Five great documentaries about folk music around the world

Oct. 12, 2017

What is folk music but where it all began? We are talking about the chords and harmonies of the first people in charge of giving some music to life in the middle of a territory yet to explore. Because folk music today continues to inspire musicians worldwide, Guidedoc presents these five must-see documentaries that put the genre on the pedestal where it should always be.

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Balkan Melodie by Stefan Schwietert (2012)



Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier devoted much of his life to exploring the Balkans and recording its fascinating music thus making it known around the world. At the beginning of this serene and best musical documentary, Cellier's 85th birthday is announced on the radio inside the comfortable house in which he lives with his wife at the foot of a mountain. The occasion presents the perfect excuse to review the rich repertoire of musical themes that he taped with his sound recording equipment in the fields of Romania and Bulgaria. "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices", the renowned women's choir, has a special participation in the documentary. The choir´s music, released for the first time worldwide by Cellier's record label, are a living example of how the prestige of the musical producer and the talented performer could not exist without each other.


Toumast by Dominic Margot (2010)



As nomadic people of the Sahara desert, the Tuareg people have been fighting for their political independence for decades. To this end, they have even used their weapons against both the French settlers and the new Malian state. In this important documentary, we accompany musician Moussa Ag Keyna, a former Tuareg rebel, in his inexhaustible itinerant tour to express with melodies and poetry the dignifying struggle of his people. The film uses several of his compositions to spin its images, pieces in which Arab folkloric laments are fused with grooves of rock and pop, and whose lyrics offer a convenient contextualization of the historical episodes that are explained in the own director's voice. 


In Search for Myself by Seljko Mirkovic (2014)



The renowned Serbian violinist Lejlo Felix returns to Volvodine, his hometown, to tell us about the origins of his repertoire. Whether sailing in a canoe on a calm river or among the fruitful grounds of sunny provincial fields, Felix plays his beautiful pieces where folkloric melodies merge with academic music to construct a whole vehicle of emotions and human roots. In a kind of journey back to the seed, Serbian director Seljko Mirkovic propitiates a repeated image of Felix, whom we see duplicated on the screen while executing with his violin a series of beautiful pieces accompanied by himself. 


Ramon Ayala by Marcos López (2013)



In this documentary, one of the great jugglers of Argentina tells his own story. More than a portrait, this documentary is a musical journey through the life of Ramón Ayala, one of the most acclaimed popular singers in South America. The melodies and lyrics of his songs flow in a simple way, like the rivers in which he is inspired, and his melodies expand as they are repeated by millions, just like the cotton fields of the northern province where he was born. Common people, CD vendors, music critics and other fellow musicians complement with their testimonies the story of this unforgettable singer.


Echoes of Home by (2007)



The small Alpine village of Appensell is the place that renowned director Stephan Schwietert has chosen to show us one of the most curious musical traditions of the Swiss mountains. The Yodeling is a musical expression in which the voice of the mountaineers is the only instrument to create harmonies and even to communicate information. The film focuses on three artists who have made Yodeling a recognized genre throughout Europe, Erika Stucky, Noldi Alder and Christian Zehnder. The singing “a cappella”, whether in the open air or inside a cozy bar, becomes a symbol of the life on the heights, an echo that extends through the air and travel miles to communicate a sense of belonging.

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