Singing in dialect. Music, language and regional identity
The popularity of music in dialect (streektaalmuziek) has risen in the past decade in various regions of the Netherlands where dialects are still spoken, namely everywhere except for the Randstad (or urban Western part of the Netherlands). This dialect music is not a revival of folk music, but rather an adaptation of current international styles, such as country, texmex, and mainstream pop and rock music. Noteworthy is that the lyrics are often nostalgic and concern rural matters, or at least are regionally coloured. As a rule, the singers love their region and country life, as opposed to the all-too-modern urban West.
This article explores dialect music using the results of a 1994 survey conducted by the Foundation for Dialects in the Netherlands. Popular artists examined include the singer Ede Staal (died in 1986) from Groningen; the rock band Normaal (active since 1975), and the more folk orlented Boh Foi Toch, both from the Achterhoek-region in Guelderland; and Rowwen Hèze from the north of Limburg. With the exception of Normaal and Rowwen Hèze - professional bands that tour the entire country - most dialect musicians are popular only in their own and neighbouring provinces.
Special attention is paid to the bilingual province of Friesland. The Frisian languague's unusual status is reflected in its use in more prestigious musical genres, such as classical music and opera.
Although singing in dialect goes back well into the 19th century when the elite began producing dialect songs in order to express its regional identity, the recent rise of dialect music is remarkabie. One explanation of this phenomenon is the increasing number of regional radio stations, which profile themselves by means of dialect music. Another is that this trend is part of a larger process also taking place in other countries, for example Germany. This process is not limited to music, but also encompasses the emergence of dialect in general (the so-called dialect renaissance), which is associated with a reorlentation to domestic culture as a response to European unification and global culture.