WTF: What the Folk?


Thesis: Folk music is the advent of music expressed for and by black people in America.


(W)hat is folk Music?

Folk music is a genre created by enslaved people in the 19th century during the period of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Folk music conveys the message of unity, yet sorrow and suffering of Africans across a broad range of ethnicities.  On one hand, folk music is representative of unity because despite being forcibly removed from their homes, folk music connected people as a means to survive through the struggle.  Contrastingly, folk music also represents force because slaves of the same ethnicity were purposefully separated to minimize communication between one another.

(T)imbre & Instruments

Folk music includes a multitude of instruments with different timbres, the quality of sound that distinguishes instruments from one another, to express different messages.  Examples of these instruments are the djembe, kora, fiddle, tambourine, and banjo.  At times, slaves were prohibited from using instruments of  loud timbres by slaveowners for fear of communication between one another.  Due to this, different methods were developed.  Slaves used the instruments of their hands and voice to create pattin’ juba, hamboning, and field hollers.

(F)olk Music Through the Years

Folk music’s influence is seen in a multitude of genres.  Thought its timeline, folk music has been separated into three categories: sacred traditions, secular traditions, and secular jazz traditions.