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Music Therapy in Africa

    Due to lack of indigenous records, it is unclear when and how music therapy arrived in Africa. What we do know, however, is that music is valued very highly in African culture.

    In the Bible and many other religious works, it is stated that musical sounds have healing effects. However, the value of music in Africa is not solely based on religion. In African culture music is treated as a way to recount stories and celebrate life events. In addition, one unique indication of their firm belief in music therapy is that they believe music can revive a dying person. This stems from the idea that a dying person needs full silence to peacefully expire, so to resuscitate one, they play a single tone of a wind instrument.

    In Africa, there are 3 very unique types of music therapists. They are:

    The Witch Doctor: These practitioners were people who were believed to possess supernatural powers who could read the oracle and understand the mysteries of the necromantic assembly. They work with their patients on emotional and spiritual levels to cleanse their minds. These doctors used special drums, made out of Indian pythons, to play for patients. When the drum is played for them, they are moved to confess any sins they may have committed and are then relieved of their burden and are therefore healed. 

    Faith Healers: These healers use a religious practice called Igbeuku to persuade patients to confess their sins amidt singing, dancing, and drumming. Once this is done, the patients feel emotionally relieved and the priest subjects them to rigorous dancing exercises. 

    Soothing Music: During potentially painful surgeries such as bone setting and blood letting exercises, music is played to copiously reduce the pain that is felt by the patient. The lyrics and genre of music is typically around the theme of perseverance and endurance, presumably to motivate the patient to go through the pain. 

    In Nigeria, the main situations where these practices of music therapy are very effective are for patients who: are in a coma, have general debilities, or lose a family member. For patients who are in a coma, a herbalist will create a small aerophone made out of elephant tusks and blow into the patient's ear like a conch shell so resuscitate them. For patients who have lost a family and are going through a state of grief, anger, and denial, these moods are dispelled by certain types of music. Lastly, for patients who have general debilities, the therapist uses song and dance as a mind drifting activity for the patient. The music and dance has proven to be very effective against atherosclerosis, dizziness, coronary thrombosis, and constipation. 

    Although African culture uses music therapy in a very different way from Western medicine by connecting more to the spiritual and emotional cortexes of the mind while employing their own religious spin on the therapy, the unique approach they take is just as effective and learning about them could be useful in developing new modern practice

 

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