Topics in Ethnomusicology: Music for Global Human Development

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Music for Global Human Development (Music 365)

NOTE: CONTRARY TO WHAT IS IMPLIED ON BEAR TRACKS: there is NO prerequisite for this course other than consent of the instructor, which I will provide to anyone sincerely interested to enroll, and there are NO additional course fees. The CSL volunteering requirement is PART of your coursework, not extra. The course will focus on a collaborative project with a local non-profit - either the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and Syrian refugees, or Building Bridges -- and this project will be in place of academic work that would otherwise be assigned.

This course will focus on Music for Global Human Development (m4ghd) -- the ways music can be used for social progress on a variety of issues (health, education, peace, integration). We will combine readings in applied ethnomusicology, ethnomusicology and migration, urban ethnomusicology, critical development studies, and the theory and practice of participatory action research, with real-world class projects. You may select from one, and possibly two projects:

  1. A collaboration with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN), working with Syrian refugees in Edmonton through music: hearing their stories through music, teaching them music, learning and documenting their music, and generally engaging and developing rapport through music, towards a musical socio-cultural integration and "resonance" for which our class interactions will constitute a kind of microcosm and initial step. Concurrent participation in The Middle Eastern and North African Music Ensemble--which will focus on Syrian repertoire in fall 2016 -- is encouraged, though not required.
  2. TBA: A collaboration with Building Bridges, a community organization empowering at-risk youth from ages 3-18 through mentorship to help them successfully transition to post-secondary education. Building Bridges offers a range of quality-delivered after school programs for Edmonton youth, providing a safe, nurturing atmosphere where children can grow, develop and thrive. The focus is on Multicultural, Newcomer, Youth with Disability Challenge, Marginalized, and At-risk Youth, who often face the highest barriers to post-secondary education. In our course, we will be working in partnership with a new Building Bridges initiative called The Soul Academy. This music discovery program is designed to be accessible to the most marginalized of children; suffering from disadvantage, isolation, trauma, disability, and behavioural or learning challenges that have proven to be barriers to their access and enrichment in specialized music programs or greater development. Through study of ethnomusicology and world music, we will support this unique cultural music education and therapy program to give them the supports they need to reach their best potential.

There will be no in-class exams nor will there be a final secondary source research paper. Rather we will focus on contributing to these projects, and documenting those contributions as original research with appropriate references to the literature we read during the term.

Overview of M4GHD

Music for Global Human Development: Participatory Action Research cycles towards a stronger social fabric.

Music is a social technology of tremendous potential for positive social change.

Music for Global Human Development (M4GHD) is an approach to applied ethnomusicology.

Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its social, cultural, and historical contexts. Applied ethnomusicology seeks to create change outside the academy. M4GHD entails participatory action research projects in music & development (humanized in aims and methods), centered on global collaborations between academics, NGOs, government organizations, musicians, and others, applying ethnomusicology to real-world social issues, focusing on peoples who have been marginalized--socially, politically, economically--by colonialism and its aftermath, whether in the "developing" world or not. These music-centered projects, often including also related arts (dance, poetry, drama) as well, are ideally twinned with evaluative evidence-based research, gauging project impact through anthropological and sociological study. They are carried out as collaborative partnerships with artists and other experts in each locale.

M4GHD is a project of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology

Singing and Dancing for Health in Ziong, Northern Region, Ghana

Music for Global Human Development

For some examples of M4GHD projects, past and present, please see the following:

  • Giving Voice to Hope: A music CD produced in collaboration with Liberian refugee musicians then living in Ghana, supporting Liberian refugees while calling global attention to their history and situation.
  • Sanitation: A music video produced in collaboration with Liberian musicians in urban Monrovia, raising awareness about sanitation issues, using contemporary sounds (R&B, hiphop).
  • Singing and Dancing for Health: A music-dance-theatre project in rural Northern Ghana centered on global health: malaria and sanitation
  • Music for Maternal Health in Ethiopia: a music media project in Ethiopia, produced by Thomas Gobena and Michael Frishkopf, in collaboration with Ethiopian artists and the Ethiopia-Canada Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health project.

Generally M4GHD features two streams:

  • Songs for Sustainable Peace and Development
  • Music for Cultural Continuity and Civil Society

additional examples follow....

Songs for sustainable peace and development

A set of participatory action research projects centered on the use of popular music to disseminate development messages, especially for key development issues in public health, education, religious/ethnic tolerance, and peace. I have been working primarily in collaboration with Liberian refugee musicians in Ghana, and recent returnees to Liberia, helping them articulate and disseminate musical messages of peace and development, producing media with a triple purpose: catalyzing positive social change locally, raising awareness globally, and generating a revenue stream to support their musical communities.

Music for cultural continuity and civil society

Projects for cultural continuity, supporting Ewe music of Ghana, El Mastaba Centre for Egyptian Folk Music, the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art, and AMAR (Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research), Beirut, including consulting as a member of the Board. Media products are designed to catalyze local social progress, raise global awareness, and generate a revenue stream for local musicians.

  • Traditional Ghanaian music culture
    • Collaboration with traditional Ghanaian musicians on Kinka: Traditional songs of Avenorpedo, to sustain and develop traditional music
    • Mobilizing scholarship for talented but underprivileged Ghanaian musicians, such as Kofi Avi, so they can complete a well-rounded education.
  • Traditional Egyptian music culture
    • Collaboration with El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music, Cairo, to preserve, archive, document and develop Egyptian music. We are developing an applied research project to support digitization and metadata tagging for El Mastaba's extensive collections, while simultaneously providing training in these procedures to enable sustainability, with in-kind support through secure offsite storage at the University of Alberta.
    • Collaboration with Egyptian Center for Culture and Art, Cairo: To encourage the diversity, specificity and vibrancy of Egypt's cultural scene. Have provided advisory support.
    • Collaboration with AMAR (Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research), Beirut: to preserve and disseminate archival recordings of traditional Arab music from the early 20th century. Member of the Board of Directors.
  • World music presentations to local Edmonton schools and daycares (ongoing series of presentations, at the University of Alberta, or onsite)
  • Local community outreach through performance U of A Senate to celebrate campus volunteers

Course requirements

While the syllabus is not yet complete, I anticipate the following course components:

  • Readings and in-class discussions. (Usually I have students write brief summaries of readings, highlighting key issues, in order to facilitate good conversations). Most readings will be online. Sometimes I may assign a "listening" or "viewing" instead of a reading.
  • Watching relevant films together, for discussion.
  • Reviewing some sample projects, including those I've been working on under the M4GHD label.
  • Working together to formulate a project with the EMCN (Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers), which may require compiling resources, writing, gathering music, etc. for Syrian refugees in Edmonton
  • Working with the refugees themselves
  • Reporting on this experience -what worked, what didn't, what should the next phase be?
  • No in-class midterm or final exam or final research paper.


CSL: this course will count for the UofA's Community Service Learning program & its associated certificate; you will volunteer 20 hours with Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. This time will be counted towards your workload, and will not pose a burden above and beyond what Music 365 typically demands. Rather some of your academic work will instead take the form of volunteer service. These hours will not necessarily be spent on the premises of EMCN; there will be a variety of ways to work with this organization, depending on the project, which will be formulated collectively by the class.

Prerequisite: Bear Tracks lists MUSIC 202 or consent of the department. Do not worry if you've never taken Music 202 - this course has never been offered! Please email me to receive consent.

Fees: Bear Tracks states that additional fees may be assessed for Music 365. There are no additional fees for this course.

Please write Prof. Michael Frishkopf for more information.

ps - I suggest that you also enroll in The Middle Eastern and North African Music Ensemble, as the two courses will work very well together.

For more information see


M4GHD ideas, methods, issues, applications

Course Syllabus

Music for Global Human Development - Fall 2016 syllabus