Are you feeling miserably stressed? Drum it away

Last Updated: May 15, 2011, 11:14 AM IST

New Delhi: The high-energy beats of Western and African drums can reduce stress in younger people as they battle to make headway in the academic or professional world, says British music therapist Eleanor Richards.

"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," Richards told reporters.

"A part of my job is to find out what causes depression. Underlying the depression, there might be very angry feelings which get suppressed. Playing an instrument like an African drum or Western percussion instrument can release some of the anger and the negative energy," she explained.

If a patient is passionate about music, the therapy works faster, she said.

Richards, who teaches at Anglia Ruskin University in Britain and works with students at Cambridge University, was in New Delhi to address a session on the healing power of music at the International Ancient Arts Festival here May 10-13.

"The rhythms of the drums mean different things to different people and produce different reactions," she said.

Her way of treating psychological maladies in youngsters with music is interactive.

"The patient comes to me and we play an instrument together. Playing an instrument together helps me establish a relationship with the patient. The patient expresses his feelings through music and I try to respond to them. I try to find out through music how much damage a psychological ailment like depression has caused to a patient`s capacity to feel alive," she said.

Drums are not the only instrument she uses in her therapy and she also works with the piano, cymbals, metal instruments and the zylophone.

"We try out different instruments because each person has a particular way to take to different music," she said.

Noting music is being increasingly used to treat patients with severe mental disabilities, illnesses like AIDS (to address the patient`s emotional turmoil), autism and Alzheimer`s disease, she said one of her colleagues was working with traditional Indonesian percussion and melody instruments known as gamelan.

The ancient gamelan instruments - large wooden and metal contraptions - use a mix of percussion beats, rhythm and melody and can make up an entire orchestra.

"The instruments are very structured and can be played together for group therapy. Gamelan therapy concerts can foster bonding," Richards said.

She also said music was being used as a healing device in two special prison hospitals, housing criminals with serious records and also among young offenders.

In Africa, there is wide belief that African drums heal relationships when played together 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.

Group drumming is a common form of spiritual healing in Africa.

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.

IANS