Level 2
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 way.

Issues addressed

• 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 minutes.

Group size: Any


• Select a piece of music or song from a record or tape from a minority culture or from another continent.

• 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 break.

2. Tell the group you are going to play some music and they have to try and guess where it comes from.

3. If the music has words, ask the group to imagine what they are about.

4. Play the music for about three to four minutes.

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 their guesses.

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 wish.

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 favourite music!!!

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.

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