Folk music has spread its wings since the days of Bob Dylan and the entrancing brew of psychedelic folk in the 60s. While originally a term used to describe music of a certain culture, it now has more association with artists with traditional, generally non-electric instruments, but the application of the term has become a lot more liberal since. We've enjoyed a bevy of talented, introspective folksters from Laura Marling to Bon Iver and so much more, as its assimilated itself into many other genres.
We’ve found a list of folk acts right in Asia, from the ultimate traditionalists to the modernists that find a connection with electronic music and the like. Start digging!
Alluding to the height difference between members Kwon Jung Yeol and Yoon Cheol Jong, 10cm is one of the best-known “coffee shop” acts in South Korea, the term affectionally added to musicians playing music suitable for a cafe. With the limited number of instruments they play, their simple acoustic folk tunes provide an anomaly in comparison to the country's pop industry, which favours an astounding amount of electropop and hip-hop.
Starting off as buskers on the streets, Monoban converted into a full-fledged indie folk band and released their first album in 2014. The South Korean band upheld the folk spirit, playing only with traditional instruments, especially in the music video for 'Ghostship', with the cello and cajón in background generously filling the track with disarmingly breezy vibes.
China's Hanggai take their cultural heritage very seriously, proudly wearing colourful ethnic costumes and finding gig space solace by playing in the middle of a wide open grassland. Their mix of electrifying rock songwriting flavored with traditional Chinese instruments in their music have earned them accolades around the world, even as far as Pitchfork. Their powerful convicted tunes awed even the judges and national audience from Chinese television competition, 'Sing My Song 2', emerging champion, of course. It probably helps that they're the only modern band around that can rock a mean guzheng solo.
The Indonesian folk duo formed by Anda and Reza forgo the ultra-crisp treatment that many modern folk-pop groups use to favour a rawer, less polished sound that surprisingly complements their fairly adventurous songwriting. With only two members playing three main instruments in the band, they perform highly spirited and moving melodies with an honest-to-God connection to their Indonesian roots that gets even more enrapturing with every listen. Be sure to catch them perform live, as they'll be here for Baybeats this year.
The Cotton Field Scarecrowes make use of modern technology to add an irresistible dreamy element to their music, similar to Low or Singapore's own Hanging Up The Moon. The unassuming, husky voice of the lead singer definitely adds more power and strength, which makes them head and shoulders above most acts attempting to sound more like their peers in the US. Their Soundcloud is especially a treasure trove of thoughtful folk-rock worth giving a listen too.