Tihar begins music therapy to fight inmates’ depression

Till he got addicted to narcotics and became a drug peddler to support his craving, Ram Prakash (34) had admittedly derived greater joy from a simple hobby: playing the Bongo, a Cuban percussion instrument.
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Updated on Jan 23, 2011 11:25 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAbhishek Sharan Abhishek Sharan, New Delhi

Till he got addicted to narcotics and became a drug peddler to support his craving, Ram Prakash (34) had admittedly derived greater joy from a simple hobby: playing the Bongo, a Cuban percussion instrument.

Prakash would practise playing the Bongo drum for hours in the rejuvenating company of herbal tea, he remembered.

Chances are that Prakash, who is undergoing a jail term at Tihar jail for drug trafficking, will get to sharpen his skills at playing the Bongo drum again thanks to a recent Music Therapy (MT) project undertaken by the jail authorities.

The MT project seeks to use the power of music to relax the mood and soothe the mind of inmates to help wean them away from depression and negative thoughts, according to a jail source who requested anonymity.

The project, apart from seeking a role as a deterrent against criminal instincts, would give an opportunity to the musically inclined inmates to revisit their love.

Confirming this, the jail’s spokesperson Sunil Gupta said, “We have begun a music therapy project to use the power of music in a big way to reform the jail’s inmates. It is said that music has the power to heal and bring positive energy as well as thoughts in a listener, we want to tap into its qualities here.”

As a part of the project, Gupta said music panchayats have been set up at each of the 10 sub-jails of the prison.

Each panchayat comprises a “core group” of around 20 inmates. These inmates, apart from being music lovers, are also proficient in playing musical instrument/s.

“We have authorised the music panchayat groups to act as a catalyst in the project, to involve more and more inmates with their activities, even those who barely have any past/present contact with music,” said Gupta.

The Panchayat members will get money from the jail’s Prisoners’ Welfare Fund to buy musical instruments, from the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, to guitars, a plucking string instrument, and bongo drums.

“Every evening, we usually have a musical evening at one of the sub-jails. The members of the music panchayat can show their talents there,” said Gupta.

The jail authorities plan to rope in a team of music instructors to assist these panchayat groups.

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