Music therapy drums up support
As an autistic child, five-year-old Ram (name changed) displayed high anxiety levels, low attention span, and acute problems with speech and social interaction.
Five months back, when his therapist Zill Botadkar introduced a mini-keyboard into his world as part of a music therapy session, he was fascinated but hesitant to touch the instrument.
Today, Ram plays the keys with both hands, while humming his own tunes. “The music has helped him grow calmer and more receptive to others,” said his mother, who did not wish to be named.
Ram is part of a growing number of patients with mental and physical ailments who are benefiting from music therapy, a form of clinical therapy (see box) that is gaining popularity in the city.
This month, Delhi-based The Music Therapy Trust (TMTT) – India’s only post-graduate music therapy institute – completed its first six-month workshop in Mumbai, introducing a group of eight psychologists, arts-therapists and psychiatrists to the process of healing through music.
On May 29, Bandra’s Carter Road amphitheatre hosted the city’s first Drum Circle, a public forum for groups of people to collectively explore their emotions by playing percussion instruments.
“Music is something everyone responds to, and when I started using it in therapy for people with special needs, I started seeing a positive difference immediately,” said Botadkar, an arts-based therapist working with special children.
Mumbai has only a handful of practicing clinical music therapists. However, through beginners’ workshops, professionals and musicians are increasingly opening up to the therapeutic role music can play for both ailing and healthy individuals.
“Listening to and playing specific kinds of music can help people come to terms with their unexpressed emotions,” said Aarti Sinha, a classical singer, musician and founder of the Drum Circle who began teaching herself music therapy online three years ago.
After completing a six-month course on Indian classical music therapy, Sinha began practicing as a therapist at an organisation for mental health patients in Mazgaon. She founded the Drum Circle to take this therapy to the wider public, and plans to organise a session every fortnight, along with special sessions for child and social welfare organisations on request.
Later this year, TMTT may also take its introductory workshop to teachers and therapists at ADAPT (formerly the Spastics Society of India). “We would like to set up music therapy centres in special schools and make it part of the children’s routine,” said Somesh Purey, TMTT’s head music therapist.