Giving voice to hope: music and post-conflict development is a rubric for musical participatory action research projects in support of current and recent refugees and other victims of large-scale social conflict, especially in Africa. These projects aim to use music to heal and rebuild following conflict, by promoting sustainable development and lasting peace, empowering locally, while raising awareness (and generous compassion) globally, facilitating the renaissance of musical community and supporting musicians' training and careers, fostering a harmonious culture of music. These projects are not research on African musicians as "research subjects" in the usual social science sense, but rather research in collaboration with African musicians, dedicated to the improvement of human life, locally and globally.
Music is vital to that life, just like food and air. Of this there is no better proof than the prevalence of music-making under the most adverse conditions, including the extraordinary efflorescence of music in refugee camps. Disasters (whether natural or man-made) and the forced migrations that follow are chaotic, cacophonous. But in refugee camps life’s regular rhythms begin once again to beat. A soundscape of noise gradually tunes into music of striking emotional depth, testimony to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.
Refugee music isn’t founded upon social harmony. Rather music is a technique for harmonizing, a strategy for survival: transmitting social values, restoring individual and collective balance. Music – expressing the inexpressible in human experience – is catharsis and consolation. Music creates connections, forges reconciliations, builds communities transcending ethnic difference. Music empowers, raising consciousness beyond necessities of subsistence. Music helps people forget their pain, remember themselves and re-imagine their futures. Music critiques power, protests injustice, instills hope and fortitude. Such music can serve as a progressive force for social change.
Music also raises global awareness and compassion, engaging empathy, counteracting the all-too-human tendency to dehumanize the suffering of “others”, those who seem unlike “us”. Music of refugees recounts humanity’s suffering, while confirming suffering’s humanity. Such music reminds us that “us” is always the entire human family, while giving voice to hope, against all odds, in song.
These participatory action research projects are currently centered on collaborations with Liberian popular musicians, many of whom were formerly residents in Ghana's Buduburam Liberian refugee camp.
Our long-term goal is to found an international NGO dedicated to producing songs for sustainable development and peace, targeting critical needs in health, education, ethnic and religious tolerance, and including establishment of self-sustaining production facilities run by local musicians, providing training and fostering a flourishing culture of music.
A number of units within the University of Alberta and community organizations in Canada, the USA, Liberia and Ghana have partnered on Giving Voice to Hope projects, both current and completed, through collaborations, grants, teaching, and in-kind support, including:
- Shadow's Entertainment, Liberia (formerly Buduburam Refugee Camp, Ghana)
- Education Abroad at the University of Alberta
- The University of Alberta study abroad program in West African Arts and Culture, and its students
- Rhodes Recordings, Edmonton
- Department of Music at the University of Alberta (especially the Presidents' Fund)
- folkwaysAlive! in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
- Department of Art and Design at the University of Alberta
- Rotary Club of Calgary
- Ground Up Global, a US-based NGO
- Center for Youth Empowerment, a Liberia-based NGO (formerly centered in the Buduburam refugee camp, Ghana)
- Banff Centre Audio Engineering program
Giving Voice to Hope Projects Edit
- Giving Voice to Hope: Music of Liberian Refugees - completed audio CD with 26 page booklet on the Liberian conflict and music in West Africa
- Shadow in Buduburam video short, introducing Refugee Music TV. More episodes to come...
- Songs for sustainable development and peace. A series of songs and music videos promoting peace and development in post-conflict societies, using the sung word to raise awareness locally and globally...
- Music for cultural continuity and civil society
For more information contact Michael Frishkopf.