Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Cultural music familiar to the elderly

Published:Thursday | November 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In between the academic presentations there was much drumming at the recent Charles Town International Maroon Conference.
Nicole Roberts (left) 'shakes a leg' with a member of the Jamique Drumming Ensemble, at FLOW's Emancipendence Culture Fest, recently.

Drumming is also a feature of music therapy. It is used extensively in the music therapy field. Jamaica Field Service Project (JASFP) focuses on drumming, especially in parishes where traditional drumming culture is still thriving

"It can be very effective with the elderly, as it brings them back, so to speak. Of course, the different beats trigger different songs or types of music such as Dinki Mini and Kumina. One of the many reasons that music therapy can be effective in Jamaica, is because of the strong drumming culture," said Professor Eric Wills.

But the team is especially optimistic that music therapy aids children who have been diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorders, and other learning disabilities.

Behavioural/occupational therapist and educational psychologist, Lisa Stoddart Millingen says, "Music therapy is very good and has wide potential, however, questions if it will become an added expense for the parents outside of the regular cost for therapy."

Millingen draws on the skills of students studying abroad (Jamaicans) to assist with the intensive music therapy programmes in the summer at Therapy Plus, located in Kingston and St James. She has also seen impressive results in using metronome devices and listening instruments as part of therapy.

"The use of the metronome was effective and phenomenal as the children aim to tap to the timing of the beat within a certain amount of time (about a nanosecond), and over a period of time practising, you see their focus improving," shared Millingen.

"Students who use the listening machines are exposed to Mozart music sequences that may produce high-pitched or low tones that stimulate the auditory bones and also through the vibrations, calming," she continued.

Professor Wills assures that the students who participate in the JAFSP voluntary service have found it to be life-changing and career-affirming for them. However, music therapy in formal school settings is not prominent, nor is it an applied course of study in local universities. So therapists like Millingen are strained to find other persons from locations outside of Jamaica to assist.

The JASFP groups practising music therapy usually visit in the summer period, travelling to St Elizabeth in May, Portland in June, and Westmoreland in July. However, January and March trips are focused on the teaching of music and reading in schools.

- S.L.