Folk the Patriarchy


Several days ago, I was on the way home from a restaurant with a couple of friends, and, as it usually does, the conversation turned to music. No sooner had I queued up some of my favourite folk-pop songs for the long drive home than I heard a question from behind me: “Why are the so few female vocalists in folk music?”

My spidey senses began to tingle, and I opened my mouth, ready to fire off a quick two or three female folk artists who’s songs I really enjoyed… but I was drawing a blank. I thought and thought, but the best I did was name a couple of folk bands who had the occasional female vocalist featured in passing in their songs. Later that night, by the cold, bright light of my Spotify window, I did some hunting. During the hours that came to pass I discovered (and rediscovered) some truly exceptional female folk artists and bands:

It’s never a comfortable thing, to think about why a genre such as folk is so dominated by the male voice. One may say that the male’s traditionally lower and grittier voice lends itself to the rough and tumble sounds and lyrics of old folk tunes, reminicsent of a more simple time. But to exclude the smooth and beautiful voice that is so readily available in pop music is at times a wasted opportunity. Take a band such as Of Monsters and Men, for instance. The stunning combination of a male and female voice harmonizing over driving strings and heavy guitars is no novelty. In fact, it’s a style that has been available to the modern songwriter for years, but I feel it is one that is tragically underused. And yet, there is hope.