The role of the mobile phone among people on the move has featured in several disciplinary discussions in recent years, but it remains relatively neglected by ethnomusicology. Exploring the gap, this article draws observations from Media and Communications Studies, Migration Studies and Anthropology to bear on a participatory music education project that the author led among unaccompanied migrating minors in Sicily 2017–2019. It interrogates the ethics of music research among migrant communities particularly when it involves participatory work such as performing, recording and publishing music. It also examines how Africans are caught up in, and negotiate, the racist colonial legacies that continue to inform musical consumption in Italy. The central arguments of the article are that mobile phones empower participants in their day-to-day lives and music-making, but have complex social consequences; and that within a macro socio-economic sphere, phones link participants ever more tightly and more powerfully into the historical chain of mass production that is exploiting humanity and the environment. Ethnomusicologists would do well to turn their attention more critically towards phones and related audio technologies, and reflect on the very deep socio-political entanglement in which all our networked lives – migratory or settled – are caught.