Characteristics of Refugee Music

Refugee music differs in sound across the globe. Since we focused on the Lost Boys of Sudan in class, I will center in on their particular music style. In Sudan refugee music often includes a form of drum to keep the beat, a single stringed instrument made from scraps, and a group of voices. Any combination of these things can be used to create song. If there is no drum to keep tempo, refugees often clap, or keep beat with their bodies. The music has a strong pulse and is sung or “chanted” by a large group of people. The lyrics are usually passed down from generation to generation like an old folktale. Each generation may change the piece a little, but the general feel stays the same.


Giving Voice to Hope

Giving Voice to Hope: Music of Liberian Refugees is a project that serves specifically refugees from Liberia, but is relatable to refugees all over the world, and the music that they express. The wiki page (link below) shows many aspects of the music, and not only how it’s made, but how it affects the refugees and the people around them. It also provides some background information on how the group came to be, and where the included refugees come from. They-like many other projects- have sold CD’s filled with the refugees’ creations. They partner with the Centre for Youth Empowerment to get the refugees back on their feet in a new place.

A New Point of View

To people in the US African music may sound like a strange chant, or something of the sort, but in reality it is a way to stick together as a group. In reading “They Poured Fire on us From The Sky” and watching “God Grew Tired of Us” we learned that the lost boys were often looked down upon, or shunned because of their unique qualities and habits. Alepho says that people would compliment him and he would get angry and frustrated simply because he didn’t understand what they were saying. So I advise to keep an open mind towards other people too, and their individual cultures or “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Try to get to know the people and culture before you make assumptions or say anything that might start disagreements or bruise self-esteem.

RAIS Refugee Youth Music Group

RAIS Refugee Youth Music Group is an organization that takes refugees from all over the world and brings them together to make music from their home culture. These refugees come from all over the world. Some of the home countries include: West Africa, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, The Congo, and many more. The organization holds concerts, and records their songs to make profit that is returned to the program, and split between the refugees. This money can be used for any medical attention or financial needs the refugee has. See their website at


UNHCR stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The group was established on December 14, 1950 to help solve refugee problems, and to coordinate internal action to protect them. They strive to place refugees in a safe location. UNHCR also works in the countries needing refuge and work to fly refugees to a new location. In the beginning of 2011 the number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.5 million which was down just slightly from the following year. Not only refugees are helped by UNHCR, the following are also included: Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), Asylum-seekers, children, older people, people with disabilities, Returnees, and Stateless people. They work in Africa, The Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. UNHCR is a great organization that helps refugees from all around the world. Below is an article about a refugee from Sierra Leone and how music affected his journey.

UNHCR Refugee Music article:

What About Now?

Now that you’ve got a handle on how music affected refugees in their home countries, let’s take a look at how music is involved in the refugees’ lives nowadays. One way the refugees use music when they are brought to safety is to stay in touch with their culture. Groups of refugees may congregate and have ceremonies, or religious services that include their culture’s music and traditions. Not only this but some refugees have formed music groups and even sell CD’s and music tracks to support there life here in the US. Some of these groups include: RAIS Refugee Youth Music Group, UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) also runs multiple programs like this. The income is split between members, and put back into the program. The members can use their share to go towards anything they need. This helps many refugees get back on their feet after their rough journey to safety.