Germany is one of
the world's leading industrialized countries, located in Europe. It is
bordered to the north by the North
Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea, to the east by Poland and
the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and
to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the
Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are
numerous, and the country is often known as das Land der Dichter
und Denker (the land of poets and thinkers). Germany has
many unique regions with their own folk traditions of music and dance.
Much of the 20th century saw German culture appropriated for
the ruling powers (who fought "foreign" music at the same time),
and thus it remained decidedly "unhip" until later in the
century. Most recently, the East German regime promoted folk music
as long as it was what they saw as an expression of pure
German tradition, and a tool for spreading party propaganda.
In both East and West Germany, folk songs called volkslieder
were taught to children; these were popular, sunny and optimistic,
and had little relation to authentic German folk traditions.
Inspired by American and British roots revivals, Germany underwent
many of the same changes following the 1968 student
revolution in West Germany, and new songs, featuring political activism
and realistic joy, sadness and passion, were written and
performed on the burgeoning folk scene. In East Germany, the same
process did not begin until the mid-70s, when folk musicians
began incorporating revolutionary ideas in coded songs.
Popular folk songs included emigration songs from the 19th century, work songs and songs of apprentices, as well as democracy-oriented folk songs collected in the 1950s by Wolfgang Steinitz. Beginning in 1970, the Festival des politischen Liedes, an East German festival focusing on political songs, was held annually and organized (until 1980) by the FDJ (East German youth association). Musicians from up to thirty countries would participate, and, for many East Germans, it was the only exposure possible to foreign music.