Giving voice to hope

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Giving voice to hope: Music, Refugees, and Post-Conflict Development is a rubric for musical participatory action research projects centered on development work in support of current and recent refugees and post-conflict societies, primarily (thus far) for Liberians. These projects aim to use music to heal and rebuild war-torn societies by promoting sustainable development and lasting peace, empowering locally, while raising awareness (and compassion) globally, facilitating the renaissance of musical community and supporting musicians' training and careers, forging 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 in post-conflict societies

Music is vital to human life, 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, fosters 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 living in Ghana's Buduburam refugee camp, or who have recently returned to Liberia. As all refugees are soon to return, our goal is to establish an NGO deploying music for development.


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:

Projects Past, Present, and Future

For more information contact Michael Frishkopf.