Theme G & I
Music is an excellent way to bring us closer
to other cultures, but it can also be a carrier of stereotypes
and biases. This activity allows an insight into cultural
stereotypes through the use of music in a relaxed and simple
• Stereotypes and images that
we have of music from other countries.
• Cultural domination and the
influence of "cosmopolitan" mass culture products
on our musical tastes.
• To raise curiosity about music
from other cultures and peoples
• To challenge stereotypes and
prejudice about music from non-European sources
• To raise curiosity about other
peoples, cultures, music and language
• To challenge ethnocentrism
in music and other cultural products
• To puzzle participants and
introduce a nice atmosphere in the group.
Time: 5 + 10
• Select a piece of music or
song from a record or tape from a minority culture or from
• If you can, find translations
for the words (and if they are suitable) prepare copies
for the participants
• You will need a tape recorder
1. Choose an appropriate time for this activity,
for example at the beginning of the session, or after a
2. Tell the group you are going to play
some music and they have to try and guess where it comes
3. If the music has words, ask the group
to imagine what they are about.
4. Play the music for about three to four
5. Tell the participants they may discuss
the music with a friend if they wish to, but not to reveal
their guesses. They can note them down if they want to.
6. At the end of the session, play the music
again and invite participants who wish to do so, to reveal
7. Tell them the answer.
8. If you have the words, give the copies
out and play the music again. Invite people to follow the
words as the music plays. They can also sing along if they
9. Follow with the evaluation and at the
end of the session finish up with another piece of music.
Debriefing and evaluation
If you think it appropriate, have a short
discussion. Ask the participants to say if they were surprised
at the origin of the music, if they liked it, if it was
difficult to guess where it came from and why, etc.
If participants say the music was unfamiliar
but they liked it, ask them why they think they had never
listened to that kind of music before. Is it because it
doesn't get played on the radio? Why it isn't it played?
Tips for the facilitator
The choice of music is very important for
the success of this activity. It works better if you first
play a part of the composition where there are no words,
and later play the entire piece, including words. This way
the participants do not immediately focus on the language.
The music chosen should also transmit a good atmosphere
to the room and the group, regardless of its origin.
Be prepared, if at all possible, to give
some information about the kind of music you have played,
its cultural dimension, how popular it is in its country
of origin etc.
The activity as such probably works best
when the music chosen is not obviously foreign: we often
associate classical music or jazz with North America and
Europe while in fact a good part of it is performed by artists
from other backgrounds.
Music, and also other forms of cultural
expression such as dance and art, is an excellent way to
bring us closer to other cultures, but beware it can also
be a carrier of stereotypes and biases.
Suggestions for follow up
This activity, in as far as it introduces
music from other cultural backgrounds, can be followed up
by inviting participants who wish to, to bring in music
from other origins to share with the group. However, be
careful so that this does not turn into a competition about
Traditional music, dance, art and story
telling are all art forms firmly rooted in their culture
of origin. Sometimes we dismiss story telling and folk tales
because we think of them as being for little children. Nonetheless,
you can learn a lot about a culture from them. Have a go!
See if you can guess which countries the stories in 'Tales
of the World' come from. You'll be in for some surprises!
In your discussions you may have noted how
music can be an agent for social change. For example, songs
are often the medium through which minorities and marginalised
groups get their message heard in the wider community. If
your group is interested in the rights of freedom of expression
and the right to take part in the government of one's
country, then you may like to look at 'Let
every voice be heard' in Compass.