Folk Music Around the World

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Explore the traditional and contemporary folk music of various cultures around the world.

The Different Types of Folk Music

Folk music is a form of music that is typically passed down from generation to generation. It is music that is not written by a composer, but rather by the people who sing it. Folk music is usually about the everyday lives of the people who sing it, and it often tells stories. There are many different types of folk music from all around the world.


Country is a broad term used to describe various styles of music that originated in the American south. The music is often based on a simple led by a guitar, banjo or fiddle accompanied by a drum or washboard. Early country music was often based on traditional folk songs and ballads that were handed down from generation to generation. The sound of country music has evolved over the years, but it still retains its roots in folk music.

Common instruments used in country music include the guitar, banjo, fiddle, pedal steel guitar, mandolin and Dobro. Popular subgenres of country include honky tonk, bluegrass, Nashville Sound and rockabilly. Country music has been influence by other genres such as rock and roll, pop and jazz.

Some of the most popular country artists include Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks and Emmylou Harris.


Blues is a style of music that originated in the African-American communities of the Deep South of the United States around the end of the 19th century. The style is characterized by its use of blue notes, call-and-response patterns, and often bittersweet lyrics about personal hardship.

The earliest examples of blues music were a mix of West African folk music, work songs, and spirituals brought to the United States by slaves. As the blues evolved, it began to incorporate elements of ragtime, country, and jazz. The blues reached its height of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s with the rise of “classic” or “traditional” blues artists such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

In the post-World War II era, the blues experienced a renewed popularity thanks to artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf who helped lead the way for the development of rock and roll. Today, the genre continues to be popular with musicians all over the world playing everything from traditional acoustic blues to modern electric blues.


Celtic music is a term used today to denote the music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. This type of music usually has a strong beat that can be either fast or slow. The tunes are often very catchy and easy to remember. Celtic music can be both vocal and instrumental. When it is vocal, the lyrics are mostly in English, but occasionally in Gaelic as well. Celtic music instrumentation includes: fiddles, pipes, flutes, drums, guitars and mandolins.


Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a related genre of country music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of Appalachia and the songs of the Scottish, Irish, and English immigrants who settled there. It is characterized by use of the banjo, acoustic guitar, fiddle, and mandolin; rhythmic harmony singing featuring two, three, or four parts with a clear lead vocalist; and lyrics about life in the Appalachian Mountains.

Bluegrass developed in the late 1940s in Kentucky as a development of earlier traditional musics. Bill Monroe is credited with further developing the style through his group The Blue Grass Boys and creating the standard bluegrass lineup: five string banjo, mandolin, fiddle or violin played with a guitar (flat-picked or finger-picked) and stand-up bass.

The Origins of Folk Music

Folk music is a genre of music that is typically passed down from generation to generation. It is music that is typically associated with a certain culture or region. Folk music often has a strong connection to the history and traditions of a particular people.


Folk music in America is as varied as the people who settled the country. As settlers arrived from different cultures around the world, they brought with them their own musical traditions. This mixing of cultures led to the creation of new musical styles, such as country music, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Folk music played an important role in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger wrote songs that spoke out against social injustice and encouraged people to stand up for their rights. Folk music continues to be popular in America today, with artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen keeping the tradition alive.


Folk music has been around for centuries, and its origins can be traced back to Europe. One of the earliest forms of folk music was folk ballads, which were originally sung by troubadours in France during the Middle Ages. These ballads were later brought to England by minstrels, and they became popular there as well. Many of the best-known folk songs, such as “Barbara Allen” and “The Unquiet Grave,” originated in England.

Folk music also developed in other parts of Europe. In Scotland, for example, the bagpipes were an important part of traditional folk music. Irish folk music was also very popular, and it was often played on the fiddle.

During the nineteenth century, many European immigrants came to the United States, and they brought their folk music with them. Folk music continued to evolve in America, and new styles developed, including blues, country, and bluegrass.


Folk music of Asia is music developed by ordinary people that reflects the daily lives and experiences of Asian cultures. instruments commonly used in Asian folk music include flutes, drums, gongs, and string instruments such as the erhu and pipa. Styles of folk music vary between regions, but some commonalities can be found between different areas.

In central Asia, folk music often reflects the nomadic lifestyle of the people with songs about travel, love, and loss. In Iran, folk music is often spiritual and religious in nature, with songs dedicated to Zoroastrian deities or Sufi saints. In China and Taiwan, folk music often tells stories of the hardships of life or celebrates major events such as weddings or births.

Japan has a long history of folk music, with records of it dating back to the seventh century. Folk songs in Japan are often about love and death, or they may be work songs or children’s songs. South Korea’s folk music tradition is similar to that of Japan, but with a stronger influence from North Korea and China. Traditional Korean folk songs are called minyo, and they often tell stories about villages and farming life.

The Popularity of Folk Music

Folk music has been around for centuries and is still popular today. Folk music is a type of music that is passed down orally from generation to generation. Folk music is usually about the everyday life of the people and is sung in the language of the people. Folk music is usually simple and easy to sing. Folk music is popular because it is a part of the people’s culture and history.

The United States

Folk music got its start in the United States in the early 1600s when English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants brought over their traditional songs. These songs were about every day life and told stories of love, loss, death, and hope. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as America was settling the West, folk music changed and new styles were born. Songs about working on the railroad, farming, and cowboy life became popular. Folk music continued to evolve in the 20th century with new styles like blues, gospel, and rockabilly.

Folk music has always been a part of American culture. In the early days of radio, folk music was one of the most popular genres. Today, you can find folk music festivals being held all over the country where people come together to enjoy this unique style of music.


While the United States is sometimes thought of as the epicenter for folk music, the genre actually has a long and storied history in Canada. One of the earliest forms of Canadian folk music was voyageur songs, which were sung by French-Canadian fur traders as they paddled their canoes up and down the waterways of the country. These songs often told stories of life on the frontier, and were a way for the voyageurs to stay connected to their homeland and culture.

As more Europeans settled in Canada, other forms of folk music began to take root. Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their traditional songs with them, and these quickly became popular in communities all across the country. Canadian folk music also borrowed heavily from the musical traditions of Native American tribes, who had their own distinct styles of song and dance.

Over time, all of these different influences came together to create a uniquely Canadian form of folk music. This new style was typified by artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell, who wrote songs about the country’s landscapes and people that resonated with Canadians from coast to coast. Folk music continues to be an important part of Canada’s musical identity, and is enjoyed by people of all ages.


Folk music has been around for centuries and is a vital part of many cultures. In Australia, folk music is popular with both traditional and modern musicians.

The Australian folk scene is vibrant and diverse, with bands and artists performing a wide range of styles. Traditional folk music is still popular, but there is also a strong contemporary folk scene. Australian folk bands often blend traditional folk styles with other genres such as rock, jazz and blues.

Some of the most popular Australian folk bands include The Waifs, The Bushwackers and The Seekers. Folk music is also often performed at community events such as festivals and markets.

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