French Folk Music

When Europe faced a roots revival period in the early 20th century, with most countries fearing the loss of their culture after the industrial revolution, France was one of the major countries whose regions such as Normandy and Brittany underwent a period of incredible Folk music popularity. The traditional music styles survived quite well in France’s remote regions. Today, French Folk music is basically used to cater to tourists rather than as a popular form of music among citizens, but it still exists and is quite easy to find.

France as a country does not have its own singular style of Folk music. Folk music really changes depending on which part of the country in which you reside. It is much regionalized. In Provence’s French Folk music, many aspects of Italian musical influence are seen. This southern region, which includes cities such as Savoy, borders on the Alps and Italy, explaining the influence Italian musicians have had on this region.

In the Southwestern Rousillion, Catalan and Gypsy music has been included in the Folk music, as the region borders on Spain. The main type of music is called the Sardana, and is played by a band with three oboes, a flute, and one other type of instrument. In Bearn, the Folk music revival was not as strong as in other French regions, but their main instrument in Folk music is called the Tambour de Bearn, or Bearn Drum, which has six strings and is normally accompanied by a three-holed recorder.

At Languedoc, French Folk music is characterized by unique instruments, including the bodega, a kind of bagpipe, and the aboès and graille, both kinds of oboes. The bodega is made out of goatskin, using a process not often seen in which the innards of the animal are removed through the neck so that the entire, unbroken skin can be used for the instrument. The bodega has a long history, having been known to have existed since at least the 14th century in France.

In Gascony, small pipes are a major part of the traditional Folk music of the region. They are unique, with a rectangular drone sound and are made out of sheepskin with the fleece still shown. Perlinpinpin Folc, one of the biggest bands of the French Folk music revival brought interest back into the Folk music of Gascony with their big hit, “Traditional Music of Gascony.”

There are many other regions in France with their own histories and their own Folk music styles. Each are distinctly unique, as was each province of France until very recent times, and it shows just the variety in traditions and culture that can occur in a country which fits nearly 15 times in the United States. French Folk music is not the most popular today, but it had undergone a revival less than 100 years ago, and may do so again someday soon. The music still exists for tourists, as it is very pleasant to hear.