Understanding the role of music and sound in conflict transformation: The Mozambique Case Study

Principal Investigator

Professor Pedro Rebelo


Professor Fiona Magowan

Research Institution

Queen’s University of Belfast

Project Summary

Music making is known to have benefits for social cohesion. As a social practice, music depends on personal interaction, dialogue, agreement on conventions and trust. Previous work on music and conflict has highlighted the transformative power of music and demonstrated that activity in this area has a direct impact on conflict resolution, peacebuilding and reconciliation. This research is conducted with the Mahamba group in Maputo, Mozambique towards a case study that evaluates existing practices while introducing new strategies from the sonic arts to expand these practices and produce a new participatory radiophonic piece which reflects relationships between sound and conflict.

This project employs multiple methodologies to address three research phases which focus on the effectiveness of participatory music making, training of community leaders in sonic arts methods and strategies in order to expand their practice and finally the co-creation of a one-hour participatory sound piece for radio which employs field recordings and interviews to reflect personal stories and narratives of conflict embedded in the everyday. By combining methods and approaches from social sciences, arts and humanities we aim to address the arts in a society marked by conflict from multiple perspectives. A recognition of the complexities of the role of the arts, and more specifically sound and music has led to the development of a research programme which is highly participatory and with direct impact to those involved.

The project aims to make a contribution to conflict resolution and peace building in Mozambique. This contribution is focused on the opportunities offered by art provision (specifically music and sonic arts) in societies destroyed by conflict. The project’s activities are aimed to identify and promote good practices which can make a contribution to welfare.

The project partners are the Eduardo Modlane University, and the Mahamba group in Maputo, Mozambique.  Mahamba is a music and theatre group founded in 1995 in Maputo and has 6 core members and with regular project activity. They produce shows in Portuguese, English and Tsonga and have regular cultural production in Mozambique and abroad (e.g. South Africa, Denmark, Brasil). Mahamba runs regular training programmes in association with international NGOs and local schools, and are heavily involved in civic education and social action.


This research has been designed to have a direct, immediate impact for the partner organization, the Mahamba group in Maputo. This impact begins with a critical observation of current practices in the use of sound and music in conflict zones which aim to promote welfare, reconciliation and peacebuilding.

The proposed training programme will focus on sharing sonic arts techniques and strategies with members of the Mahamba group. This will have a direct impact in expanding the already effective ways in which music is a trigger for social change and community cohesion. The sonic arts techniques will broaden an understanding of sound to include the everyday (environment, man-made sounds, spoken word…) and introduce field recording as a way of capturing one’s own environment. The impact of expanding an understanding of music through training will be immediately evident in the co-created sonic arts piece. The piece will be based on specific local experiences reflecting the Mozambique reality as construed by the group of participants.

To ensure that impact is long lasting and that the material delivered during the training is useful ‘on the ground’, sound recording and editing kits will be made available to the Mahamba group for use in future projects. The Eduardo Mondlane University has already expressed an interest in using the project as a platform for reaching out to other communities and work together towards wider regional impact. The project website will serve as a vehicle to showcase how these practices evolve.

Contact Information

For further information, please email Prof Rebelo at p.rebelo@qub.ac.uk