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Issue 37
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Folk songs and social change in Jordan
Issue 37

By Mahmoud Al Jibour


In this study, the author focuses on the social changes that can be identified in Jordanian folk songs. These songs can serve as a record of such changes because they have always managed to escape censorship.


There are two reasons that folk songs have escaped censorship:


  1. As an art form, folk songs are a form of self-expression that offers entertainment and relaxation. The authorities - whether religious, political or social - did not interfere with folk songs.
  2. Folk songs are anonymous, as is non-material folk heritage in general. So, who could the authorities punish?




The sample for this study consists of the researcher’s collection of audio resources and materials spanning two generations, dating from the early 1960s to the last decade.




The study has two focuses:

  1. Economic and political changes and their impact on folk songs
  2. Society’s attitude to religious taboos, customs and traditions, and the impact on folk songs




  1. The folk song is a valid record of the social and economic changes that impacted the region in general, because Jordan was affected by the changes going on around it.
  2. Folk songs are not constrained by the taboo of sex, because:
    1. They offer a type of relief from sexual repression.
    2. Society is the only authority that judges this taboo, and society lacks the means to punish violations.
    3. Society tolerates even taboo-violating folk songs because they are considered an art form, and songs are merely words, not actions.
  3. Politics were considered the most taboo subject, because political authorities have the ability to inflict punishment while religious authorities do not.