Brief History of Folk Music

Folk music has been in existence for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It’s a rare music genre that was originally developed by the common people and has rapidly evolved over the past decades.

If you are a true enthusiast, here is a brief history of folk music.

Definition

The term “Folk Music” originated in England in the 19th century where it derives from the German expression “Volk,” which means “the people as a whole.” The term is also an extension of the term folklore which was originally coined in 1846 by William Thoms, an English antiquarian, to describe “the customs, traditions, and the superstitions of the uncultured classes.”

Although the term originated in the 19th century, it’s often applied to music that is hundreds or thousands of years old.

Folk music is basically considered as an expression of life in the specific communities in which it was originally developed. The music was made by the common people during various activities such as work, leisure, and religious activities. Over the years, historians have been studying folk music in attempt to discover the way of life of people.

Popularity

In the mid 20th century, folk music evolved from the traditional folk music to a new form of popular folk music. The period is popularly referred to as “the second folk revival” and is said to have come to a halt from the 1960s to mid-1970s. The music is commonly referred to as folk revival or contemporary folk music.

One of the main and most important contributors to the revival of folk music was Woodie Guthrie. Beethoven and Josef Haydn were also two incredible composers who made arrangements for folk music. The first folk music festival is said to have been held in Asheville, California in 1968.

Folk music continued to rise in popularity throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Popular stars like Burl Ives and Jimmy Rodgers greatly contributed to bringing the music to its peak in the 1950s. Some of the most popular singing groups and singer who as well made a significant contribution in making the genre more popular include the Kingston Trio, The Weavers, and Harry Belafonte. They focused on a style that attempted to honor, reproduce, and popularize the traditional folk music. This particular style was short-lived as “folk rock” became more popular.

Folk rock partly contributed to the fall of folk music revival as by 1975, its popularity had rapidly declined. It wasn’t until the late 1990s when it was again revived, although its revival was not as huge as the previous one. Nevertheless, popular music bands took some important elements from folk music throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Folk music may not have reached its peak during the second revival, but it’s still a popular music genre today. There are many folk music clubs and festivals all over the world, which explains why this music is not going away anytime soon. They include The Bitter End, Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar, Jalopy Theatre (all in New York), Port Fairy Folk Music Festival (Australia), England’s Cambridge Folk Music Festival, The National Folk Festival, The American Folk Festival, Lowell Folk Festival, and many others.

Developments

Today, many folk artists are dabbling in different genres and integrating a variety of musical influences into their narrative songs. This has a result helped in preserving the genre.

Folk music has rapidly evolved over the past decades and without a doubt, it’s one music genre that won’t be going away anytime soon. Furthermore, the fact that it has managed to progress for hundreds, if not thousands of years, it’s clear to see that it’s here to stay.

 

 

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