BENGALURU: Regina Gurung Exploring the potential of music, a veena player and music therapist delved into researching its impact on the mind of mentally challenged children. After 14 year of research, she concludes that music heals. Dr Geetha R Bhat, who has been playing the veena since the age of five, conducted a musical experiment with the London University. Today, she has seen music make a difference to over 500 children, with whom she’s worked with through her organisation called the Hamsakutira Foundation in Malleshwaram. The Research Be it alzheimer, autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy or severe mental illness, children are very receptive to music, says Bhat.
“Cerebral palsy children enjoy rhythm of peppy Carnatic composition and there is tremendous sitting tolerance observed in autistic children. Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) are observed to excel in classical music in comparison to others,” adds Bhat. In one of her research articles Bhat writes that sound arouses the excitability of spinal motor neurons through auditory-motor neuronal connections on the brain stem and spinal cord, which facilitates the execution of planned movement.
“Most of the children have difficulty in their throat and vocal cords. Children start singing in perfect rhythm following a long exposure,” says Bhat. Reformed Spee ch A mother of a 14-year-old son, who has PDD and wants to remain anonymous says her son developed a clear speech through music. “Even his socialising ability with friends have improved. He is now able to concentrate better. I now understand his inclination towards music and ardent sense of shruthi and raga.” Dr B N Gangadhar, director of NIMHANS says that he agrees with Dr Geetha’s research as he has seen the music being theraputic to the mentally unsound.
“Music and chanting influence our neurological system and are conducive to converting abnormal to normal,” he says. Jai, a 16-year-old boy always had a keen interest in Vedas, mantras and classical music. He was turned down by every teacher his parents approached because of his asperger’s syndrome. After he got an opportunity to learn music, improvement was stark, say the parents. “His confidence has improved and he responds very quickly. He is very calm now and hardly throws any things or hits anyone. He enjoys performing” they add. In the same manner, a mother of an 11-year old child with cerebral palsy says that her daughter’s fever frequency and seizures have reduced. She is now more vocal about her feelings and expresses emotions openly.
A child, who has perfectly developed the clarity and rhythm will be performing on the first day of the five-day event, Bhartiya Samagana Music Fest. The eighth edition of the annual festival is being organised at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, in Bengaluru from February 15 to 19. This year’s themeis Dhanvantri. Avatar of Vishnu, Dhanvantri is the Hindu God for health. “It is named so because we do not want the festival to be only for entertainment, it has to be seen as a holistic medicine that helps ease stress, anxiety and help in memory retention,” says Bhat.
Talks on memory retention through Raga and Hindolam music will be conducted and three students of Dr Geetha Bhat will perform for three days for three minutes to demonstrate the healing power of music. The fest is organised by the Bharatiya Samagana Sabha, a not-for-profit trust, working towards the revival and promotion of Indian classical music amongst the masses, especially the youth. Ravi Shankar, chairman and managing trustee of the organisation says that he seeks to connect music and health within the ambience of a concert. Fifty artists will be coming from different states including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal.