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Names of folk

In early '90s in Poland there appeared a new cultural phenomenon. Initially informal groups of people interested in traditional music of their own country and some other countries started to be created in student communities of big cities. They focused on Polish and Slavic folk music. These informal groups gradually formalised into bands performing homeland music inspired to different extents by the music of the countryside. Some of them tried to reproduce the songs heard previously, others subjected them to new arrangements, changing much of it according to their own youth aesthetics. Consequently, there appeared a new kind of music that, thanks to its strong connection with folklore should become a field of interest by ethnomusicologists.
Created in Poland in the '90s, the trend of interest in folk culture is a Polish equivalent of movements of traditional culture revival that have long appeared in Western Europe. This trend deserves be analysed in terms of its development and the process of changes that were accomplished at that time. In the initial phase of development (in Poland, from early '90s till now) this movement is characterised by a multitude of phenomena, a great changeability and creation of new forms. That is why all its s are difficult to be seized in its full complexity. With that in mind, I ventured however to create possibly the most detailed study on phenomena connected with Polish movement of folk culture revival that I call here a new trend of music inspired by folklore and also new forms of impact of folklore on youth communities in Poland in years 1990 - 1996.

Terminology as a document of new orientation in folk movement
Such a striking dissimilarity of some new bands alluding to folklore is manifested not only by new stylistic concepts but also by views of their creators and managers as well as the terminology they shape. Shaping of this terminology is backed also by institutions supporting the musicians (sponsors) and, above all, by the media. The main task is to establish some terms that would considerably differentiate this activity from other forms of folk movement. Bands that emerged over last few years want to conserve a clear-cut distinction between them and "courtly" bands subsidised by the authorities, bands that perform on commission, like e.g. Mazowsze or on regularly organised traditional music festivals. The guiding principle of those new bands is to give themselves a shape as individual as possible using their own means.
Gathering and specification of the terminology concerning the phenomena present in a contemporary trend of music inspired by folklore is a very demanding task. There exists, in fact, a stock of terms common for the majority of communities connected with this trend but their interpretation is difficult to generalise. Every performer or addressee of this music assigns to similar notions different semantic ranges and other ethic connotation.
It seemed to me that the only way of obtaining the full image of phenomena and the terminology connected with them was to turn to people who observe and participate in creating this movement since the moment of its appearance in Poland. Editor Maria Baliszewska- manager of the Folk Culture Centre of the Polish Radio, before manager of Folk Music Editorial Group of Polish Radio 1, and also a member of European Radio Union Council with no doubt belongs to such people. The terminology she uses was a starting point for me. The argument for this was that it is the employees of the Polish Radio 1 and Polish Radio 2 and of the Folk Culture Centre of the Polish Radio who are considered as creators and adaptors of most of the terminology in this field in Poland.
Polish terms naming the phenomena related to the new trend of music inspired by folklore were adopted or derived from the foreign terminology, especially the English one, partly from their German and French equivalents. It is worth highlighting that this terminology is not strictly scientific, but it is a product of collective effort and meeting of the employees of European radios associated in European Radio Union (1).
Just as the phenomenon itself, its terminology is a question lively discussed and still open. The phenomena associated with the trend of music inspired by folklore take very diverse shapes in different countries, as a result of which it is impossible to standardise the terminology that would encompass all those phenomena.

The uncomfortable dimension
Unfortunately, folk appears to the outsiders as a purely aesthetic creation (exclusively through its music manifestation) and it can be worried that most of the audience want to perceive it only as such. That is why its 'longitudinal' dimension remains hidden. Well, man is a creature of habit. We are surrounded by aesthetism which discourages us from the reception of culture on its deeper levels where our values and attitudes towards the world are formed, and these are the places where the 'folk intention' is born. It is not easy to talk about it when we understand folk as a simple sum of music phenomena referring to the folk culture and discernible so to speak 'beyond' us. In this, existing 'beyond us', purely aesthetic space there is a play of surface artistic provocations and dissents, a competition of seasonal ideals which can be viewed and selected like in a shop. The only criterion is a momentary 'liking'. In this respect, the folk message is, unfortunately, not very 'likeable'. Contemporary consumers, accustomed to easy conquests, may be disappointed with folk because it does not submit itself as effortlessly as the cultural 'fast food' does, but it requires a longer rumination.

Foreign terminology
It is a well-known fact that new forms of the movement alluding to folklore spread in Poland especially after 1989 influenced by the West, especially by Anglo-Celtic and Anglo-American communities. The terminology confirms this phenomenon (2).
The British terminology is a very significant element for Polish terms used nowadays as the majority of them was more or less directly derived from English. The basic notion - derivative form for others - is English folk music. This term seems to encompass folk music of the ancient tradition as well as its modern continuations. To differentiate those two completely disparate types of folk music, the British use terms of contemporary folk music and living tradition. Both terms are sometimes used interchangeably, even though, in fact, they differ in their semantic ranges. Contemporary folk music is a wider notion. It denotes music performed nowadays that can have different faces. It encompasses music strictly connected with the tradition as well as all forms transforming folk music or mixing it with other genres, e.g. with jazz. Contemporary folk music is the traditional music but also the music that is close to pop. The common feature for all trends called contemporary folk music is contemporariness from one side and link to the traditional music from the other side.
The term of living tradition is a narrower notion and denotes modern continuation of the traditional music. The music whose ties with the ancient folk music are very strong or the music that together with some stylistic elements or repertoire took over the functions of the ancient folk music. And so, e.g. the British call the music performed in numerous, very popular pubs in Britain living tradition. It is a music that has a great audience, the music that entertains, engaging people in creating it by singing songs (3) . The ties with the ancient traditional culture are visible especially in the way of performing it. An important criterion is the earning of musicians who make their living thanks to this music. They perform old songs and ballads but they also create their own ones, however, conserving the ancient way of describing the reality. To sum up: it is the music performed nowadays but conserving ancient performance manners and ancient functions of the traditional music.
There exists another English term, created in fact on grounds of international European Radio Union discussion. It is the term music in blue jeans, indicating humorously that it concerns music performed nowadays, in modern reality, applied, not stage music. It is folk activity without any spectacular setting. Performed as "fellow", received as "fellow" by the young people of the era "in blue jeans". If we look for analogy in Polish music inspired by folklore, it turns out that the term music in blue jeans does not apply here. Besides a small group of Dom Tańca (House of Dance) that reconstructs folk music, the majority of Polish bands attach importance to spectacular values of folk costume and perform or in authentic costumes bought in the countryside, or in costumes adapted to the folk ones, rural ones or sometimes even beggar's ones.
Another English term, very popular and often overused is world music. This term was coined to call the music combining two basic elements: the music of so-called main trend of light music, often associated with Anglo-American trend and traditional music elements. The notion of main trend of light music I understand just as Jocelyne Guilbault who called in this way popular music performed using electronic and electric instruments: synthesizers, electric guitars, bass guitars. Music of a classic Western tone language and characteristic standardised rhythm. Here it is essential to define the relationship between world music that is the music dominated by so-called world beat (standardised rhythm) and the music of other cultures. This genre of music was created in the '80s. The popularity of world music is to a large extent connected with such socio-economic factors like industrialisation of developing countries and with other manifestations of structure destabilisation e.g. collapse of communism. It can be also related to transformations of different communities, growing problems of multiculturalism or ethnic cultures revival. A very important factor is a consolidation of the global media system. A significant feature encompassed in the label world music is the dissimilarity of this music and the will of emphasising its strangeness. It is the need to differentiate this music from one's own that was the main cause of coining such a term in English. Another important cause were the commercial reasons. It was about a distinct contrast of this music with traditional and local trends. It was an attempt to create a "global village". The label world music was also to facilitate promotion of albums on world-wide scale. It worked as a simple advertising slogan, highlighting the distinctness of this music from one side and some kind of unification of world light music from the other side.
Jocelyne Guibault devoted her article to the music of world music trend of African roots, classifying here such genres as zouk, rai, sou kous. Originally, the term world music named mainly one of varieties of African light music, combining elements of the main trend with elements of different types of instrumentarium, melodics and traditional rhythmics. Later on, the notion of world music was extended to other kinds of music having ethnic elements but conserving at the same time the features of the main trend. Understood in that way, the term world music includes very diverse genres and kinds of music, and the connective element is so-called world-beat.
Jocelyne Guilbault criticises severely the term world music as a product of neo-colonial practice, underestimating diversity and multidirectionalism of non-Western artistic activity and highlighting the polarity of culture and constant analysis of it in categories "we-they", "our-their", "central-peripheral" . It is difficult, however, not to mention social aspects of this movement (world music) and its role in music education (school curricula introducing elements of other cultures, not only in character of entertainment). Different publishing houses and events (concerts, festivals) are also connected with this movement. Thanks to promotion activity this music gained popularity among the audience.
The French terminology can be characterised by lack of ideas. It is de facto a replica of English terms, not always used consistently. The main distinction should be made between the ancient term musique populaire and a term adapted in the '80s musique traditionelle used for possibly conservative bands. Musique traditionelle (4) is the French equivalent of the term living tradition. It names the music strongly connected with the ancient tradition and being its continuation. However, in France this music has a bit different shape. Regional stylistic rules and ancient rules of artistic activity are strictly obeyed. Any changes modernising this music are absolutely unacceptable. Everything has to be in agreement with ancient canons - the music as well as the form of performing it - instrumentarium, performing manners.
Today musique populaire is a term denoting the music of the street. It is perform by French and foreign bands, often using traditional instruments. The repertoire is usually mixed - there are some popular waltzes and Parisian songs but also songs characteristic for other countries. This music has mainly entertainment purpose. It is not a highbrow musical activity, it is destined to an average passer?by. In the French convention the term musique folclorique denotes folk dance and song bands and has negative connotations. This name is used for the bands of the former Eastern block presenting stage, simplified, arranged folklore that was usable for the system. It is a negative term for folk music in artificial choreography and arrangement.
The French equivalent of the English term ethnic music arouses most of anxiety. Musique ethnique - denotes light music with ethnic tint. It is fist of all electric and electronic music with some elements of traditional cultures - the Irish one, the African one and others. It is manifested by the presence in the instrumentarium of one or a few traditional instruments, elements of the traditional rhythmics or melodic sketches that all give a characteristic and original sound to the light electric music.
The German terminology uses traditionally two terms: Volksmusik and Popularmusik. Nowadays, to differentiate what is folklore from what is only inspired by folklore there appears a term borrowed from English folk music. According to the current convention term Volksmusik denotes modern applied folk music. Simple folk dances performed for entertainment by a multitude of folk music fans. So, German music without any reconstructional or even artistic ambitions. Authentic folk music (today considered traditional) is commonly considered dead and documented only in sources. The sophisticated and applied artistic music deriving from traditional folk music sources that appears currently in Germany is called by the English term folk music. A totally different tradition is represented by ethnic groups' bands e.g. Lusatian that are however isolated and restricted to ethnic communities.

Terminology accepted in Poland
The most basic term defining music alluding to folklore in Poland is muzyka folkowa or simply folk. These words are used very often nowadays in various situations and different meanings. In media and in phonographic industry they almost replaced the term muzyka ludowa. Users of these terms include in them everything that has any connection to folklore. Starting with authentic traditional music through all its reconstructions and transformations to forms combining traditional music with ancient music, light music or jazz.
The term muzyka folkowa was coined as an antidote against the dislike for everything what is "ludowe"(people's) during the activities of numerous folk dance and song bands. Maria Baliszewska gives 1977 as the moment of coining this term when the Polish Radio presented a Hungarian band Delibab reconstructing traditional Hungarian music. To draw attention of the audience and not to discourage them by the next dose of "muzyka ludowa" and also to highlight the distinctness of the music presented they used a term borrowed from the German terminology folk. The term itself is English but its understanding as music inspired by folklore was borrowed from Germany. The Polish term muzyka folkowa was created in Poland in late '70s by the Polish Radio. Its range was being extended and specified along with the development of a trend of modern music inspired by folklore.
Nowadays the term muzyka folkowa is usually used for defining the music based on folk patterns but created in modern times, transforming according to the new aesthetics of urban youth what is the base of it that is traditional music. This music is not a direct continuation of it but alludes to it, it is a stage activity, not an applied one. That is how muzyka folkowa was defined by editor Maria Baliszewska: "For me folk means all possible forms of transforming and reproducing of Polish folk music by new performers who do not have any direct relationship with living tradition. It does not have to be tied to a certain region, place, situation, time. It is making music that the performers like, that they want to identify with." It is a wide notion that encompasses very diverse manifestations of folk inspiration. Maria Baliszewska does not classify Polish highlanders' music to this trend. She calls it żywa tradycja and distinguishes from new forms created in other regions.
When doing research in different communities dealing with folk music in Poland, it turned out that the wide notion of muzyka folkowa requires distinguishing further categories to characterise particular trends and forms of activity. Such a need came from ideological differences existing among these communities. For example, for purist group representatives, terms muzyka folkowa and zespół folkowy have pejorative connotation (5) . That is why creators of these trends were against classifying their activity to the trend of muzyka folkowa. That is why I used the term muzyka rekonstruowana to define these groups as it renders fully the essence of their activity, but does not burden it with any negative features.
The term muzyka rekonstruowana refers to the music performed according to canons of ancient folk music stylistics that purist groups' musicians reconstruct on the basis of information and skills gathered from old village musicians during local research and meetings in Dom Tańca. The authors of this style try to reconstruct also the context of performance, creating the atmosphere of village dance party. In this way they want to restore the usable function of this music, minimising the element of performance. We cannot however speak about complete continuation as between the masters and the disciples there is at least one-generation gap. The creators and the performers come from different environments. That is why the term "folk music reconstruction" or "creation of the second life of folk music" seems to be right in relation to music performed by purist groups' members (6).
In media the term muzyka etniczna is often used in two very disparate meanings. Jan Pospieszalski - editor of the TV programme "Swojskie klimaty" uses the term muzyka etniczna interchangeably with the term muzyka źródeł or muzyka korzeni to define the traditional music of a given culture. Polish ethnic music is for him the ancient musical activity of the Polish countryside. It agrees de facto with Anglo-American use of the term ethnic highlighting differences among groups of diverse origin in the framework of multicultural communities, which was accepted in social science of last decades6. Editor Maria Baliszewska polemises with such a use of the term muzyka etniczna, she suggests adopting the French term together with its meaning and range. As I wrote above, the French term musique ethnique is used to define electric and electronic music with ethnic tint. Maria Baliszewska suggests such a meaning in Polish, too. However, it is difficult to be consistent here. The term ethnic (the English one) or ethnique(the French one) can be used differently according to the convention in a particular environment.
Another term borrowed from English and used in Polish media is world music. It is used to define a music combining features of the main light music trend - disco music with characteristic, treated selectively elements of traditional music. The experimenter in this field and at the same time the initiator of the creation of this trend in Poland is editor Włodzimierz Kleszcz from Folk Culture Centre of Polish Radio 2, member of World Music Section of European Radio Union. He arranged the meeting of a Jamaican reggae band Twinkle Brothers with Polish highlanders' band Trebunie-Tutki. Even if the combination was arranged artificially, it allowed to introduce folk music to the disco. The creators of this initiative achieved a great success. It was also important as a kind of artistic provocation. Polish musicians replied on this provocation combining Polish highlanders' music with jazz (Zbigniew Namysłowski and Górale) and with disco music (Grzegorz Ciechowski).
So, the term world music is used in Poland to name the results of all experiments of combining Polish folk music with different trends of popular music, which seems to differentiate the understanding of this term from its English prototype that was coined to define the music culturally unifying, not highlighting the specificity. However, in Polish world music the emphasis is put on this common feature with its English equivalent that is combining folk music with the main trend of light music and above all with world beat. In this study we do not discuss mass culture phenomena of slight artistic values, that is why we do not present disco polo bands and their terminology. (7)

Ewa Wróbel
translated by Iga Kulig


1)Editor Maria Baliszewska is a member of the Working Group of the European Radio Union that deals with promotion of music inspired by folklore
2)The importance of the English tradition for Polish terminology can be illustrated by the fact that the word "folklor" was incorporated from English already in 19th century.
3)This tradition is also carefully cultivated In Scandinavia.
4)In 1981 under pressure of participants from Asia and Africa precious term folk music was changed into traditional music in international organizations: International Folk Music Council into International Council for Traditional Music
5)The term muzyka folkowa (folk music) has positive connotation in the majority of communities I examined. Pejorative meaning of this term among purist groups stems from dislike for introducing any modifications in traditional music.
6)compare Hungarian initiatives and Dom Tańca in France in 30.;
7)compare the term ethnic identity;


Warsaw Village Band
The Saint Nicholas Orchestra
Trebunie Tutki Group
Jorgi Quartet
Broda Group
Ensemble Polonais

prof.Jan Adamowski
Maria Baliszewska
prof. Jerzy Bartmiński
Małgorzata Jędruch
Tomasz Janas
Wojciech Ossowski

Folk Groups and Singers Festival in Kazimierz
Folk Music Festival of The Polish Radio "Nowa Tradycja"
International Folk Music Festival "Mikołajki Folkowe"
Folk Meeting "Z wiejskiego podwórza"

"The first and second existence of folklore" - prof. Anna Czekanowska
"Folk is longitudinal" - Marcin Skrzypek
"Music revival" - Magdalena Sobczak
"Names of folk" - Ewa Wróbel

more soon...


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