Roots revival

A roots revival (folk revival) is a trend which includes young performers popularizing the traditional musical styles of their ancestors. Often, roots revivals include an addition of newly-composed songs with socially and politically aware lyrics, as well as a general modernization of the folk sound. A wave of roots revival swept the world in the 1960s and 70s. In most cases, the folk music being revived were not quite extinct, though some hadn't been played for years or were moribund; such cases include the Celtic musics of Cornwall and the Isle of Man, for example. In other cases, such as Cameroon and the Dominican Republic, no revival was necessary as the music remained common, and was merely popularized and adapted for mainstream audiences at home and abroad.

The term roots revival is vague, and may not always refer to identical events. Characteristics associated with a roots revival include:

  • Popularization of previously non-mainstream folk music
  • Adaptation of folk styles to pop (or rock) structures
  • Invention of new formats like bands where only solo acts had existed before
  • Introduction of new instruments
  • Composition of works by those who perform them, as opposed to folk tunes mostly passed down orally (see singer-songwriter)
  • Incorporation of politically aware lyrics, often critical of a government, religion or other authority, or society in general.
  • Lyrics are the first from the nation to express more than simple desires and problems, and are often seen as the embodiment of a national character or literary tradition (in comparison to the legendary American songwriter, such composers are often said to be the "XXX Bob Dylan", as in Wannes Van de Velde is the Belgian Bob Dylan)

With such a vague and variable definition, roots revival could be seen as referring to the creation of any kind of pop music industry, though there are countries with well-developed pop traditions that have not had a period referred to as a roots revival (such as Jamaica, India, Cuba and Kenya). For example, homogenized pop has long had its fans in most every country in the world, but many of these nations have created their own indigenous pop styles out of folk music; this process could be called a roots revival, though in some cases the folk musics in question were still widespread and did not need to be revived.

Roots revivals

Algerian music: Beginning as early as 1964, gaining steam in the 70s and continuing through the 1980s, a mainstream raï revival occurred, and pop-raï stars like Khaled and Chaba Fadela gained worldwide audiences; the same period saw similar trends occur among Kabylian musicians like Idir, Ferhat and Aďt Menguellet, who popularized the native sounds of their people

Argentinian music: In the 1960s, Andean nationalism was spreading across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Argentina's nativist scene includes landmark performers like Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa Yupanqui, who helped spawn the nueva canción scene.

Australian music: Beginning in the 1980s, Australian Aborigines began turning to their native styles of folk music, which were updated, creating popular bands and styles like Aboriginal rock

Belgian music: Starting early in the 1960s, a wave of popular folk-based performers emerged, led by Wannes Van de Velde, who drew primarily on Flemish traditions. By the 1980s, popular bands included Brabants Volksorkest and the folk-rock band Kadril.

Beninese music: Artists like Tohon Stan have created a popular version of Benin's numerous styles of indigenous folk music, such as tchink-system, a derivative of the funeral genre of tchinkoumé

Bolivian music: The 1950s saw an increase in nationalist identity surrounding the Quechua and Aymara peoples, and a number of intellectuals began associating themselves with folk music, clothing, cuisine and other elements. By the mid-1960s, a folk revival was blossoming, led by Edgar Jofré.

Brazilian music: Beginning in the 1950s and continuing for several decades, a multitude of Brazilian styles (most importantly samba) and imported American jazz combined to create the wildly popular bossa nova scene. This soon evolved into the politically-charged Tropicalia genre, which starred controversial and acclaimed singer-songwriters Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

Cambodian music: The early 1960s saw a revival of classical music and dance, inspired by Princess Norophom Buppha Devi and led by Sinn Sisamouth, though the rise of the Khmer Rouge largely ended this trend.

Cameroonian music: Beginning with bikutsi in the 1950s and continuing with makossa into the end of the 20th century, Cameroon's popularized folk musics have become among the most prominent in Africa. Messi Me Nkonda Martin undoubtedly did the most to evolve bikutsi from its folk origins into a popular style using electric guitars and other importations, while Manu Dibango brought makossa to new audiences around the world.

Canadian music: Though some artists, like The Band, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, had been integral parts of the 1960s American folk-rock scene, Canada has seen its own distinctive revival of styles. This includes the late 1970s scene in Maritime Canada, which glorified the area's Celtic heritage and was led by regional legends Figgy Duff and Stan Rogers, as well as the mid-1960s Quebecois revival led by Gilles Vigneault. More limited revivals of Acadian, Inuit and other folk styles have also occurred.

Chinese music: Partially as a reaction against attempts by the Communist government to subvert traditional styles to drum up patriotism and loyalty, the 1970s saw the creation of Chinese rock and Cantopop (in Hong Kong), both of which made some use of native folk styles, especially in vocal techniques. The leader of Chinese rock is undoubtedly Cui Jian.

Chilean music: In the early to mid-1960s, the burgeoning nueva canción movement spread throughout Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, featuring a wave of singer-songwriters who incorporated folk elements and nationalist lyrics, often critical of governmental authorities, and achieved great acclaim. Violeta Parra is sometimes viewed as the founder of the scene, for she popularized Quechua and Aymara songs and provided an outlet for performances by future luminaries like Victor Jara.

Ivorian music: Ernesto Djédjé's ziglibithy style incorporates a number of folk genres from across Côte d'Ivoire, a diverse country with hundred of ethnic groups; Djédjé's most immediate influence was the folk rhythms of the Bété.

Croatian music: By the 1980s, Croatian pop-folk had seen some mainstream success, and a wave of bands appeared, inspired by Vještice, who combined Međimurje folk music with rock in an innovative fusion of sounds.

Cuban music: By the 1960s, Cuban music had seen international success in the form of pop-mambo, chachacha and other genres, and many artists were disillusioned with these styles, which were seen as watered-down. A vanguard of singer-songwriters like Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés arose, composing politically-aware songs in a style that came to be called Nueva Trova.

Czech music: In 1966, the Porta Festival was held, and a wave of singer-songwriters inspired by the likes of American Pete Seeger arose.

Danish music: In contrast to its neighbors, Denmark did not see a roots revival until to the late 1990s, when performers like Morten Alfred Hřirup gained a widespread following in the country.

Dominican music: Merengue had been popular in the Dominican Republic for decades since evolving out of confusing folk origins, but did not truly become a form of pop music until the early 1960s, when legends like Johnny Ventura brought the music to new audiences at home and abroad.

Egyptian music: The city of Cairo is the most important center for Egyptian music, which includes a variety of popularized folk styles, including northern sawahii and southern saiyidi.

Finnish music: Finland's folk styles include a variety of national genres and ballads, while the traditional rhyming sleigh songs rekilaulu have become an integral part of many pop singers. In 1967, the Savonlinna Opera Festival, the first of several similar festivals, contributed to a revival of Finnish opera and other more traditional styles.

French music: Though many of France's regional styles have seen popularization, the most vibrant scene is undoubtedly the traditional music of Brittany. The region boasts a uniquely Celtic heritage, which has been emphasized by the revival since its beginnings in the early 1970s, led by Alan Stivell. Corsican music has also seen a revival, though with little popular success, concurrent with the rise of Corsican nationalism in the 1970s.

Gambian music: By the 1970s, Gambian musicians were mostly playing popular merengue or other styles. A visit by pop band The Super Eagles to London to record saw a change, as they were encouraged to continue their practice of Gambian folk. The band became known as Ifang Bondi, and their music was called Afro-Manding blues.

Garifuna music: Starting in the 1970s and continuing into the following decades, the Garifunas, an Afro-Caribbean people found throughout Central America, began turning to their native punta sound and creating popular styles like punta rock, which found an audience across the area. Pen Cayetano was the most important figure in this scene.

German music: Following the 1968 student revolution in West Germany, singer-songwriters playing a kind of expressive, melancholy music with traditional influences became popular. Due to governmental interference, East Germany did not see much of this influence until the mid-1970s.

Ghanaian music: Ghana is best-known for the highlife style of music, which has been popular throughout the 20th century. By the late 1960s, however, the pop scene was dominated by generic guitar bands that imitated Western acts. The 1971 Soul to Soul festival, however, featured a number of African American musicians (like Wilson Pickett and Tina Turner), which had the effect of legitimizing African culture, thus causing a major roots revival that brought highlife to international audiences.

Greek music: The late 1960s and early 70s coup repressed rembétika, a style which had developed earlier in the century. This oppression ironically created a major boom in popularity for the genre, which became associated with political resistance and rebellion. Singer-songwriters like Dhionysis Savvopoulos also became wildly popular, and were seen as voices of the Greek nation.

Irish music: There was a revival of Irish folk music that began in the early 20th century, based both in Dublin and Ireland, though the longer-lasting and more famous revival began in the 1960s. At the time, performers like Christy Moore and Ceoltóirí Chualann were inspired by American popular folk singers, and they took to modernizing and adapting Irish music for modern audiences. The result was a dramatic change from folk traditions, including the introduction of the bouzouki and influences including soul and rock.

Israeli music: Israel has produced a number of folky singer-songwriters and bands, though the country's recent creation and the diverse cultural origins of its people means that there is no "Israeli" folk tradition to revive. Instead, performers like Chava Alberstein and Habrera Hativeet drew on Jewish, American, British, Russian and Slavic influences.

Italian music: The diverse regions of Italy are home to dozens of varieties of folk music. By the 1950s, their popularity was declining rapidly and a group of musicians and musicologists founded organizations like Instituto de Martino and Nuova Canzionere Italiano to help preserve folk cultures. The following decade saw a revival of a number of traditions, including Ciccio Busacca's fusions of Sicilian folk styles, central Italy's jazzy modern folk, pioneered by Canzioniere del Lasio, the re-appearance of the lira through the work of Re Niliu, the popularization of diverse genres of northern Italian music and some of the work of world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso, who revitalized Naples' canzone napoletana tradition. In contrast to many country's, Italy's roots revival has resulted in very little mainstream success.

Japanese music: Though elements of traditional Japanese music can be found in some rock and pop from the country, the only major roots revival was Okinawan, and began in the late 1980s. Popularized Okinawan folk music includes genres like kawachi ondo and goshu ondo.

Korean music: In the early 1970s, a genre called tong guitar developed, performed by singer-songwriters inspired by the likes of American Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Korean folk has seen little popular success, though there has been some for the pansori, nongak and sanjo styles.

Latvian music: Its traditional long suppressed or appropriated by the Soviet Union, Latvia's kokle (an instrument similar to a zither) was revived and popular in the 1970s, led by Jānis Porikis.

Lithuanian music: The Soviet Union had sponsored some music festivals, such as the Dainu Sventes, but did not allow for much lyrical or musical innovation, and kept all songwriters from experimenting with politically-aware and dissident lyrics. An active cultural rebellion occurred in the 1960s, based around a series of national music festivals and concerts.

Malian music: Cuban music had become extremely popular in Mali by the 1960s, and little folk music could compete. The country's second president, however, Moussa Traoré, encouraged the growth of a Malian music industry, resulting in a revival of some kinds of folk music, and a popularization led by Salif Keita. Later Fanto Sacko's bajourou music and wassoulou music also became popularized. However, by the 1980s, Malian pop had lost most traces of its folk origins and was simply dance music, even topping the European charts; another roots revival occurred, led by acoustic singer and kora player Jali Musa Jawara.

Mozambiquan music: Music was used in the 1960s by the independence movement in Mozambique. Leaders in this movement encouraged the growth of a national music industry. By the 1970s, native forms of music, such as marrabenta, had been popularized.

Dutch music: The late 1960s saw a revival of Dutch folk music, led by performers like Gerard van Maasakkers; popularity was limited, and soon ended, though region of Friesland has maintained a strong traditional music scene.

Portuguese music: In the 1960s and 70s, José Afonso led a return to more traditionally styled fado music, which later evolved into a number of new song forms that incorporated socio-political lyrics and foreign influences.

Russian music: Starting in about 1966, a group of bards arose, most prominently including Vladimir Vysotsky, and Vyacheslav Shchurov organized a number of concerts for folk singers. This led to a revival and revitalization of Russian folk songs, a trend which continued in ensuing decades.

Sami music: The Sami, an indigenous population found in northern Scandinava and Russia, have a tradition of folk songs called joiks, which have been popularized by the likes of Mari Boine, who remains a legend in the field.

US music: In the 1950s and 1960s, a loose network of folk and blues enthusiasts/musicians instigated a renaissance of Appalachian folk music and blues (poor black) music in America. Inspired by the rare records they were able to unearth from the pre-war period (before radio and records began to homogenize American culture), they searched out these musicians. and revived the music themselves, influencing American musical culture and thereby the decades' effect on international popular music. Pop-folk stars had seen some previous fame, like the Almanac Trio, but it was not until the 1960s that popular musicians like Bob Dylan entered the spotlight.


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