Music As a Passageway to Social and Cultural Integration of Migrants in Germany

Recent turmoil across the globe resulted in an influx of refugees fleeing to Europe in hope of safety and security. While numerous images of travel and flight circulate globally, the story of how “integration” of ethnically diverse actors is understood, practiced, and organized in European host societies, where national identities are highly contested, often remains untold. This presentation brings to attention the contributions of music in arts-based projects for community building with migrants in Europe to fill this gap.

My paper draws on my study of community projects in Dresden, Germany to indicate what can be learned from sonic strategies for social and cultural integration in the larger European context. Since 2013 the city of Dresden has developed into a center for artistic pro-immigration projects and protest. One of the most significant examples is the local musician-collective “Banda Internationale,” which was the first local respondent to the anti-immigration movement PEGIDA. The band has dedicated its work to utilizing their music to create meaningful and welcoming spaces for interactions between newcomers and the local population by engaging in the cross-lingual and cross-cultural production of music.

Findings from my 2017 ethnographic study show how music has become the band’s passageway for navigating the challenges and struggles of social and cultural inclusion in an area where the “immigration debate” is heated. I renew scholarly focus on the influence of music by showing how the “sounds of integration” in local communities point to strategies that have pertinent implications for programmatic decisions on the European level.


  • Intercultural Studies