Exploring the Traditional Music of London, England: A Journey Through Time

Popular English music has had a tremendous influence on popular music around the world, from ballads and sea songs to carols and street cries.


, a style of dance music developed in England, are characterized by lively steps, twists and jumps. Despite being the center of popular revivals and the British folk rock movement, London songs were largely neglected until recently. The reel, which originated in Scotland, was initially only found in traditional music from the north but eventually became more prominent in the South West. The work of John Lewis explored the links between English folklore and musical creation among enslaved people in former British colonies, in the southern states of the United States and the Caribbean.

Despite globalization, popular music has found new places, new roles and new purposes, adapting its sounds and meanings to keep up with the times without losing its heritage or sense of continuity. In the mid-17th century, music from the lower social classes was so unfamiliar to the aristocracy and middle class that a process of rediscovery was necessary to understand it, along with other aspects of popular culture such as festivals, folklore and dance. Morris dancing is a tradition developed in the Midlands that is distinct from other folk dances due to its style, structure and context. At the time of writing his article, John Lewis noted that more jazz and classical music was sold in London than in the rest of the United Kingdom combined, and that reggae and hip-hop were also being sold powerfully. In an unexpected twist, Jamjani and his company were also dancing under a rainbow of swirling ribbons in the shape of a May tree. These performances demonstrate both the common cultural roots of England, Scotland and Ireland (the combined approach is a “Celtic” musical technique that is present in most formerly “Celtic” cultures) as well as persistent mutual musical exchanges between them.

Cultural exchange and migration processes mean that English popular music has important connections with Scottish music. The use of trumpets by English armed forces had become commonplace by the 18th century when British “cavalry bands” played military marching music at full volume. The Cecil Sharp House opened its doors in 1930 as a temple of vernacular culture. By this time there was already a movement to collect and document popular music which developed throughout the 20th century until it became a culture of “folk” as a distinct musical genre. Lloyd moved to London in the 1950s where he founded Topic Records and established the first folk clubs before they spread across the country. The traditional music of London has been shaped by centuries of cultural exchange between England, Scotland, Ireland and beyond.

This exchange has resulted in an eclectic mix of styles that have been adapted to fit modern tastes while still retaining their original character. From jigs to reels, Morris dancing to cavalry bands, London's traditional music is an ever-evolving tapestry that reflects its rich history.

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