Folk Songs Home > Kerala > Culture In Kerala > Music In Kerala > Folk Songs

Folk Songs

There seems to be no exact definition or classification for ‘folk songs’ in the field of music. It is more of a part, of the folk culture that refers to the non-formal, traditional or indigenous languages, customs, rituals, mannerisms, performing and non performing arts of a group of people, mostly bound together by race, ethnicity, region or conditions.

The songs or pieces of music that are usually classified as ‘Folk Songs’ are the traditional songs of a community that have been sung generation after generation and mostly its composer is unknown. Folk songs can be found all over the world in every country and this kind of music is for many groups – social and ethnic – a part of their distinct cultural identity and forms a major part of their expressions.


Tradition is the arch-stone of any Folk song and their performances vary over a broad scope. There are although, a striking similarities in the nature of these songs all over the world and one of them is the occasions that these songs are performed. The most common being during the seasonal changes that prompted the harvest, births, deaths, marriages and any of the traditional gathering of the group.

These performances take place at a communal gathering where the local musicians of that community perform and then are accompanied by a chorus or traditional dances, in many countries. The instruments used by these musicians are especially indigenous or at least their origin is, for example the accordion, banjo, and bagpipe from Europe, the guitar and harmonica from North America, the shimasen, guanzi, sarangi, kombu, flute, dhol from Asia, the kora, yodel, djembe from Africa and also the didgeridoo from Australia, the list goes on.

The folk music around the world received a second with because of the boom of the music industry. As a consequence, today’s folk music or contemporary folk music is performed in concerts and multi-cultural stages using folk instruments by well-known artists.


The striking feature of folk songs is their content and the method of transmission among a certain society. Almost all folk music is descriptive of the past and the way of life of that group of people. These songs basically try to impart a cultural education among the youth of the society and help create a sense of history and cultural identity in their minds. It describes the important landmarks or events in the history of a community, like wars, draughts, migrations and so on. Many folk songs are also repositories of personal experiences of the people.

Another important factor is that, the origin of songs that are classified as folk is often the poorer, lower or the working classes of the society. A good example would be that of the Afro-American musical traditions.

Rendition Styles

Folk songs being the property and the part of identity of a common people may have several styles and that way a song is sung or played, using which instruments, largely depends upon the specific regional community.

It has also been noted that although the musicians or performers rarely wander away from the tradition in which they were taught, every folk song evolves and passes through several stylistic phases over a period of time, being influenced by contemporary conditions each time.


The structure of all folk songs is characteristically and essentially simple and ‘rugged’. The instrumental compositions are simple and unique, employing only a few musical techniques in every song that are unique to that particular community.

Every folk song, be it from any part of the world, has a deep emphasis on words and lyrics and hence it forms the core of the musical performance. A folk song is usually performed by the members of the community at their social gatherings, usually for a traditional dance and almost all of the people present take part in the singing.


Another of the major similarities of folk songs of the world is that all of the education (including the singing and the knowledge of musical instruments) is transmitted by the word of mouth. It is usually seen that the knowledge is transferred from generation to generation, although it may not be a stipulation. It is although a preference in most cultures to teach students from the same community. Especially in India, the education of classical music and of folk music is imparted by the tongue but there is a clear distinction between the two.

Related Image

Folk Songs 1
Folk Songs 2
Folk Songs 3
Folk Songs 4
Folk Songs 5
Folk Songs 6

Also Browse Following Under This Section

Related Topics

Dance in Kerala

The dance forms of Kerala have a rich legacy and have grown since ancient times to produce one of the most articulated....

Culture in Kerala

The indigenous musical tradition of Kerala finds its roots in the music of the animalistic deities of the primitive ages....

Sopanam Style

Southern India an ancient land and many different...


The Panchavadyam is the typical musical...