Ethnic and National Music Comparison

Music is a category of art that shows how rich and different a particular country is. Ethnic and national music are two of the types of art. The former represents the community’s culture, while the latter tells about the nation’s history. Ethnic and national music (folk) both represent a culture’s dynamic nature. Moreover, folk songs are highly authentic as they describe themes of critical historical events.

Ethnic music is used to describe how it shapes the identities in urban and rural societies and reflects historical differences. It allows for embodying the memories of the past by preserving culture, customs, language, different forms of interaction such as family and friend relationships of the nation (“Ethnic Music,” n.d.). For example, if the group of immigrants moves to a new place from another country, ethnic music will reflect the memories and preserve them. It can connect and unite different communities. In a large country such as the United States, ethnic music plays a crucial role as it includes songs from different language groups from all over the world, depicting the diversity of the country. In a developing world, where it is much easier to create, ethnic songs became more available for the audience, not only in their original sound but also in other variations.

In comparison, national or folk music, which is also a part of culture’s traditions, is usually transmitted orally. It reflects the lives of people from different parts of the world and their history. The themes of national music are often related to lifestyle activities such as rituals, games, birth, religion. Overall, it is challenging to draw a definite line between ethnic and national music because the latter can be the former which is rooted in ancient traditions. Similarly, ethnic music can be national and contemporary music played by an ethnic group.

To evaluate the originality of the songs, national ones, in particular, the term authenticity is used. It is the quality of the music, which allows people to connect to its sound or lyrics or something more important than themselves. Sometimes it is not easy to evaluate whether a song is authentic because the tastes are different. Some people may find the lyrics appealing even though the melody is not original, while others will think differently. With national music, it is easier to judge whether the song is authentic or not because it reflects traditions and cultures. According to Wu et al. (2017), “Authenticity can be expressed by the similarity of music to its source. This can be achieved by using traditional instruments and avoiding modern instrumentations” (p. 2). National music is almost always played with traditional instruments, which makes it authentic.

National music can also be original in terms of appealing to emotions. As it was mentioned earlier, it is when the listener feels connected to the melody or the lyrics. This kind of music can evoke strong patriotic feelings as it is tightly bound to the history of the particular nation, making it highly original. Moreover, the authenticity of the national music lays in the events described in the songs. For example, the song can tell a story about the bloody war between the two countries. If the tale accurately presents what happened during that time, the piece will carry a powerful message affecting people’s observation of the world. La Réjouissance from the Music for the Royal Fireworks is authentic because it tells about the historic event, the end of the Austrian Succession War.

To conclude, there are some distinctions between ethnic and national music; however, they can also be interconnected. For example, ethnic songs can represent the past and embrace the present, connecting different communities, while national songs reflect the history of the nation. Moreover, folk music possesses authenticity, as it accurately presents what happened during that time and carries a powerful message affecting people’s observation of the world.


Ethnic music. (n.d.). Encyclopedia of Chicago. 2020, Web.

Wu, L., Spieß, M., & Lehmann, M. (2017). The effect of authenticity in music on the subjective theories and aesthetical evaluation of listeners: A randomized experiment. Musicae Scientiae, 21(4), 442–464. Web.