“Music is like a drug, but there are no rehabilitation centres” said English singer Morrissey. For many, music is the drug that heals our soul and soothes the mind. Music therapy, especially is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. For those with special needs, music has for long been used as a matter of entertainment and leisure, but that is now changing. Schools with children who have special needs are slowly embracing this new culture.
A while back, Ubuntu Music Therapy Initiative and the Permanent Presidential Music Commission held a two-day training where participants were tasked to incorporate their skills into a therapeutic music technique.
Sounds for the soul
The training was aimed at creating sustainable music therapy programmes for the underserved communities of Eastern Africa and beyond, using board-certified music therapists and students to train members of the community. Some of the beneficiaries are rapper Nafsi Huru and Jazz player Juma Tutu.
“Beyond being an art, music is a calling and what I learnt from previous experiences is that there’s a certain element in it that attracts people. For example, music uplifts moods and creates happiness for individuals, whether singing, listening or dancing to it. What I learnt at that forum is how I can use my special gift to uplift those with special needs,” says Nafsi Huru.
According to the Mavumba song maker, people with mental health concerns can use music to develop relationships and address issues they may not be able to express using words alone.
“Apart from helping the public, music additionally helps artistes with psychosocial needs. When they rap or sing about their past traumatic experiences, it helps them heal from within by exploring pent up personal feelings and therapeutic issues such as self-esteem or personal insight” he added.
“As someone who has been in the industry for a while, I know that depression is real for artistes, but we don’t get to deal with it. As a parent, I have seen many of us with children suffering from conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, that music can deal with.” he says.
“My son Fungo, who is autistic, led me into impacting children with special needs through music. I sometimes feel he was born that way so that I may serve my purpose as a teacher for these children,” he told Spice.
It’s this journey that led to Juma Tutu working with the Kenya Community For Learning. The organisation works to empower learners with special needs by providing a holistic education, training, and relevant support systems to enable them to realise their highest potential and thereby lead a happy and productive life.
With concerns about mental health of artistes now on the rise, there’s need to have such programmes to help artistes and those in the creative industry fight this demon. It is now a reality that artistes are more susceptible to having issues – whether mental or drug-related and few people are concerned about that. With music therapy now becoming a new opening for creatives to self-heal, more needs to be done to get it right. Already institutions such as the Mogoso School in Kibera is running artistic programmes to help their students to combat anxiety to overcome their particular experiences regarding violence.
In 2006, Mater Hospital started a music therapy programme that sees artistes visit the hospital’s different wards to sing for patients for 20 minutes. Award-winning musician Suzanne Owiyo was the first special ambassador of the programme.
The celebrated musician, author and speaker, Michael S. Tyrrell, has written a book on the stunning discovery in therapeutic music. According to him, there are seven frequencies from ancient times that have the power to heal.
For those affected by stroke or traumatic brain injury, music has something for you too. Music therapists have found singing to be useful as it originates from the right side of the brain. For people undergoing chemotherapy, music has been found to reduce anxiety and quell nausea.