A term used to describe an enormous variety of music. Frequently refers to the traditional music of a region or culture (e.g. Irish music), or people who play/draw from traditional music (e.g. Bob Dylan). Many people like to slap this label on anything with an acoustic guitar (e.g. Jewel), but it's not that easy to define. Like porn, everyone knows it when they see (hear) it. All I know is, it's good and I like it.

Folk music is a great equalizer, and is much broader than today's conventions make it out to be. Just look at the term: folk music. Folk. People. It's the people's music, and it doesn't lie about where it's from. It speaks honestly about the culture and difficulties and joys and lives of the people who make it. In this sense, a good rap song is as much a part of folk music as any soft little acoustic guitar number.

Perhaps one can best understand folk music (that is, the contemporary commentary ballad type, as opposed to "traditional music" with a quote from one of its progenitors, Woody Guthrie:

"You can't write a good song about a dust storm unless you been in one....you can't write a good song about a whorehouse unless you been in one." from Broadside Songs of our times from the pages of Broadside Magazine

But, ironically, this same songwriter could write a song about a mine disaster, yet he was no nearer to the scene than the newspaper article he read it from.

Folk music actually had to be revived in United States by Pete Seeger, also of the Weavers, who saw more of the protest and topicality type in England in the late 50's and early 1960, than was tolerated in the Cold War reactionary climate here.

If it wasn't for some excellent writing and recording finally in the 1960's, and thus finally commercial success, maybe it would have been lost.

Of course, and fortunate for us, Alan Lomax was recording folk artists from the early 1950's, as he saw the disappearance of some indigenous American music on the horizon. The new term for American Folk Music is "American roots music, (Also a title of a project by The Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Experience Music Project.)

An interesting quote from the introduction to The Penguin Book Of English Folk Songs:

"An old Suffolk labourer with a fine folk song repertory and a delicate, rather gnat like voice, once remarked: "I used to be reckoned a good singer before these here TUNES came in". The Tunes he spoke of with such scorn had come in with a vengeance, and it seemed like his kind of songs, once so admired, would be lost under the flood of commercial popular music."

This got me thinking about the nature of folk music, and of English song in particular. These songs were specific to a particular area, or way of life, or mode of being. They were written to celebrate common experience, but in a much more small scale way. This is why a song like John Barleycorn has so many regional various. Raymond Williams (the great thinker of the new left) noted that culture is ordinary, that it is made and remade as people live their lives and seek ways to express that. This seems to me to be particularly pertinent to the idea of folk song.

Popular song, on the other hand, does the opposite. It is a cultural expression that is offered to us wholesale - it is not something that we can hope to participate in ourselves unless we choose it as a career (and I say this as someone who spends a good deal of his life enjoying popular music!)

Folk music in Chile has long tradition; however, has also been object of long neglect by Chileans. Among other reasons, pop and rock have absorbed audiences who support these streams fervently, leaving Chilean "folklore" relegated to a second place. However, an interesting phenomenon started about 20 years ago, when some rock and alternative bands began to realize that folk music, particularly the blend of traditional country and urban folk, offer rich diversity in rhythms, themes, and instrumental performance that could be adopted and interpreted through rock music. This process of folk music recognition favored the emergence of new musicians who are creating a revival and new interpretation of folk that, on the one hand makes folk rhythm more available to general public, and on the other hand recognizes the enormous heritage of Chilean traditional country and urban folk.

An undisputed star of Chilean folk music is Violeta Parra; an amazing woman who was born in a poor rural area in the southern part of the country. As composer, folklorist, and visual artist, Violeta excelled in the artistic Chilean arena for her natural talent and humble character. She is the most famous member of Parra family, full of artists and musicians. Parra family has been a fundamental influence in the revival of folk music in Chile, starting with the inclusion of Lalo Parra (Violeta's brother) in the famous rock band "Los Tres" disc titled "Peineta," at the end of the 90s. Los Tres's recognition to popular folk music, identified intensely with the national dance music, "la cueca" can be seen as one of the triggers for other bands to start valuing and using folk musical roots in their own compositions. In this process of recognition, the figure of Violeta Parra has been essential, and even has crossed the barriers of music to be represented in a movie released in 2011.

Whether Chilean folk music is today more valued than in the past is still a question to be answered, but there is enough evidence to support the idea that folk music and its top representatives has acquired a better status through the recognition of its contribution by new waves of musicians.

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