Traditional Welsh Folk Music: A Brief History

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Traditional Welsh folk music has been around for centuries, and has undergone many changes over the years. In this blog post, we’ll take a brief look at the history of this musical tradition.

Traditional Welsh folk music: a brief history

Wales has a strong and unique musical heritage, with traditional Welsh folk music having been exported around the world. This form of music is typically characterized by its use of ancient instruments such as the crwth and harp, as well as its focus on storytelling and balladry.

Welsh folk music has its roots in the country’s Celtic past, with ancient folk songs being passed down through the generations. This oral tradition continued until the late 19th century, when many of these songs were collected and published for the first time.

Interestingly, traditional Welsh folk music was not always popular with the country’s authorities. In the 18th century, for example, an Act of Parliament was passed banning the playing of certain traditional instruments, such as the crwth. However, this did not stop Welsh people from continuing to enjoy and perform their traditional music.

During the 20th century, traditional Welsh folk music experienced something of a revival, thanks in part to the work of musician and composer R. Vaughan Williams. Today, there are a number of Welsh folk bands who are keeping this rich musical tradition alive.

The origins of Welsh folk music

The roots of Welsh folk music can be traced back to the earliest Music of Britain. Influences from abroad, particularly the music of Ireland and Scotland, helped to develop a unique Welsh sound. In the nineteenth century, Victorian England’s love affair with the Tudor past led to a revival in the popularity of traditional Welsh folk music. This was further bolstered by the growth of nationalistic feeling in Wales during the early twentieth century.

There are three main types of Welsh folk music: ballads, hymns and dances. Ballads are narrative songs that tell stories, often of love and loss. Hymns are religious songs, usually sung in Welsh, that were originally intended for use in worship. Dances are lively pieces designed for social dancing. The most popular type of dance in Wales is the cerdd dant, or ‘stringed dance’, which is danced to the accompaniment of a harp.

Welsh folk music has been performed and enjoyed by people from all walks of life for centuries. Today, it continues to be an important part of Welsh culture and identity.

The evolution of Welsh folk music

Modern Welsh folk music has its roots in the music of the people who have lived in Wales for centuries. The music has been shaped by the country’s history, its geography, and its culture.

Wales is a country with a rich musical tradition. Folk music has been an important part of Welsh culture for centuries. The music has been passed down from generation to generation, and it continues to evolve.

Wales is a country with a long history of invasions and migration. Over the centuries, people from England, Scotland, Ireland, and other countries have settled in Wales. This has had a significant impact on the evolution of Welsh folk music.

The traditional instruments of Welsh folk music include the harp, the fiddle, and the bagpipe. These instruments are often used in traditional Welsh dances such as the gwerin (a circle dance) and the cerdd dant (a solo dance).

The harp is one of the most iconic symbols of Wales. It was used by medieval bards to accompany their poetry. Today, the harp is still an important part of Welsh music. There are many talented harpists in Wales who perform both traditional and contemporary music.

The fiddle is another popular instrument in Welsh folk music. It is often used in lively dance tunes and ballads. Fiddles are also used in some popualr Welsh songs such as “All Through the Night” and “The Ash Grove”.

Welsh folk music has been influenced by many different styles over the years. Celtic music, Scottish ballads, and English country dances have all had an impact on the development of Welsh folk music. In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity for modern interpretations of traditional Welsh folk songs. Many contemporary musicians are experiment with new sounds while still staying true to their roots.

The influence of Welsh folk music on other genres

Welsh folk music has had a profound influence on a number of other genres, both within Wales and beyond. One of the most notable examples is the way in which the music of the Welsh miners who came to work in the coal mines of England in the 19th century helped to shape the development of English Folk music.

The miners brought with them a rich tradition of songs and tunes, which they continued to perform in their new homes. Many of these songs were adapted by English Folk musicians, who went on to develop their own distinctive versions. In turn, these versions were often taken back to Wales by these same musicians, further enriching the Welsh Folk tradition.

Other genres that have been influenced by Welsh Folk music include Jazz, Country and Western, and even Rock and Roll. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in Welsh Folk music among young people, both within Wales and around the world. This has led to a revival of traditional Welsh Folk songs and tunes, as well as the development of new ones.

The popularity of Welsh folk music today

Welsh folk music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with a new generation of musicians and fans keeping the tradition alive. The music has its roots in the oral tradition, and many of the songs and tunes have been passed down through the generations.

The popularity of Welsh folk music today can be traced back to the work of two key figures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: John Griffiths (1842-1909) and Joseph parry (1841-1903). Griffiths was a musicologist who collected and published many traditional Welsh songs, while Parry was a composer who wrote new melodies for existing lyrics.

Since then, Welsh folk music has continued to evolve, with different styles emerging in different parts of Wales. Today, there is a rich variety of Welsh folk music to enjoy, from traditional ballads to more contemporary tunes.

The instruments used in Welsh folk music

The instruments used in Welsh folk music are very similar to those used in the music of other Celtic nations. The main difference is the use of the melanpipes, a type of bagpipe, which is particularly associated with Wales. Other traditional Welsh instruments include the crwth (a stringed instrument), the harp, the timpan (a type of drum), and the pibgorn (a hornpipe).

The vocal traditions of Welsh folk music

The vocal traditions of Welsh folk music are perhaps the best known, thanks in part to the popularity of male voice choirs in the 19th and 20th centuries. But there is also a strong tradition of solo singing, particularly among women. The most common form of Welsh folk song is the love song, which often tells of unrequited love or tragic love affairs. Other popular themes include songs about workers and their struggles, pastoral songs about rural life, and humorous songs about love and marriage.

The lyrics of Welsh folk music

The lyrics of Welsh folk music are mainly in the Welsh language, but there are also a few songs in English and other languages. The Welsh language has a rich tradition of folk poetry, and many of the lyrics are based on traditional folk tales or legends.

The tunes of Welsh folk music are often very simple, and they usually use just a few basic chords. This makes them easy to learn and play, which is one of the reasons why they have been so popular over the years.

Welsh folk music has been around for centuries, and it has been passed down from generation to generation. In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in this type of music, and it is now more popular than ever before.

The dance traditions of Welsh folk music

Dance traditions in Welsh music are perhaps some of the most well-known and iconic. From the energetic and lively hornpipe, to the more sedate and graceful waltz, there is a dance style to suit any taste. Folk dances often have specific music associated with them, which helps to set the mood and add to the overall atmosphere of the event.

One of the most popular folk dances in Wales is the cerdd dant, or ‘string dance’. This involves a team of dancers using only their fingers and thumbs to create intricate patterns and shapes in the air, all in time with the music. The string dance is often performed at weddings and other special occasions, and is said to bring good luck to those who take part.

Another popular folk dance is the clog dance, which is traditionally performed by women wearing wooden clogs. This dance is said to originate from the days when workers in Welsh mines would use their clogs to keep time as they worked. Today, the clog dance is often performed as a demonstration of traditional Welsh culture, and is a particular favorite at festivals and other public events.

The future of Welsh folk music

Although Welsh folk music has a long and proud history, its future is by no means guaranteed. In recent years, traditional Welsh music has been in decline, with fewer people playing and listening to it than in the past. This is partly due to the fact that many of the traditional musicians who kept the music alive are now deceased, and there is a lack of young people taking up the torch. Additionally, the popularity of other genres of music, such as pop and rock, has meant that Welsh folk music is no longer as widely heard as it once was.

That said, there are still many passionate advocates of Welsh folk music, both within Wales and beyond. Several organizations exist to promote and preserve the genre, such as Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales and The Welsh Music Guild. And there are a number of young musicians who are keeping the tradition alive by playing and recording Welsh folk music. So while its future may be uncertain, there is still hope that Welsh folk music will continue to be enjoyed by many for years to come.

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