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4 Reasons why folk is back from never being gone (and one why nobody knows)

Some people default to shooting banjos, others want to attack the music with booms and pitchforks. The fact remains that hipsters are running away with it. What is it about 'folk' and why does it keep coming back?

1-Folk is the basis of everything

Folk, the Irish and Scottish but also the American, was one of the driving forces behind popular music from the 1960s until sometime in the mid-1980s. The first pop festivals, Woodstock, Monterrey, Kralingen, floated on it. Melanie owed its existence to it as did Simon & Garfunkel. Even the Rolling Stones did it. So did the Beatles. Legendary were groups like Fairport Convention, The Dubliners and Sandy Denny. Pete Seeger made 'We shall overcome' the anthem of a whole generation of do-gooders, and with his 'Where have all the flowers gone?' he gave a name to the movement of the late 1960s: Flower Power. Bob Dylan may have been grumpy about it, but he too 'practised' folk. Until he started playing crackling rock. All this music found its way to a world audience thanks to the media developing at parallel speed, radio foremost among them.

2-Scotland has the

After the 'takeover' of first punk (from, say, 1978) and dance (1990s) in the media, it seemed that folk no longer existed. At least not from the Dutch perspective anymore. But still. Capercaillie from Scotland, formed in the early 1980s when folk was 'out', has been playing to packed football stadiums for three decades. As singer of Fairground Attraction, Eddi Reader had a smash hit with 'Perfect', a song that recurs in commercials ad infinitum. As a solo singer, she would never match it again. New York singer Talitha MacKenzie moved to Scotland in the early 1990s to delve into shanties and mouth music, a virtuoso wordless singing style. In 1993, she launched Solas, featuring the steaming, dance-party resistant 'Seinn-O'. Only 10 years later, this CD was available in our regions.

3-Ireland makes it

Folk goes back to the mid-18se century. The Irishman Turlough O'Carolan (1680-1738) is forgotten as a baroque composer but not as a harpist and writer of countless Irish folk songs that to this day count as the foundation of Irish folk. The term originates some 100 years later, but is not widely used until after the 1950s, when festivals and media increasingly give space to Celtic folk. By then, folk is more than folklore, it 19e century peasant life is highly romanticised and often rendered more beautifully than its dire poverty suggests. It particularly appeals to the hippie generation of the 1960s and 1970s.

4-O, yes. World music.

Whereas popular music's content is becoming less and less significant, the dance scene mainly makes the news because of the massiveness of the parties and the unabatedly high drug use, folkies played on in the background. In the new millennium, they were overtaken left and right by world music, a term once launched by the small record company 4AD. Folk merges into this, becomes part of the great global mix of cultures, but nevertheless also continues to exist as an independent genre.

5-Folk is exclusive.

So why don't we know this in our country? The answer is simple: the same media that made folk big also dropped out when MTV emerged and popular music was distributed mainly via TV. Especially the commercial channels, which eventually were joined by public broadcasting, left their mark on music. Group dynamics at secondary school then did the rest: if you don't join the average style, you are out. Folk in the media? No way. At school then? Neehee!!! Then where? In small clubs, through websites and festivals, things are picking up.


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