Music: Healing the soul

Music can help people deal with the stresses of modern life.

Hani Taha June 05, 2011


Next time you see your teen brother banging his head to blaring rock music during his exams, don’t be alarmed. He’s probably not going down the Kurt Cobain route of drugs and rock’n’roll. He might just be preparing to excel in his school tests.

Recent research shows that listening to or playing cacophonous melodies can actually make one effectively deal with stresses of modern life. “A lot of young people who face stress in relationships and suffer from depression try to heal with music. Most of these youngsters are studying and at the same time are trying to be successful in their first job. They are prone to low spells,” says British Music therapist Eleanor Richards.

Richards reveals that energy beats of western and African drums can reduce stress in younger people, as they struggle to make headway in academic and professional fields. Other musical instruments like  the piano, cymbals, drums, zylophone and other metal instruments have been used to treat psychological and physical diseases like Alzheimer’s, AIDS and autism. But drum and percussion beats also have healing powers, because they act as a vent for releasing negative energy and anger. In the Indian alternative healing system, percussion beats are said to open the base ‘chakra’ (energy point) in the human body, creating fresh energy to counter wasting diseases.

In Africa, there is a widespread belief that African drums mend relationships, when played in unison and teach harmony and help one “attune to the invisible world of mutual energy”. The wooden African djembe drum, used by Western musicians like Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, is said to have potent de-stressing powers because of its repetitive rhythm. Thus, group drumming is a common form of spiritual healing in Africa.

The Lahori percussionist band, Quadrum, which solely uses beats of diverse drums to create their sound, also concur with this belief. “You can release energy just by beating at any surface, but that’s negative energy emission,” explains Umar Saud, who loves to play the djembe. “Synchronised rhythm beats make you feel good and it’s very soothing for the player. Certain drums, like the djembe, take energy from you and absorb it, while an Arabic instrument like doumbek absorbs the energy but releases it in the air to create high notes,” explained Saud.  Saud’s children, a five-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl, play the drums. His daughter had also performed live at open mic night organised by the talent agency, Origami. “My daughter has a very acute sense of following the beat and since it’s such a great way to emit energy, I never stop my children from playing the drums,” says Saud.

Drummer Farhad Humayun of Overload, allegedly the ‘loudest’ band in Pakistan, also believes that playing the drums can be cathartic. “Speaking out doesn’t work for someone like me, so I play the drums,” he says.

The drummer is quick to dismiss the criticism that his music sounds grating and harsh. “My music is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings. There’s so much to make noise about - the country and the people’s personal lives and problems,” justifies Humayun.

Musician Hassan Malik of indie band Redhouse, elaborates on the ‘feel good’ factor of music which helps people unwind and relax. “Whenever you listen to music, your body corresponds to it and you feel a certain way. Hence, music is very uplifting that way,” says Malik.

So next time you want to unwind, ditch the serene Buddha Bar music and instead indulge in some effervescent Nirvana rock tunes or even play drums in your basement for ultimate relaxation.

Hani taha With additional information from IANS

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2011.


Mother Rhythm Drums | 11 years ago | Reply Recent studies have shown that djembe drumming can actually change alpha brain wave patterns which, in turn, reduce stress. However it works, I think we can all agree that music in any form is beneficial to the soul!
saima jawwad | 11 years ago | Reply well,my maulvi sahab used to scream at my and my brothers that music was 'haram' ,that we would all go to hell & burn for eternity for listening to songs on the radio and computer. when i said no,he just said that girls like you who don't believe their maulvis never get married as no boy likes to marry girls who argue with them!! well,maulvi sahab, you were o so so wrong,i'm happily married,listening to music,enjoying coke studio while your children are probably out blowing themselves up to go to heaven. Music is the food of the soul and no islamic fanatic can take that away. This intrusion of religion into every part of our lives has got to stop.It has brought us nothing but thousands of dead bodies,a scoiety filled with hate & intolerance,women being forced to hide behind suffocating black cloth or the new religious extremist trend of the hijab or abaya.
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