Are you searching for a beacon of hope in this time of public figures spewing hate, media outlets fearmongering and an impending pandemic that has left humanity with no space to cultivate bliss, physical/emotional wellness or social progress? Look no further than folk music.
These talented artists are revitalizing their traditions and creating cultural spaces that celebrate human connection and discovery. By doing so, these creators give us hope, encouraging us to reclaim the human spirit and work towards healing our world together.
Beirut is renowned for its vibrant musical scene. Here, artists from different cultures come together to create something truly remarkable.
Many bands from Lebanon are taking their unique music styles to the world. They draw from a range of influences and blend them together to create an original sound.
One of the key elements in Lebanese folk music is the daf, a traditional instrument made up of metal discs which produces an unusual jingling sound.
Another instrument commonly used in Lebanese music is the mijwiz, a reed clarinet played with breath. This instrument has become especially popular in mountain villages of Lebanon.
Garabala, an Armenian group from Beirut, plays a variety of folk music. For years they’ve been performing at Metro Al Madina, a well-known venue in Hamra neighborhood, Lebanon.
Their performances have been a great success, drawing in many non-Armenians to their shows. Additionally, they have included some Arabic songs into their repertoire.
They have recently performed at some of Beirut’s premier festivals, such as Byblos International Festival and Beirut Jazz Fest.
Over the past year, they’ve released several albums and singles. Notable among these was Lovaman, which became immensely popular and was even released in America.
Jim Ghedi has consistently displayed a unique ability to craft timely, political and alternative folk music. His new track ‘What Will Become of England’ serves as proof of this ability.
The song serves as a timely reminder that the UK is on the brink and we all need to come together in support of our fellow citizens. It exemplifies the folk current running through his delicate work, with lyrics such as “What will become of England / If things continue this way” striking with devastating relevance.
His unique voice has been a hallmark of his recent releases, and this song shows off his talent in the studio. To accompany it, there’s an inspiring music video that delves into apocalyptic/alternative reality themes explored in the song; check it out below!
It serves as a timely reminder of the necessity of empathy and solidarity to fight back against forces that want us apart, while giving an insight into the underlying social structures that govern this country. It’s an incredibly powerful piece, one that should be heard by everyone.
Aside from the albums mentioned, 2020 has also seen a number of great folk songs that honor traditional folk music’s legacy while also exploring modern world issues. We’ve curated some of the best examples below.
Marianne Parrish, better known by her stage name Maja Lena, formed an affinity with Stroud’s alt-folk and folk-adjacent DIY collectives while exploring nature through art. This connection still informs and shapes her work today.
Her latest track ‘No More Flowers’ takes listeners on an emotional journey through the last remnants of friendship, exploring its confusion and uncertainty. Her lyrics are poetic yet filled with an inspiring sense of hope.
Produced by Rob Pemberton (The Staves, Rachael Dadd), her lyrical wanders are interlaced with ambient and rhythmic chiming. It’s this blend of electronica and traditional elements that gives ‘No More Flowers’ such a captivating soundscape.
The track has been released ahead of her upcoming album Pluto, scheduled for release on November 18th. To support the release, Rachael Dadd will embark on a tour with her.
No matter the musical influences she draws from, it’s clear that this is her own music. Her harmonies and melodies are rooted in traditional folk songs but also deeply infused with the modern indie folk that has recently become so popular.
It’s an intriguing balance and one that will appeal to fans of acoustic folk music. This style will always have a special place in the hearts of those who strive for authentic creations without resorting to studio tricks.
Nick Drake’s iconic, melancholic music remains popular today – forty years after his passing. Even among new audiences and artists who may not have known of him when he recorded his initial three albums – Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon – his songs still hold timeless poignance.
While it is unfortunate that Nick Drake passed away so young, his music continues to provide comfort to those facing hardships. The lyrical themes of his songs provide a sense of escape for those dealing with depression, anxiety or loneliness.
Recently, BBC2 documentary A Stranger Among Us In Search of Nick Drake explored this aspect of Drake’s life and how his music has found new audiences. Additionally, the show explored Nick’s mental health struggles throughout life and how he managed them successfully.
Though it is impossible to know how Nick Drake would have felt about the fame that his music has received since his passing, it appears clear that he suffered from mental illness for much of his adult life. His final album, Pink Moon, was recorded during a period of depression and tragically ended his life prematurely in November 1974.
He chose “Introduction,” a classic that conjures up images of springtime. The melody has an enchanting quality, complete with cello chimes for an elegant atmosphere. The song’s lyrical theme revolves around life’s ever-evolving nature.
R Loomes’ 2020 is an album full of captivating folk music rooted in the past but influenced by today. His fingerstyle guitar weaves a path through subtle electronica and found sounds, transporting listeners to various parts of Earth from ocean to sky.
Vashti Bunyan, a mainstay of the UK’s psychedelic folk scene, has released her latest record Heartleap. A wintery melancholic stillness envelops her sparse instrumentation and simple melodies which she delivers in childlike, almost whispering tones. It is truly captivating music.
Keto from Nottingham offers an ethereal, melancholic take on English folk music that recalls Vashti Bunyan’s intellectual lyrics while sometimes bordering on psychedelic. His intricate musical explorations and delicate arrangements are both captivating and deeply complex.
Moorforge, a reconstructed Viking settlement, will host an intimate two-day folk festival in July under England’s highest mountains. Enjoy fires, starry skies, intimate performances of folk music and camping on site grounds in North-West Cumbria’s wilds.
Lau are one of the UK’s most celebrated and beloved tradfolk bands, but their 2023 album Race The Loser proves they have more to offer than just new tunes. This time around, Lau are revisiting their classic repertoire with a brand-new selection of traditional songs as well as some brand-new ones!
This year has seen an explosion of talent within English folk music, from two young tradfolk masters to new bands and singers releasing their first albums. Check out these incredible records – plus lots more below!
With his 2017 album Peasant, Newcastle-based Richard Dawson made a major impact in the avant-folk world. Through this radical transformation of sound, Dawson further cemented his place as an insightful lyricist with heart.
Dawson is an insightful observer of humanity, drawing from both Britain’s historic folk tradition and his own experience living in a desolate region to craft poignant songs about contemporary Britain’s anxieties. His characters may be drawn from history but they come alive for us today in unforgettable ways.
For example, the opening track “Jogging” is about a man who has become paranoid about people getting more violent in his remote middle-England hometown. It’s an upbeat yet poignant song that could easily become an earworm; but listen closely and you’ll discover Dawson has expertly crafted it into an intricate symphony of emotion.
2020 Dawson’s songs are intricately layered with sound effects and electronic noises to create a surreal atmosphere. The synths on the title track, “2020,” stand out especially; while “Black Triangle,” which begins as an UFO sighting and gradually evolves into an exciting tale about being dumped for a pilates instructor, is another standout track.
On this album, Dawson’s vocals are typically placed high and dry in the mix; however, Circle provides a polished, head-filling sound that often works perfectly alongside his lyrics. Dawson’s slurring Geordie accent and braying voice may be restless at times, yet he never oversteps or sounds self-indulgent.