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What is folk music?

What is folk music?

As we've interviewed traditional folk musicians over the years, we've often asked THAT folk music question. Here are a few answers to get you thinking...

What is folk music? There are so many possible answers to that question, it’s almost impossible to offer anything up without someone wanting to shoot it down again. In the course of our research, however, we’ve come across a few great explanations.

First of all, we should note that we’re interested in traditional music, where it comes from, how it evolves and where it might be going. So this is what we refer to when we speak about ‘folk music’ on this website, rather than songs from the singer-songwriter world where traditional music may not have a direct influence.

Over the years, we’ve interviewed a number of people about traditional folk songs for this website and for The Old Songs Podcast, and we’ve often asked the eternal question – What is folk music? – to see if I could get to the bottom of things. Here’s how some of them answered.

What is folk music? A few answers to the eternal question…

What is folk music? Rosie Hood gives her answer.

“The definition of folk music? It’s sex and death, with a few funny bits in between!”Rosie Hood.

What is folk music? Martin Simpson gives his answer.

“Folk music is music that accompanies a raffle. There’s no better definition of it than that!”Martin Simpson.

What is folk music? Emily Portman gives her answer.

“We’ve got something special here, and it’s reliant on enthusing the next  generation to enjoy the music, to reinterpret and reinvigorate it.”Emily Portman.

What is folk music? Ted Kemp gives his answer.

“For want of a better word, folk songs are more ‘real’. They don’t deal in clichés or generalities. These songs are specific in their events and emotions.” – Ted Kemp.

What is folk music? Doc Rowe gives his answer.

“People want these things to be pre-Christian, pagan and mysterious, or some other elemental thing. But that’s irrelevant. It’s not about that. It’s about human performance and human celebration”Doc Rowe.