What’s your favorite type of music? Do you like music with a snappy beat that you can dance to? Or is loud rock and roll more your style? Maybe you like the lyrical wordplay of modern rap and hip-hop music.

Do we have any Wonder Friends out there who enjoy folk music? For today’s children, the words “folk music” might conjure up images of acoustic guitars and soft, quiet music that their parents would enjoy. In reality, though, folk music is so much more than that!

Folk music can refer to both traditional types of music and the modern notion of folk music that arose during the 1960s in the United States. Traditional folk music has been around as long as music itself, but the term “folk music” wasn’t really used until the 1800s.

Traditional folk music — sometimes called world music — can be hard to define, but there are several common characteristics that help define the genre. Traditional folk music can usually be thought of as old music by unknown composers that has been passed along orally for generations by the poor, working class.

You might think of traditional folk music as the music of the common people. It tells the stories of the common people in language they can understand. It bonds people together in a way that has more to do with culture and history than entertainment.

In the 1960s in the United States, a folk music revival occurred. During this time, a new style of folk music — sometimes called contemporary folk music — developed. Contemporary folk music was defined by a focus on acoustic instruments and meaningful, thoughtful lyrics that reflected the social changes taking place at the time.

While contemporary folk music is a more recent development from the United States, traditional folk music can be found all over the world. Just about every society has its own cultures and traditions expressed in the form of folk art — whether it be folk music, folk dance or folk tales.

The word “folk” traditionally refers to the customs and traditions that are passed down through the generations by the common people (“folk”). Because these customs and traditions can vary widely from country to country, folk music from one country might sound completely different from folk music from another country.

Unlike the contemporary folk music from 1960s America, traditional folk music from an African country, for example, might feature tribal drums and rhythms that sound somewhat like modern dance music. So don’t assume all folk music sounds alike!

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    • We’ve got some SUPER guessing going on in Mrs. Bayko’s Class! We are incredibly excited to Wonder with you this year– thanks for your AWESOME guesses! We love great and curious Wonder Friends like you! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  1. I was WAY off when I was guessing today’s WONDER yesterday. But I liked today’s. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about eels!!!

    Emily :)

  2. My best friend loves to listen to folk music. I had no idea that there were so many different types, though! I think that tomorrow’s wonder will be about the ocean. I can’t wait!

    • We love your friend’s taste in music, Tori! How WONDERful that you have learned something new about music, too! We love your SUPER guess for tomorrow’s Wonder! We can barely contain our excitement to find out what it is! :)

    • We are glad you enjoyed learning about folk music today, Julie! We are glad to have you back and WONDERing with us at Wonderopolis! Thanks for your comment! :)

  3. I really love music, it makes me want to go with the beat. I’m really good doing the beat of the music. Did you hear of animusic? It is really awesome, rocking, and romantic.

    • We LOVE your enthusiasm for music of all kinds, Carlos! Keeping rhythm is so important in music– we are glad you can stay with the beat! We just checked out animusic– what a COOL idea! We love the combination of hearing the music and how it corresponds with the animation– thank you for introducing us to such a COOL and WONDERful type of music! :)

    • WOW, such WONDERful guesses you have, Jessica! We cannot wait to Wonder with you again and find out what’s next– we love imagining with you! Thank you for your comment, Wonder Friend! :)

  4. My favorite artist is Michael Jackson. I love him I can talk about him all day I know all of his songs but his favorite song of mine is “You Rock My World” and I love singing a lot and dancing; it keeps me entertained and one day I want to be on American Idol.

    • HOORAY, Brooklyn, we are happy you visited Wonderopolis today! We LOVE your enthusiasm about music– we are fans of Michael Jackson’s music, too! :) We hope you keep up the singing practice so you can make your way to American Idol! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • WOHOO, we love a good dance party with great friends, Cutypie! We think it’s a SUPER way to exercise AND have fun at the same time! Thanks for sharing your cool comment with us– hope you dance today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is folk music?
  • What characteristics define traditional folk music?
  • Does all folk music sound alike?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Do you like contemporary folk music? If you’re not very familiar with contemporary folk music, check out the links below to listen to some songs by popular American contemporary folk musicians:

Still Wondering

Check out ArtsEdge’s Music of the People, By the People, For the Peoplefeature for the story behind Woody Guthrie’s famous song, “This Land Is Your Land.”

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is super cool and really, really long!

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