Between August 2012 and January 2016, Lukas Pairon did fieldwork for his PhD-research in Kinshasa, DRCongo, on the possible social impact of music making (SIMM) for young people who were previously members of violent gangs or so-called ‘witch’-children living in the streets of the city.

He defended his PhD-thesis – title: Music Saved Them They Say – on 7th June 2019 at the University of Ghent (Department of Political and Social Sciences, Conflict Research Group), and is now Doctor in the Political and Social Sciences.

You can download his PhD-thesis here: PhD-thesis © Lukas Pairon

Lukas Pairon is now preparing the publication of a book in different languages (English, French, Dutch) for practitioners (musicians and social workers) and researchers interested in finding out what we can learn from the case studies of music in social work n Kinshasa (DR Congo). Prefaces to this book will be written by scholars John Sloboda, Hans Achterhuis and Elikia M’Bokolo.

More info

Music Saved Them They Say

PhD-research for the University of Ghent (doctoral program Department of Political and Social Sciences, Conflict Research Group), in collaboration with and with the support of the School of Arts (University College of Ghent)

supervisor: Prof. Koen Vlassenroot (head of the Conflict Research Group, a multidisciplinary research unit at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Ghent –

This PhD-research is interested in understanding how the experience of structured musical practice and education can have an influence on the lives of young people in the difficult living conditions of Kinshasa. The young musicians who have participated in this research come out of complicated social backgrounds – young adult men who were members of violent gangs, and young adult men and women who were as so-called ‘witch’-children living in the streets of Kinshasa. They all believe that their becoming musicians has played an important role in (re-)constructing their lives, and express this by telling us that they were “saved by music”.

Research question:

What is the significance of music making proposed as part of social music projects to young people in the poverty-stricken and often violent surroundings of Kinshasa?


A qualitative approach is taken, closely following several case studies in Kinshasa (DR Congo) of young musicians (17 to 41 years old) who report that important social changes happened in their lives thanks to their study and practice of music. The main research tools of this PhD are semi-structured individual interviews and focus groups, as well as participative observation. The fieldwork was spread over a period of four years, with preliminary interviews in 2012 and 2013 (one month), and then six times one month of fieldwork in 2014 and in 2015. The data include transcriptions of a total of up to 160 hours of interviews.


An article shortly presenting this research can be found here (in Dutch) and here (in French).

Documentary ‘Espace Masolo’


by Quentin Noirfalisse

released in July 2017

Teaser of film ‘Les Beta Mbonda’


by Marie-Françoise Plissart

release planned end 2018

‘Music Makes Me Fly’


excerpt film The Exchange

(Marc Temmerman / Fred Demolder)