Oktoberfest just wouldn’t be Oktoberfest without music. This traditional German festival features the recognizable sounds of polka, folk, and schlager.

Oktoberfest is all about camaraderie, celebration, and fun. The distinctive sound and dance of polka exemplifies all these qualities. 

Read on to learn five fascinating facts about polka music! 

1. Czech Roots 

Polka music is a form of European dance music. It originated in Bohemia, an area within the Czech Republic. As Eastern European immigrants migrated to the United States, their music was largely introduced to the Midwest and Great Lakes Region. 

Polka is more popular in Czech and Slovakian regions than Germany, as it’s normally associated with the German Oktoberfest. 

2. Distinctive Sound

Polka is known for the distinctive sound of the accordion that acts as the foundation of the music. However, polka bands can also include fiddles, clarinets, trombones, tubas, and a rhythm section depending on the region. No matter the region, polka has an upbeat sound played in 2/4 time that gets people dancing. 

3. Distinctive Dance

Polka is also a distinctive couple dance that combines three rapid steps and a hop. In fact, the word “polka” is believed to come from the Czech word “polka,” which means “half step.” 

Anna Slazak, a Czech farm worker, created the “polka step” around 1830. It’s the only dance from the 19th century that’s survived. In the 1840s it became popularized after a dance instructor performed the polka in Paris.

4. Polka Styles

There are many different styles of contemporary polka besides the original Czech. 


This originates in Chicago with Czech and Polish minorities. Two sub-styles are “The Chicago Honky” featuring a clarinet and trumpet, and “Chicago Push” featuring the accordion, Chemnitzer & Star concertinas, bass guitar, drums, and two trumpets.


This is associated with Cleveland and features a piano accordion, chromatic accordion, and a diatonic button box accordion. 


With roots in the American Midwest, this style produces the well-known “oom-pah” sound. It includes a tuba and banjo. 


This has roots in northern Mexico and Texas. The dances here are similar to the traditional ones from European immigrants. 

Alternative/San Francisco-style

As polka re-emerged in popularity, American bands began to combine polka with other rock styles. 

5. Beer Barrel Polka

This is a song that received worldwide popularity during World War II. It had versions in many different languages and became popular among soldiers.

It was adapted from an instrumental folk tune written by Czech composers Jaromir Vejvoda and Eduard Ingrid in 1927. Will Glahe, a German accordionist, recorded a cover titled Rosamunde in 1936 which topped the U.S. Hit Parade. 

Polka Music: Fostering Togetherness and Cheer

Although it seems like a relatively simple style of music, polka music has rich, well-documented roots. Because of its upbeat sound, its survived the years intact to be appreciated by people all over the world.

Experience the sound of polka firsthand at the Nashville Oktoberfest, from Oct. 10th to the 13th. Purchase your VIP tickets today!