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Folk punk
Stylistic origins Celtic rock
Electric folk
Punk rock
Cultural origins mid-1980s United Kingdom
Typical instruments Electric guitar - Acoustic guitar - Vocals - Banjo - Drums - Violin - Mandolin - Accordion -
Mainstream popularity 1980s
Derivative forms Celtic punk
Gypsy punk

Folk punk (known in its early days as rogue folk),[1] is a fusion of folk music and punk rock. It was pioneered by the London-based Irish band The Pogues in the 1980s. Folk punk achieved some mainstream success in the 1980s, and in recent years, one of its subgenres, Celtic punk, has experienced some commercial success.

Unlike Celtic rock and electric folk, folk punk tends to include relatively little traditional music in its repertoire. Most folk punk musicians perform their own compositions, often in the form of punk rock, but using additional folk instruments, such as mandolins, accordions, banjos or violins.[2] Nevertheless, some folk punk bands have adopted traditional forms of folk music, including sea shanties and eastern European gypsy music.



Folk punk was pioneered by the London-based Irish band The Pogues, formed in 1982, whose mixture of original songs and covers of established folk singers, all performed with a punk sensibility, led to three top ten albums in the UK, and a number two single in "Fairytale of New York" (1987) with Kirsty McColl, plus a string of top ten singles and albums in Ireland.[3] The Pogues' lead was adopted by a large number of performers in the 1980s, who are usually divided into Punk folk, mainly for those whose major influence was English, American or other music, and Celtic punk for those from, or primarily influenced by Irish and Scottish music.

The pioneers of a more distinctively English brand of folk punk were the The Men They Couldn't Hang, founded in 1984. Also important were the Oysterband, who developed from playing English Céilidh music to an often fast and harder rock sound from about 1986.[2] The Levellers, founded in 1988, making less use of traditional melodies, but greater employment of acoustic instruments, including guitars.[2] Probably the most successful figure associated with English folk punk is singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, who enjoyed a series of hits in the 1980s.[4] Often considered part of a wider rogue folk movement are bands like Edward II, who mixed reggae with English folk music.[5]

Recently the genre of folk-punk has been re-energized in the United States with bands such as Against Me!, Defiance, Ohio, Ghost Mice, Blackbird Raum, Mischief Brew, Andrew Jackson Jihad and This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb.


Celtic punk

The Pogues' style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including Nyah Fearties from Scotland, and Australia's Roaring Jack.[6] It has been particularly popular in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are The Real McKenzies and The Mahones, from Australia, Roaring Jack, and from the Czech Republic, Pipes And Pints. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, often containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English.[7]

The anarchy heart, a symbol popular with some folk punks. It has been described as symbolising Love is Freedom.


  1. ^ P. Humphries, Meet on the Ledge, a History of Fairport Convention (London: Virgin Publishing Ltd, 2nd edn 1997), pp. 149-50.
  2. ^ a b c B. Sweers, Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music (Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 197-8.
  3. ^ P. Buckley, The Rough Guide to Rock (London: Rough Guides, 2003), p. 798.
  4. ^ I. Peddie, The Resisting Muse: Popular Music and Social Protest (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 39-46.
  5. ^ NME Artists,, retrieved 10/01/09.
  6. ^ G. Smith, Singing Australian: a History of Folk and Country Music (Pluto Press Australia, 2005), pp. 176-7.
  7. ^ J. Herman, ‘British Folk-Rock; Celtic Rock’, The Journal of American Folklore, 107, (425), (1994) pp. 54-8.

See also


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