Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 287, Issue 4, pp 337–349 | Cite as

A comparative phylogenetic study of genetics and folk music

  • Horolma PamjavEmail author
  • Zoltán Juhász
  • Andrea Zalán
  • Endre Németh
  • Bayarlkhagva Damdin
Original Paper


Computer-aided comparison of folk music from different nations is one of the newest research areas. We were intrigued to have identified some important similarities between phylogenetic studies and modern folk music. First of all, both of them use similar concepts and representation tools such as multidimensional scaling for modelling relationship between populations. This gave us the idea to investigate whether these connections are merely accidental or if they mirror population migrations from the past. We raised the question; does the complex structure of musical connections display a clear picture and can this system be interpreted by the genetic analysis? This study is the first to systematically investigate the incidental genetic background of the folk music context between different populations. Paternal (42 populations) and maternal lineages (56 populations) were compared based on Fst genetic distances of the Y chromosomal and mtDNA haplogroup frequencies. To test this hypothesis, the corresponding musical cultures were also compared using an automatic overlap analysis of parallel melody styles for 31 Eurasian nations. We found that close musical relations of populations indicate close genetic distances (<0.05) with a probability of 82%. It was observed that there is a significant correlation between population genetics and folk music; maternal lineages have a more important role in folk music traditions than paternal lineages. Furthermore, the combination of these disciplines establishing a new interdisciplinary research field of “music-genetics” can be an efficient tool to get a more comprehensive picture on the complex behaviour of populations in prehistoric time.


Y haplogroups mtDNA haplogroups Folk music Music genetics Human demographic history 



This work was supported by the Hungarian National Research Found (grant no. K81954), and the Network of Forensic Science Institutes (NFSI), Ministry of Public Administration and Justice. We would like to say special thanks to Dr. Eva Susa (General Director of the Network of Forensic Science Institutes) for her support. We thank both reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions and Ati Rosselet for the English editing.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Horolma Pamjav
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zoltán Juhász
    • 2
  • Andrea Zalán
    • 1
  • Endre Németh
    • 1
  • Bayarlkhagva Damdin
    • 3
  1. 1.DNA LaboratoryInstitute of Forensic Medicine, Network of Forensic Science InstitutesBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Department of Complex SystemsResearch Institute for Technical Physics and Materials ScienceBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Biology, Faculty of BiologyNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia

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