BENGALURU: We all know that music is therapeutic, but did you ever think that a musical instrument could treat anxiety, depression and other mental conditions? The didgeridoo, an ancient wind instrument, has tremendous healing properties, suggest city-based neurologists.
Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant, department of psychiatry, Sakra World Hospital, says, “When I heard it, I realised that it's very similar to ‘Om’ chanting. These sounds stimulate the vagus nerve, which leads to chemical changes in the brain. It is very soothing and meditative.”
The didgeridoo produces high frequency gamma activity in the range of 50 to 150 Hz, which is believed to help with relaxation.
Dr P R Krishnan, consultant neurologist, Fortis Hospitals, says, “In neurology, this frequency of sound helps in treating strokes, dementia and problems with speech and memory, as it has the capacity to activate the cortical and subcortical parts of the brain.” The cortical areas are concerned with perception and expression of language, while the subcortical regions control motor movement.
While the same frequency band is produced by different instruments and used for treatment, Dr Naveen says, “When I listened to the didgeridoo, I found that it seems to have more impact.I'd like to explore it more and also suggest that people give it a listen.”
What is a didgeridoo?
Records suggest that this wind instrument is 1,500 years old, but could have also been used much before that by indigenous Australians. These aboriginal didgeridoos are produced by communities in northern Australia. Bengaluru-based musician Abhijith Bhat has been working on using the instrument for relaxation and healing for about five years now. He says that he found out about this instrument when he met a few artistes from other countries. “I started learning it on my own with tips from other artistes and also by watching videos online. I have played it at different venues as well, and have received positive feedback.”
‘A therapeutic instrument’
Bhat has been hosting sessions at the Cuckoo Hostel in Koramangala with a limited number of people, and he plans to do this regular now. “I take one-on-one sessions. When I play the instrument near a listener, it actually gives you a feeling of relaxation – it is very therapeutic. Every one is stressed these days, and just a 45-minute-1-hour session, will help one relax and stay calm.”
He says the didgeridoo isn't that challenging to learn, as you use the circular breathing technique. “This just requires a different way of blowing air out. As children, we make bus and scooter sounds by vibrating our lips. It’s similar to that.”
Now Abhjith, who works with a real estate company, plans to develop the instrument for chakra healing as well. “A different frequency is required for chakra healing. So I’m working on that project now.”
D idgeridoo artiste, Maharshi Benni, says he has not explored the medical aspects of the instrument yet, but says that it does allow him to express himself. He’s been playing the instrument for seven years now, and makes his own didgeridoos. “Wood is the best material to use, but it is quite hard to source and make, you can also use PVC.”
Benni, an electronics and communication graduate, says the real challenge is trying to find more information about the instrument. “There are very few tutorials available online, and one needs to travel far to find artists who play the didgeridoo. There are a few in Rishikesh and Himachal Pradesh.”
Brandon Colaco has been learning how to make the didgeridoo at Jungle Vibes.
“It takes about 10-15 days,” he says.He recently played for World Juggling Day at Shoonya Centre for Art and Somatic Practices. “The theme was flow. Playing the didgeridoo requires using multiple muscles, and you need to be mentally stable to be able to play for a long time. It is quite challenging that way.”