As we all know, several European nations in the nineteenth century invented their various ‘folk’ musics as a weapon of war. After all, most of them had seen how the British Highland regiments had used the bagpipes to such fearsome effect in earlier wars of colonial expansion. Consequently, several European countries with imperial ambitions went about developing offensive folk music capabilities of their own, up to and including the use of the accordion by Germany’s highly efficient stormtroopers.
Traditional folk instruments were highly effective in the wars against poorly armed and tactically naïve native warriors. Even the mere sight of the traditional instruments being brought into the front lines by the European armies was enough for the warrior chiefs to quickly order their men to lay down their spears. As one tribal chief once said to a Victorian newspaper reporter, ‘I’ve seen what the accordion can do to lightly armed warriors; no matter how bravely they fight.’
Of course, WWI changed so much about warfare, and after it was over many called for a ban on the use of folk music and traditional instruments on the battlefield. However, deep in the heart of their mandolin laboratories the pre-WWII allies as well as the Axis powers were working on even more powerful instruments of destruction.
Britain achieved an early lead in the development of radar that also helped with the invention of far more powerful battlefield instruments. In particular, these developments in electronics enabled British Soldiers – for the first time – to use amplified instruments on the front line.
Although, there was then a great moral debate about whether countries should use amplified folk instruments in warfare. For example, the great philosopher Bertrand Russell claimed the amplified instruments were a step too far towards barbarism and unnecessary cruelty. Especially, he declared, when the BBC began broadcasting Folk Music Specials over the airwaves towards occupied Europe and deep into the heart of Germany itself.
The Germans, despite their deprivations as the war entered its final stages, responded with one of Hitler’s most terrifying secret weapons. The Germans subjected the British Isles to hour upon hour of uninterrupted accordion music night after night. Several daring raids by the RAF at night and the US Air Force during the day eventually halted it. These attacks against heavily defended targets deep in the heart of Germany itself ended this last act of terror against the British population by destroying Germany’s massive wartime accordion production.
However, despite many attempts to outlaw the use of offensive folk music since the end of WWII, there are still many secret facilities, in several countries, where the development of these instruments of war continues.
All people can do is hope that these fearsome instruments are never again unleashed in anger against innocent populations.