‘Music for Peace’ Discourse and Local Understanding in Post-Conflict Nepal
Peace-building initiatives in many post-conflict societies have used music as a powerful tool to foster and promote peace-building activities. These initiatives are often supported by I/NGOs who are influenced by ‘Music for Peace’ discourse. This discourse is founded on the belief that music has a ‘transformative’ power to bring positive changes in values and behavior of people. In Nepal, ‘Music for peace’ discourse gained popularity during the post-conflict period when many I/NGOs started activities such as peace concerts and ‘music education for peace’ targeted at the local level. However, scholars argue that such peace-building initiatives at local level have not been adequately studied to examine local people’s understanding and engagement in such programs. In this context, this paper takes the example of a music education program in a village in Udaypur district to understand local people’s experiences and assessment of the program, and to determine the general efficacy of ‘music for peace’ programs in post conflict societies. The music program, initiated in 2009, is run by a local community school with financial support from an international non-profit organization based on the ‘Music for Peace’ discourse. Based on the study of this particular peace-building initiative, this paper attempts to highlight complexities involved in implementing and practicing a global discourse of peace building at the local level by analysing the local actors’ perspective of the effectiveness of the program and the discourse.
This study is based on qualitative research methods, such as participant observation and in-depth interviews with music students, music teachers, parents, and organizers of the music program. The initial findings show that music students, music teachers, parents, and the organizers have different understanding and assessment of the program based on their social location, subjective experiences and expectations. Despite these differences, they realise the need of local ownership and sustainability of the program and explicitly state that the international discourse is suitable and desirable in the local Nepali context. However, although the international organization ultimately plans to handover the program to the local community, the lack of assurance of local support and institutional capacity by the local committee has raised questions over the continuity and sustainability of the program. In presenting these findings, this paper argues that a global discourse of peace-building at the local level should be examined from a community level by examining the local interpretations and experiences involved in practicing an international discourse within a limited local context. The evidence strongly indicates that although the many local actors involved in the practice, organising, and running the program share an understanding and appreciation of the ‘Music for Peace’ discourse, there are serious questions regarding the material resources, practical limitations, and the sustainability of the program once the international organisation passes the program to the local community.
Therefore, this paper concludes that any study of a peace-building initiatives influenced by a global discourse should consider how local interpretations affect the continuity and sustainability of local initiatives based on a macro discourse that may neglect the conditions and ability of the local people to sustain the program on a micro level.