The Origins Of Folk Music

The melodies discover the soul of the people, today Folk music has a diffusion in all the media, television, records and live recitals, which facilitates its arrival in all corners of the world.



But we know that the term folklore is very broad and can be associated with different aspects of the culture of a region, a town, a country, etc. It can be described as knowledge, art or practices, etc. which are largely transmitted via oral communication. The information transmitted expresses and contains ideas and values ​​of a particular human group.

The term folklore was originally conceived by a British antiquarian named William Thomsen 1846.

Songs and dances have accompanied the work of each day throughout the world. This tribe from Isla Formosa performs a traditional dance.



Folk is an English word that means “people” therefore, Folk music will be music of the people, there are other terms that are used such as popular, ethnic, traditional or primitive music.

To differentiate them we must distinguish two great concepts of Folklore; On the one hand, the authentically Folk or Folkloric that is incorporated into the people, is the one that has been assumed by a community and it has recreated it until it becomes part of its living cultural heritage, and on the other hand we have that music that has been inspired by the town or proceeding from it, has not been incorporated into it, we could call it popular or cultured music of popular roots .


Folk music often contains themes related to the idea of ​​death and resurrection.

In 1954 the International Council of Folk Music offered a definition that is the generally accepted one:

“Folk Music is the product of a musical tradition developed by oral transmission, shaped by several factors:

  • A continuity that links present with past.
  • A variation on that past.
  • A selection by the community that determines the form or forms that music survives. “


The popular dances, like the music of the people, collect and reflect a series of racial characteristics of deep tradition.

So the term is applied to music developed by a community from rudimentary beginnings and also to music created by an individual absorbed in the living, unwritten tradition of a community. Buffalorosemusic, On the other hand, it is not applicable to popular music because what gives the character of Folkloric to the music is the re-moderation and recreation by the community.


The first of the characteristics that distinguishes it is oral transmission , it is music that lacks an original and unchanging notation, it has passed from one interpreter to another, from one generation to another through memory exclusively , which makes it depend of this its acquisition and its conservation.

Guitar, banjo, flute and violin accompany the music of the Dubliners. A legend of Irish folk music.

As there is no static writing, it is natural that the transmission occurs with small modifications, which makes the text differ over time,

Another characteristic is its antiquity , the more one delves into its study, the more one goes back in time. The music of the town recreates a bit of history and it is possible to follow its evolution through the centuries.

One thing must be taken into account, folk music is “living” music, that is, music preserved and cultivated by a community on a regular basis.


Folk music is characterized by its magical-ritual and very often functional sense ; This is more accentuated in older compositions and forces the player to opt for a vocal emission timbre or for a specific instrument; For example, in the Amazon the flutes evoke the spirits of good and the horns made with bark, the evil spirits.

Although it is more frequent that folk music survives because of its functional meaning:  sometimes it serves to remember facts or legends , others to combat the monotony of work, such as the songs that are preserved by lumberjacks, shepherds, etc.


The tradition of the black folk song is still alive in North America. Artists like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were able to captivate their audiences in the 1970s.

Much of the black chants of the United States or the tunes that spread through industrial areas in the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th (in North America and in Great Britain especially) are a late flowering of that tradition.

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