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 and sin. The Jordaan people preferred to romanticize their life in Jordaan, honouring the neighbourhood, its people and its poverty in many songs. At night, in the local cafés, the folks gathered to drink, fight and sing together.

Still, there are bars in the Jordaan where you can listen to this music. At the Twee Zwaantjes, the music is sung live regularly.

Traditional Amsterdam Folk Music

An example of a traditional Amsterdam folk song:

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 to me, it is 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 ageI
k 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 Jordaan
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.

The Life Songs of Jordaan

In many songs the accordion and later, Hammond organ is used. 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. 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 visitors.

Johnny Jordaan Square, Amsterdam.
The harmonica is a much used instrument in the Amsterdam folk music for the Amsterdam Jordaan Quarter. Statues, honouring Jordaan music, at Johnny Jordaanplein, Elandsgracht.


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.

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

You might also like...

Leave a Comment