Land (recording of 2007)

Pete Seeger 1955

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan on the Civil Rights March in Washington DC, August 28, 1963

Folk music in Europe ( from 1970)

The international popularity of American folk Rocks also sparked in Europe 's interest to their own traditions of folk music. In contrast to the U.S., the popularity was predominantly non-political founded. Well-known bands and musicians of the time are Steeleye Span in England, Tri Yann in France and the City Preachers ( starting from 1965), and Ougenweide Zupfgeigenhansel in Germany.

In the 1980s and then the popularity continued to grow. Regional lively musical traditions are known internationally - especially the Irish folk bands like The Chieftains and The Dubliners. The bands played increasingly arrangements in the style of old traditions, such as Blowzabella from England. Likewise, an attempt was made to incorporate new sounds and instrument sounds in the music; an early precursor of this development is the psychedelic folk of the Incredible String Band.

Also, it comes to revitalizing local traditions by the popularity of folk music. In Brittany, for example, makes the music Ar Re Yaouanks the hard - noz popular again. Similarly, the folk music is associated with the emergence of new traditions, such as the medieval markets in the Federal Republic. Independent focus of international folk music are Ireland, England, Scandinavia, the Balkans, Brittany and the rest of France.

In the 1990s, concerns the blurring of boundaries between different styles of pop music and the spread of the crossover folk music; in particular with regard to rock, techno and jazz. From this emerged genres such as folk metal, folk -punk, neofolk and anti-folk as well as a mix of folk and hip-hop, which was operated for example by Yummy stuff from Cologne.

Today, folk music is in pop culture mainstream rather a marginal phenomenon, but elements of folk music live on in other genres, such as in country music. In Germany, American, English, Irish, French and Scandinavian folk coined as a niche culture many followers.

Folk music in Germany after 1945

The folk music scene in Germany is very different from that of many European countries. It is marked today by a distance to the German traditions that existed since the end of the "Third Reich". The European Folk Revival is more of a new beginning in Germany and due to the division of Germany was developing over a long period separated the eastern and western part of the country and lacks the reference to Germany's own traditions. After the break the Nazi dictatorship and its ideological appropriation of cultural traditions, the reference to the musical national heritage is not very popular. In addition, the destruction of the Jewish cultural life in Germany comes in the wake of the Holocaust. An exception is the classical music that has retained its importance through its global reception to this day and with Carl Orff's Carmina Burana also includes an important work with regard to medieval poetry. A regional forms the southern German or Alpine Space an exception, which is crucial for the international perception German traditional music. In East Germany, especially the Erzgebirge and the Vogtland recorded by regional traditions. Classic national folk songs such as The moon has risen - the Herbert Grönemeyer always plays at the end of his live concerts - or Franz Schubert Heidenröslein are known by the education, but not very popular.

Only with the popularity of the American folk-rock began a trend to develop new approaches to their own traditions. As in other European countries, the scene was created in Germany under the influence of American protest and folk music in the late 1960s. In the early 80s, this was displaced by the German Folk German New Wave and fell into oblivion.

In 1954 and 1962, the documentation German folk songs democratic character of six centuries of Wolfgang Steinitz was published in the GDR, which is the most important pioneer of modern folk music scene in Germany. In the eastern part of Germany, the contemporary folk music scene emerged in the mid -1970s. As of 1974, the Irish band toured regularly by the Sands Family East Germany. Founded in 1976, The Folk countries are considered as one of the first folk bands of the GDR. Important national and international music event was the festival of political song in which the national and international folk music formed an integral part - performances so by Mikis Theodorakis, Mercedes Sosa, Pete Seeger and Michelle Shocked. The festival took place between 1970 and 1990 annually in East Berlin. In 1955, the first time Rudolstadt Festival of German folk dance was held. Politically collected - for example as a counterpoint to American influences such as jazz and rock & roll - that was hard to turn, especially a platform folkloric traditions of Eastern Europe. The early 1990s there was a realignment of the international folk and dance and folk festival Rudolstadt then became the principal festival of folk and roots music in Germany with great international importance. In addition to the allocated here RUTH Iron Eversteiner and Creole are major national awards of folk music. The first German folk festivals were the Burg Waldeck Festivals. Glatt & perversity is taking place every festival since 1997, the end of July, held annually in Krems, Spitz and Göttweig. The festival is organized by OE1 with and transmitted. More folk events in Austria are the music festival Waidhofen an der Thaya, the Folk Festival in Mistelbach, Hallein, Amaliendorf ( Wackelstein Festival) and Kremsmuenster - the latter as a platform for Bordunszene.

Only gradually begins in Germany a reflective approach to their own tradition. MIA's hit What it is from 2003 and the subsequent controversy are an example of the emergence of style German folk since the 1970s and its revival in the 21st century another. An integral part of the music scene are folk dances or folk Bal.

In Germany there are in addition to the folk music in the High German language also performers and folk bands that in dialects ( Biermösl Blosn ) and predecessor languages ​​(such Ougenweide ), in Yiddish ( Zupfgeigenhansel ) in North Frisian ( Knut Kiesewetter ) sing. But most of all folk titles were published in Low German, about Knut Kiesewetter, Hannes Wader, Fiede Kay, Godewind, De Plattfööt and Malbrook.