Folk music; the music of the people, has been with us since man began to form societies. It is an art form with simple roots and functions. Originally it could be best described as a "musical process", dependent on repetition, and incorporating a wide variety of styles.
Now this music has evolved into a contemporary, living phenomena that manages to retain much of its early traditions.
In its beginnings, folk music formed, in virtually every civilization, as, among other things, the basis of ritual, dance, and justification of conflict. Even then it was continually evolving. Like in the party game where a person whispers a sentence to an adjacent person, who whispers to a third, who whispers to another, and so forth until, at the end of the line, the context of the original sentence has completely changed, so folk songs have been reinterpreted. As societies became more mobile, literate and complex, the function of the music grew to serve as a means to lodge protest, inject political satire and comment on the human condition.
Much of what folk music was still remains as "tradition", or process, thatis passed on through the generations. This music relates our history, reminds us of home, or another time or place. But today's contemporary folk singer/songwriters no longer function just to pass on the news or stories from town to town. But, they do remain our "minstrels" using original compositions in the traditional "style" to make observations on our society, provide fresh political satire, and comment on the human condition; pointing to our follies, foibles and the things of beauty we should see like love and life. And, they still reinterpret and reshape the traditional music that is at the root of this simple art form.