French Folk Music: The Best of Both Worlds

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


French folk music has long been a favorite of music lovers around the world. But what makes this genre so special? We take a look at the best of both worlds – the traditional and the modern – to find out.

What is French Folk Music?

French Folk music is a mix of two traditions: the music of the people and the music of the educated classes. The people’s music is mostly vocal and often has a strong rhythm, while the music of the educated classes is usually instrumental and has a lighter, more delicate sound.

French Folk music has been around for centuries. It first became popular in the 18th century, when it was used to accompany dances. In the 19th century, it became more refined and was often played on the piano.

Today, French Folk music is still popular in France and other parts of Europe. It is often used in advertising and film soundtracks.

The Origins of French Folk Music

The origins of French folk music can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the first French folk songs were created. Since then, folk music has been an important part of French culture, and has even influenced other genres of music.

French folk music is typically divided into two types: rural and urban. Rural folk music is typically more traditional, and is often based on the music of the region in which it originates. Urban folk music, on the other hand, is more modern and is often influenced by other genres of music, such as pop and rock.

One of the most famous French folk songs is “Au clair de la lune”, which was first recorded in the 18th century. This song is still popular today, and has been covered by many different artists. another popular French folk song is “La Marseillaise”, which is the national anthem of France.

The Instruments of French Folk Music

Though there are many different types of French folk music, the most common and well-known is the chanson, a type of song that is usually accompanied by instruments such as the accordion, fiddle, or mandolin. Other popular instruments used in French folk music include the bagpipe, clarinet, flute, and penny whistle.

The wide variety of French folk music is reflective of the country’s diverse regions and culture. In Brittany, for example, the music is heavily influenced by Celtic traditions, while in Alsace it has a more Germanic sound. These regional differences are often reflected in the instruments used; for instance, Brittany is known for its use of the bombarde (a type of oboe), while Alsace is known for its use of the neighboring countries’ traditional instruments like spoons and washboards.

While most French folk music is happy and upbeat, there are also some dark and mournful songs, reflecting the country’s history of war and conflict. These songs often make use of minor keys and melancholy lyrics to convey their emotions.

The Sound of French Folk Music

French folk music has a long and rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, it experienced a revival led by thinkers such as Victor Hugo, who believed that the music of the people should be celebrated. This resulted in a new wave of interest in traditional French folk songs and dances.

The sound of French folk music is unique and instantly recognizable. It often features acoustic instruments such as the accordion and guitar, as well as traditional singing styles. The music is often upbeat and lively, making it perfect for dancing.

French folk music has been influenced by a number of different genres over the years, including blues, jazz, and rock n’ roll. This has resulted in a truly unique sound that blends the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for something different to listen to, French folk music is definitely worth checking out.

The Popularity of French Folk Music

French folk music has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, both in France and abroad. This is thanks in part to a renewed interest in traditional music and culture, but also to the work of a new generation of French folk musicians who are taking the old music and making it their own.

Traditional French folk music is rooted in the music of the rural peasantry and dates back to the Middle Ages. It is typically very simple in form and instrumentation, and often features songs about love, nature, and/or religion. The best-known traditional French folk song is probably “Au Clair de la Lune,” which was famously used by Georges Bizet in his opera Carmen.

In the 20th century, as industrialization led to more urbanization and modernization, traditional folk music began to decline in popularity. But in recent years there has been a revival of interest in this style of music, both in France and abroad. This has been led by a new generation of French folk musicians who are taking the old music and making it their own.

Some of the most popular French folk musicians today include Baster, Les Tambours du Bronzage, Lo’Jo, Nolwenn Leroy, Oudaden, and Yann-Fañch Kemener. These artists are bringing new energy to traditional French folk music and helping to keep it alive for future generations.

The Future of French Folk Music

French folk music has been around for centuries, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the genre is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the rise of streaming services and the ever-growing interest in world music.

What exactly is French folk music? It’s a broad category that encompasses everything from traditional ballads to modern songs with a distinctly French flavor. Whether you’re looking for something to dance to or simply want to enjoy the mellifluous sound of the French language, there’s sure to be a type of French folk music that appeals to you.

One of the best things about French folk music is that it draws from a variety of influences, including Celtic, Breton, and Occitan traditions. This diversity is what gives the genre its richness and depth. It also means that there’s something for everyone—whether you prefer upbeat numbers or reflective ballads, you’re sure to find something to your taste.

If you’re curious about French folk music but don’t know where to start, we’ve put together a list of 10 essential tracks that will give you a taste of the best the genre has to offer. Trust us—once you start exploring, you won’t be able to stop.

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