We’re taking a look at some different kinds of folk music from around the world that you might not be familiar with. From the lively Celtic music of Ireland to the contemplative sounds of Japanese woodwind instruments, there’s a lot of variety to be found in folk music. So sit back, relax, and enjoy learning about some of the different kinds of folk music out there.
Folk Music from Around the World
Folk music is a genre of music that is often passed down through generations, and it typically has a strong connection to the culture and traditions of a specific region. Although there are many different types of folk music, it is typically characterized by its use of acoustic instruments, sparse arrangements, and simple melodies.
While folk music is often associated with countries like the United States and England, it actually has a long history in many other parts of the world. In fact, many of the most popular folk songs come from cultures that are not typically known for their musical traditions. Here are just a few examples of the different kinds of folk music you might not know about:
African Folk Music
African folk music is incredibly diverse, as the continent is home to thousands of different cultures and traditions. One popular type of African folk music is griot music, which is traditionally performed by griots (oral historians) in countries like Senegal and Mali. Griot music often features drums, percussion, and vocals, and it often tells stories about important historical figures or events.
Another popular type of African folk music is called mbube, which comes from South Africa. Mbube is similar to Western gospel music, and it often features harmonies and call-and-response vocals. One famous mbube song is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, which was popularized by Harry Belafonte in the 1960s.
Cajun Folk Music
Cajun folk music comes from the Acadiana region of Louisiana in the United States, and it’s heavily influenced by the French Canadians who settled there in the 18th century. Cajun music is usually played on fiddles, accordions, and guitars, and it often has a fast tempo that encourages dancing. Popular Cajun dances include the two-step, waltz, and square dance.
Eastern European Folk Music
Eastern European folk music includes a wide variety of musical traditions from countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, and Albania. This region’s folk music is often characterized by its use of traditional instruments like accordions and violins. Many Eastern European folk songs are also used in Gypsy jazz bands.
Folk Music of the United States
Folk music of the United States is varied and complex. There are many different kinds of folk music, each with its own unique history and tradition. Here are just a few examples:
Appalachian folk music is a type of folk music that originated in the Appalachian Mountains region of the United States. This form of folk music is characterized by its use of string instruments like the banjo and fiddle, as well as its focus on storytelling.
Cajun folk music is a type of folk music that originated in the Louisiana Bayou region of the United States. This form of folk music is characterized by its use of accordion, fiddle, and guitar, as well as its focus on French culture and language.
Cowboy folk music is a type offolk music that originated in the American West during the 19th century. This form of folk music is characterized by its use of guitars and Cowboy poems (called “tall tales”), as well as its focus on life in the American West.
British Folk Music
British Folk Music has been around for centuries, and has influenced both American and European Folk traditions. There are many different types of British Folk music, from the traditional ballads of the North to the more modern Celtic music of the South. Here are just a few of the most popular British Folk genres:
Celtic Folk Music
Celtic folk music is a genre of folk music that developed out of the traditional music of the Celtic people of Western Europe. It is a form of Celtic musical tradition that includes various subgenres such as Irish folk music, Scottish folk music, and Welsh folk music. Celtic folk music has been influenced by many genres of music, including pop, rock, and classical.
Scandinavian folk music is the traditional music of the people of Scandinavia. Scandinavian folk music has been preserved in many different ways, including through recordings, transcriptions, and publications of folk songs.
Folk music from Scandinavia is often divided into two categories: light music and ballad music. Light music includes dance tunes and marches, while ballad music includes love songs, drinking songs, and other narrative-based songs.
There are many different styles of Scandinavian folk music, reflecting the region’s diverse history and cultures. For example, Swedish folk music includes both traditionalContent Warning for ballads and more modern polskas (a type of polka). Norwegian folk music includes both traditional Hardanger fiddle tunes as well as more modern pop-influenced tunes.
Different regions of Scandinavia also have their own unique musical traditions. For example, Swedish Lapland is known for its joik singing style, while the Sami people of Finland and Sweden have their own distinct musical traditions that include yoiks (traditional yoik singing) as well as joiks.
Scandinavian folk music has been influenced by many other genres over the years, including classical music, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in Scandinavian folk music, with many artists blending traditional folk sounds with modern influences.
Slavic Folk Music
Slavic folk music is the music of the Slavic people of Central and Eastern Europe. It covers a wide range of styles, from the music of medieval peasantry to that of modern urbanites, and from sacred to secular music.
Slavic folk music has its roots in the music of ancient Slavic peoples, who settled in Central and Eastern Europe in the early Middle Ages. By the late Middle Ages, this music had developed into a rich tradition of church music, folk song and instrumental dance music. The Renaissance and Baroque periods saw further developments in Slavic folk music, with the rise of professional musicians and composers such as Jakub Jan Ryba, Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana.
In the modern era, Slavic folk music has been influenced by Western classical music, popular music and other genres such as jazz. Many traditional folk songs and dances have been adapted for use in stage productions, films and television shows.
East Asian Folk Music
As much as we might think we know about folk music, there’s always more to explore. If you’re a fan of world music, or just curious about the origins of some of your favorite tunes, then read on to learn about different kinds of folk music from around the world.
East Asian Folk Music
If you’re a fan of K-pop or J-pop, then you’ve already heard some examples of East Asian folk music. This type of music is often characterized by its use of traditional instruments, such as the erhu (a two-stringed Chinese instrument) or the shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument). East Asian folk music often has a lively, upbeat sound and is perfect for dancing.
Middle Eastern Folk Music
There is a huge variety of folk music from the Middle East, reflecting the region’s many cultures and religions. Some common types of Middle Eastern folk music include Bedouin music, Persian music,Turkish music, and Arab music.
Bedouin music is characterized by its use of traditional instruments like the oud (a type of lute), the rebab (a type of fiddle), and the ney (an end-blown flute). Bedouin music is often improvised, and often has a trance-like quality to it.
Persian music is one of the oldest and most complex musical traditions in the world. It is known for its use of modal scales, intricate rhythmic patterns, and highly ornamented melodies. Persian instrumental folk music includes genres such as taqsim (solo improvisation) and tasnif (song form). Vocal genres include chang (long-form narrative song), dastgah (modal improvisation), gusheh (solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment), and radif (repetitive melody).
Turkish folk music is diverse, but is often characterized by its use of Turkish folk instruments like the baglama (a type of long-necked lute), the ney (an end-blown flute), the kemenche (a bowed string instrument), and the zurna (a double-reed wind instrument). Turkish folk music often has a very lively, upbeat sound.
Arabic folk music is also quite diverse, reflecting the region’s many different cultures. Common instruments used in Arabic folk music include the oud (a type of lute), the rebab (a type of fiddle), the ney (an end-blown flute), and the rababah (a plucked string instrument). Arabic folk music often has a strong rhythmic element to it.
African Folk Music
African folk music is a hugely diverse genre that incorporates various traditional music styles from across the continent. While there are many common features between different African folk music traditions, each has its own unique history, instrumentation, and lyrical themes.
Some of the best-known African folk music traditions come from West Africa, including griot music from Senegal and Mali and juju music from Nigeria. East African folk music includes the benga style of Kenya and the taarab music of Tanzania. southern African folk music is typified by the mbaqanga style of South Africa and the chimurenga style of Zimbabwe.
Whether you’re looking to explore the traditional sounds of Africa or modern interpretations of African folk music, there’s plenty to Discover. Check out some of our favorite African folk albums below.
South American Folk Music
South American folk music is some of the richest and most varied in the world. There are traditional songs and dances from the Andes mountain region, the Amazon rainforest, and the grasslands of the pampas. The music is often lively and upbeat, featuring traditional instruments like guitars, flutes, and drums.
Some of the most popular South American folk music styles include samba from Brazil, cumbia from Colombia, and tango from Argentina. Each of these genres has its own unique history and sound.
Samba is a Brazilian style of music that dates back to the late 19th century. It was originally developed in Rio de Janeiro by African slaves who were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese colonists. Samba is known for its lively beat and syncopated rhythms. It is often played on a steel drum called a surdo.
Cumbia is a Colombian folk dance that originated in Africa. It was brought to South America by African slaves who were brought to Colombia by the Spanish colonists. Cumbia is known for its simple, repeated rhythmic patterns that are easy to dance to. It is typically played on a drum called a caja or cajon, as well as guitars, bass, and maracas.
Tango is an Argentinean style of music that originated in the early 20th century in Buenos Aires. It was originally developed by working-class immigrants from Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Tango is known for its gracefulness and passionate embrace between dancers. It is typically played on a piano or bandoneon (a type of accordion).