Folk music is a genre of music that has been around since the early 19th century. Originally, folk music was used to tell stories and communicate with people, and to recount events that happened to others. It is still well known today as a form of story telling music. Folk music often involves acoustic guitar and percussion instruments. This type of music has no definite nation of origin, as folk music has been played, sung and performed all over the world. In the United States, the people of the Appalachian Mountains were said to be the originators of folk and bluegrass, which quickly caught on and became more popular over time. Today, there are still many popular folk artists whose music touches the soul, teaches, and entertains.
There is no definitive origin of folk music, but it is generally undisputed as to what defines it in terms of sound and style. Many historians attest that folk music was often written and sung by the lower class of mankind, and that those living in third world countries or in poverty generally began writing songs. Much like the blues, the early days of folk music were stories of forlorn times, oppression, and difficult situations. However, the music itself is much more organic. Folk music can be performed with a guitar, sitar, harpsichord, flute, or other instrument, and is often likened to "roots" or "world" music because of its organic feel. There are often no drums, and many of the older folk songs had no known author and were credited to anonymous.
Over the last several decades, there have been many popular American folk artists. Folk or alternative country artist Lyle Lovett is one example, but the singers and songwriters of the 1960s are truly what shaped the future of folk music today. The Mamas and the Papas are a prime example of beloved folk music performers. Woody Guthrie and Cat Stevens are other examples of solo artists that have helped to define folk music. Perhaps the most well-known folk artist of all time is Bob Dylan. His songs have long been a staple for fans of folk music. Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez are also good examples of a popular female folk artists. All of these artists pen their own songs, and they tend to be either political in nature or tell a story.
Since folk music is difficult to clearly define, there have been many sub-genres that have formed over the decades. Bluegrass, country western, folk rock, Celtic, and flamenco are just a few examples of sub-genres that have emerged from folk music. All of these styles have their own flare and sound, but they deviate very slightly from the original folk music style. Each has its own personality, lyrical style, and instrument selection. They all come from different places around the world, but maintain the roots of folk music and what makes it unique. Modern folk includes folk-rock combinations, where the folk music style is fused with rock n roll.