Al Jazeera Selects

Music: Argentina’s prison choir and Italy’s migrant orchestra

Prisoners in Argentina and an orchestra of migrant musicians in Italy use music to bring hope and fight xenophobia.

Singing with Murderers

The rhythmic strumming of a guitar disguises the grim conditions of Lisandro Olmos Prison in Argentina where about 2,000 inmates are jailed in bleak conditions.

The jail is a place of violence behind bars and rates of recidivism are very high, with about half of all inmates likely to reoffend after release.

“A lot of things have happened, many bad moments,” Diente, an inmate of Lisandro Olmos Prison, says. He adds: “I’ve seen guys get attacked, raped, but that’s normal in prison. This prison is like a pressure cooker.”

But psychologist Juan Pablo Diez Ledesma and his prison choir are inspiring the men to reflect on their crimes. The programme Ledesma leads encourages good behaviour and offers the inmates hope for a better life – inside the prison and even after their release.

Diente explains that the programme gives inmates a “lifeline” through their sentence.

Italian orchestra

The streets of Rome house the melodies of an international orchestra, the L’Orchestra Piazza Vittorio.

Mario Tronco gathered a group of musicians, from more than 10 different nationalities, to explore the sounds of the city’s migrant communities.

“Music is a divine gift. Music is a special vehicle for society. Where people fail to live together, music succeeds,” Tronco, himself a musician, says.

The orchestra has become a creative force of cross-cultural musicianship fighting increasing xenophobia in Italy and negative stereotypes of immigrants.