Where Is Folk Music Popular?

Folk music is an enduring tradition within any culture or region, usually featuring acoustic instruments and English language lyrics. Sometimes folk songs may also carry political messages – like Woody Guthrie’s songs with leftist pro-labor messages.

Folk music is a form of music which encourages widespread participation, often found at coffeehouses or bars.

North America

Folk music is a form of musical expression with strong cultural roots that is usually passed along within families and small social groups, typically rural in origin and usually with moral messages that reflect daily lives of its listeners. Sung mostly by amateur singers instead of professional musicians, some popular folk songs include birthday and camp songs as well as being played at coffeehouses and farmers markets.

Folk musicians typically play acoustic instruments such as guitars, banjos and mandolins; often using English language lyrics that focus on social justice issues or personal struggles; they also often include traditional songs as well as covers of popular tunes in their repertoire.

Folk music has been around for centuries, first making its debut in Europe before spreading worldwide and eventually reaching North America during a time of economic hardship and social unrest in the 1950s with artists such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan making waves here in America.

Today, folk music remains popular across North America. Popular contemporary folk artists include Kingston Trio, Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show; each musician draws upon traditional American folk music while performing in small venues and often advocating environmental activism and social justice issues.

Folk music saw a revival during worker strikes during the 20th century. This gave rise to folk revival music which was brought back into mainstream consciousness through activists and academics like Francis James Child who inspired new scholars to study folk music from other cultures.

“Down by the Riverside” is one of the country’s best-known folk songs, known for its powerful message about poverty and struggle while remaining upbeat and inspiring people to pursue their goals. This emotional song has resonated deeply with listeners worldwide – even being covered by major pop and country artists!


Folk music remains immensely popular across Europe, from lively Polish polkas to emotional Ukrainian ballads, making up an essential component of Eastern European culture. Traditional songs play an essential part in major social events such as weddings and festivals; furthermore they’ve provided inspiration for well-known classical composers like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russia), Bela Bartok (Hungary), and George Enescu (Romania). Additionally, its popularity among Eastern Europeans often stems from its close ties to national traditions and history – and that makes folk melodies an integral component of Eastern European culture!

Europeans have long held romantic views of peasant life and folk music. This has resulted in numerous significant developments within folk music itself and even inspired art forms inspired by this genre – particularly since Western intellectuals began glorifying this music during the 18th century. Today, some influential genres from folk music are used in fusion projects or other types of new musical styles such as hip hop fusion.

Folk music has historically been transmitted through an oral tradition. Singers of traditional music were often illiterate, so they memorized songs by heart before recording them to song books for distribution to ordinary listeners – this allowed people to add new songs to their repertoire and expand it further; yet secondary enhancements were never as essential in upholding tradition as primary songs themselves.

Early researchers of folk music focused on collecting large collections of these songs. Cecil Sharp was among the earliest researchers and scholars devoted to collecting folk music; he recognized that songs created by migrants from diasporic communities could serve as valuable cultural heritage assets. Through his work came tune family theory: this concept states that similar melodies share common meanings.

ASU Library currently houses an expanding collection of European folk music, which we aim to increase. If you are curious to explore this rich cultural resource, stop by the Reference Desk or check out Garland Encyclopedia of World Music volume eight on Europe (ML 100.G16 1998 v.8) for assistance.


Australia was invaded by European immigrants who brought with them various musical traditions, reflecting the hopes, humor and disappointments of settlers as they settled their new land. These themes can often be found reflected in traditional dances, songs and poetry performed at 19th century Colonial Balls or shearing season Woolshed dances or spontaneous gatherings around campfires; all serving to tell Australian stories through song.

Australian folk music has seen many notable groups over the years. One such band was The Seekers from Melbourne who brought both traditional and contemporary folk styles together with great success. Established in 1962 by Judith Durham (vocals, piano and tambourine) Athol Guy on double bass and Keith Potger (12 string guitar and banjo).

While much of Australia’s folk music is of British origin, there are still numerous groups who perform traditional Australian songs and music. Botany Bay Waltzing Matilda and Click Go the Shears are some of the oldest Australian folk songs printed on broadsides that deal with subjects related to Australia.

More recently, there has been an upsurge of singer-songwriters who are embracing Australian folk music genre. Kev Carmody is one such singer-songwriter that has taken to this genre, writing and recording numerous popular songs that address everyday Australian’s struggles such as unemployment, addictions and family breakdown. Other songs focus on country landscapes; rails and trucks connecting our vast distances as well as isolation of Outback Australia are also often covered.

Australians currently enjoy many folk music events and festivals. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 pandemic some events and festivals had to cancel; however most are still running strong and drawing large audiences who enjoy this form of music. Acoustic instrumentation of these performances tend to be simple while musicians may not necessarily be professional musicians themselves; therefore it provides an easy listening experience suitable for anyone wanting a good night out with friends.

New Zealand

New Zealand folk music has long been a beloved form of expression and numerous groups have made themselves well-known locally. One such group was The Tumbleweeds from Christchurch – renowned cowboy-style band known for fusing Hawaiian, cowboy and hillbilly styles into an incredible sound that hit several hits including Kitty Wells’ ‘One by one’ as well as original works such as Rocky mountain Lullaby and On Takapau Plains by Joe Charles (bush balladeer). Joe Charles also excelled in song writing about rural environments while also singing about occupations such as shearers and railwaymen!

New Zealand lacks formal folklore departments or graduate courses, instead relying heavily on grassroots work by people such as Phil Garland. He was a collector of folksongs from homegrown musicians like himself and published Shanties by the Way, one of the most authoritative basic sources for those studying New Zealand folk songs, in 1967.

New Zealanders’ other main genre of choice is blues, which first arrived in New Zealand during the 1930s and gained steam during the 1970s when original songwriting flourished. Blues performers like Hammond Gamble, Darren Watson, Tura ‘Bullfrog’ Rata and Shayn Wills have seen great success domestically; however, its influence may not extend as widely internationally.

Like its sister country of America, New Zealand also boasts an active Maori song tradition. These can range from topical songs about native birds and wildlife to more spiritual or historical pieces based on legends or religious themes. Hirini Melbourne is perhaps best-known among Maori performers here, writing songs both in English and te reo Maori languages about both local birds and other topics that come up frequently during her performances.

Over the past decade, New Zealand folk clubs have flourished immensely with troupers like Graeme Gash, Mike Harding, Tim Janis, and Paul Metsers keeping tradition alive. New Zealand is a relatively remote nation, which limits acts’ ability to get their shows ready for touring as easily as they would in countries such as America or England. Local acts, like The Eastern, were instrumental in keeping folk circuit shows vibrant between smaller towns and cities; Auckland-based artists like Flip Grater and Tim Guy gained notoriety; Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams performed their debut album when released it in 2014. TV concert series That’s Country provided wide exposure for artists like Suzanne Prentice, Jools Topp & Linda Topp as well as Brendan Dugan among many others.