Music for Global Human Development

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

M4GHD (a global initiative of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology) has been developed by Professor Michael Frishkopf since 2007 (see History below).

Music is a social technology of tremendous potential for social justice, resilience, and positive change. Music for Global Human Development (M4GHD) is an approach to applied ethnomusicology that 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, and linking them to others across the globe.

In the process, these links, resonating with the emotions of musical communication, are transformed into what I call "threads", extending horizontally across ethnic divides (weft) as well as longitudinally, across generation gaps (warp). Together they weave a new, global social fabric of understanding and connection, in which new patterns emerge.

These music-centered projects, including 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 projects in partnership with artists and other experts in each locale, resulting in change for all participants, rippling outwards . The aim, in every case, is global human development, as well as development of the global human, weaving the global social fabric, one thread at a time...




History of M4GHD

M4GHD comprises four main branches:

  • (1) Songs for Development: primarily via local mass-mediated popular music styles, to disseminate messages relevant to crucial development issues, especially public health, education, peace, tolerance, and constructive critique...and especially to the youth, while building a horizontally integrated "culture of music" and supporting social cohesion on this basis. This project focuses on social weft, the horizontal threads that bind society today. A crucial application is GIVING VOICE TO HEALTH:
  • (2) Music for Cultural Continuity: supporting participatory, adaptive musical continuity (neither stasis nor displacement) towards broader intergenerational social and cultural connectivity over time--the social "warp"--and hence greater social solidarity in the present. Such music may be accompanied by development messages stressing the importance of such continuity for identity, cohesion, and civil society. Ironically one of the most powerful ways to support musical continuity is by injecting "traditional" music into the local media space, which otherwise tends to become filled with global popular music. Subprojects include partnerships with culture organizations in Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere. See for instance, in Ghana: Kinka: Songs from Avenorpedo, and in Egypt: the Aswan Music Project (AMP). Also Sounding the Garden, an augmented sonic reality layer for the University of Alberta's Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton, Alberta, designed to support harmonious understanding of Islam and religious pluralism in Canada, while deepening visitors' experiences of the world's northernmost Islamic garden.
  • (3) Musical Economies: promoting economic development through music (e.g. musical tourism) and related arts, including special cultural festivals and concert events drawing visitors, regular live performances for tourists who may also visit for other reasons, as well as longer-term practical study of local music and dance with local artists. Now in development in Aswan, Egypt as part of the Aswan Music Project.

Click to view current m4ghd project taxonomy

Please follow the above links to learn more...

Course: Music for Global Human Development

I have formulated an undergraduate course (Music 365) centered on M4GHD, which functions as an M4GHD project in itself, as well as an instance of Community Service Learning (CSL). See

Most of our M4GHD-CSL projects have developed connections to local Edmonton-based non-profit organizations. The summer 2017 Ghana program also centered on Music for Global Human Development. See

Relevant publications on M4GHD and M4GHD projects

Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE)

M4GHD is a project within CCE, and CCE is a direction within M4GHD. (Essentially CCE is the umbrella organization for all things ethnomusicology or world music here at the University of Alberta.)



Useful links

SDG training



For more information contact us:

--Michael Frishkopf, Professor of Music, University of Alberta