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Folk instruments can best be described as a musical instrument that developed among common people and usually do not have a known inventor. It can be made from wood, metal or other material. Such an instrument is played in performances of folk music. Source: Wikipedia
Folk music has changed a great deal in the past few years as music festivals morph from purely rock, R&B or pop or country to an amalgamation of all genres. Banjos, Ukuleles, Harmonica and Accordion is now heard in all forms of music and we think that is great! The Woodford Folk Festival, held just up the road is a wonderful example of how all genres of music are embracing folk instruments.
Historically ukuleles were an instrument played in the South Pacific and Hawaii but the instrument was actually introduced to Hawaii in the mid 1800’s by migrant workers from Portugal. This instrument was called a machete de braga. The ukulele now enjoying a popular resurgence in all types of music. Not only do we have many skilled teachers of the ukulele, but the AMEB has now released Rockschool exams for the Ukulele. Did you know, George Harrison played the ukulele?
Despite most people believing that the banjo is an American Instrument, its origins were actually in Western Africa and bought to America via the Caribbean by enslaved Africans. It was a very basic instrument made with a gourd back, animal skin and horsehair strings. This instrument was called a banjar. Popular use of the banjo started in the southern states of America, and spread throughout Europe as musicians travelled. Did you know that comedians Billy Connelly and Steve Martin are amazing banjo players?
As with most folk instruments, the origins of the Harmonica seem to be from several countries, including China and Europe. Most musicians created a version of a hand held instrument with various reeds making notes. The first patent was registered by a 16 year old boy in 1821and was called an aura. But in 1857, German clock maker Matthias Hohner turned his highly refined clock making skills to developing and manufacturing harmonicas. Hohner, to this day is the world leader in harmonica production and one of the few instruments that is still made in its country of origin. Historically, chromatic harmonicas were played by soldiers at war throughout the 1920’s to 1940’s. Although they are still sold today the smaller 10 hole diatonic harmonica is much more popular today. Also known as the Blues Harp, these small instruments are sold in a choice of keys. The techniques you learn in one key- usually C, are exactly the same when changing keys, you just pick up the harmonica in the key you require and start playing.
The Accordion actually had its roots with the development of the harmonica as a reed instrument that you play with bellows rather than blowing into it. The first piano accordion was developed in Vienna in 1863. There are many countries throughout Europe that developed their own style of accordion to suit their style of music, including Italy, France, Germany and Ireland. Accordion playing lends itself to genres including Polkas, The fiery Tango, Celtic, Classical as well as Zydeco music- traditionally played in New Orleans, bringing together banjo, accordion, lagerphone and the spoons in a toe tapping cacophony of happiness.