Amsterdam folk festival

by Tanja
Traditional Dutch music

Always wondered what traditional Dutch music sounds like?

Many of the traditional music from Holland comes from the Amsterdam Jordaan quarter.

In the 20th century the Jordaan was an impoverished neighbourhood.

Here, the working class lived with large families in small houses, while unemployment and social unrest soared.

At night, in the local cafés, the folks gathered to drink, fight and sing together.

The Jordaan people preferred to romanticize their life in Jordaan, honouring the neighbourhood, its people and its poverty in many songs.

Traditional Amsterdam Folk Music

An example:

Ik woon op een woning, men noemt het een krot I live in a house, they call it a shack

Maar ik zie geen enkel bewijs  But I see no evidence

Al staat aan de deur Onbewoonbaar verklaard Though at the door it says Condemned

Voor mij blijft ‘t toch een paleis  for me, it still a palace

Het huis is gebouwd in de zestiende eeuw The house was built in the sixteenth century

Het staat van de ouderdom scheef It leans from old age

Ik ben er geboren, ik ben er getrouwd I was born there, I was married there

Ik woon er zolang als ik leef I will live there as long as I shall live

Op die afgekeurde woning In that house condemned

In ‘t hartje van de Jordaan In the heart of Jordan

Daarop sleet ik m’n jeugd There I’ve worn my childhood

Had ik leed, had ik vreugd I suffered, I felt joy

In de strijd om een eerlijk bestaan Struggling for a fair life

Maar toch voel ik mij een koning  Yet I feel like a king

Ook al vloeide er dikwijls een traan Although a tear often flowed

Op die afgekeurde woning In that house condemned

In ‘t hart van de ouwe Jordaan. In the heart of the old Jordaan.

Low cultural standard

In many songs the accordion and later, Hammond organ is used and the vibretto-way of singing is typical.

Although the songs have always maintained its popularity among the old Jordaan inhabitants, who soon enough left the Jordaan area, the music was never accepted in the mainstream music industry.

The ‘life songs’ (levensliederen) of the Jordaan never got any recognition and was in fact boycotted on Dutch Television in the 60s. The Jordaan music was labelled as ‘of low cultural standard’.

In The Netherlands a strict separation has always existed between popular folk music and Dutch pop and rock music.

Johnny Jordaan plein

The singers and songwriters of the traditional Dutch music have been honoured in their own neighbourhood though. Statues of Johnny Jordaan, Tante Leen, Manke Nelis, Johnny Meier and Jan & Mien have been placed at the Johnny Jordaanplein, on Elandsgracht, which attracts many (mainly Dutch) visitors.

Traditional Dutch music

Statues of Dutch folk heroes at Johnny Jordaanplein, Jordaan


The yearly recurring Jordaan Festival celebrates the traditional Amsterdam/Dutch folk music by bringing songs such as ‘Bij ons in de Jordaan’ and ‘Aan de voet van de Oude Wester’, sang by popular Dutch singers.

The Jordaan festival will be held on September 17 and 18, 2011 in the streets of the Jordaan. Entrance is free.

Besides traditional Dutch music from the Jordaan, there is also cabaret, opera and drum bands, a flea market and an auction. The festival is held on Marnixstraat, Appeltjes market and Elandsgracht.



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