‘The Squatters’, A Lalon Shah Song

A Psychological Interpretation of a Lalon Shah Song

This performance was my interpretation and analysis of a song written by the late Bangladeshi songwriter, spiritualist & social reformer, Lalon Shah (1772-1890). I have often listened to this song and wondered what he was referring to when he wrote ‘Tumar Ghoreh Bash Koreh Kara?”. The more I engrossed myself in this song, its lyrics and Lalon’s own biography, the more I was convinced that he was referring to psychic structures.

 

Performing as a ‘Professional’ to ‘Service Users’

At the the prospect of performing to ‘service users’ to communicate the genius of Lalon, I was a little apprehensive. My anxieties lay in the power difference which presents itself when a ‘professional’ finds themselves in the minority, going as a guest to an event organised by those whose lives I would normally be arranging through my clinical assessments, reports and recommendations. I wondered what Lalon Shah would have made of this divide between ‘professional’ and ‘service user’ and the power difference it creates between us. Lalon was critical about the concept of caste based hierarchies and religious divisions. When asked about his own religion, he replied that he saw no colour or caste in people, meaning that he saw no reason to associate himself  through labels of religion or nationality.

Interestingly, when I took part in this event, I no longer became a ‘professional’ but simply an individual who was part of a beautiful event organised by kind and caring souls. We seemed to connect very easily possibly due to our shared acceptance of each others’ emotional journeys.  I realised that I was no longer the professional and they were no longer the service users. Rather, we were part of a system which continues to create divisions, power differences and social hierarchies through all the multiple labels we give ourselves and each other. Like Lalon, perhaps I too take a critical view of these labels which divide us and create anxieties about ‘the other’.

Creativity in Costumes

Significance of Kingsley Hall & Survivor Stories

This performance was organised by the Friends of East End Loonies (FEEL) which is a self funded, progressive mental health group campaigning for arts and holistic care for individuals with lived experience of mental health difficulties. The event included pictures/paintings submitted by service users, performances celebrating survivor stories and a whole day of stalls and workshops. Kingsley Hall itself was home to one of the most radical non-restraining, non-medicalised psychological treatments through the provision of therapeutic communities for individuals affected by schizophrenia during the 1960’s. In addition, it is also significant as it is where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his visit to the UK in 1931.

 

Survivors of an Abnormal World

My performance consisted of a short presentation which included singing a song written by Lalon which I understood to be referring to internal conflicts within the psyche. I believe these ideas Lalon talked about are very similar to theories of personality and psychopathology developed later in the West by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The audience received it amazingly well, engaging in both the music as well as the meaning. I found myself feeling utmost respect for each person I met. They were survivors of an abnormal ‘mad’ world which is often cold and cruel. Perhaps we are all survivors, but however we choose to describe our experiences, music brings us closer to each other and reduces social, cultural and political divisions. I experienced this for myself as a participant in this event. Thank you Loonies!

 

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‘Collective Cries’: A Bangladeshi Peace Song

A Bangladeshi devotional song for peace, written by Rabindranth Tagore will be performed on 17.6.17, 7.30pm at the Human Rights Action Centre, Shoreditch  in memory of Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016. This FREE Change of Arts Festival organised by Hope not Hate, aims to bring together members of the community who would not otherwise meet. Jo Cox’s maiden speech to parliament was “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. This performance by Sidrah Muntaha aims to spread messages of peace and highlight how we collectively hope for a more humane world.

This performance will be accompanied by a slideshow of emotive and personally symbolic photography taken and forwarded by members of the Bangladeshi community. These include the following:  Salam Jones, a Carpenter, Writer and Critical Thinker with a passion for photography and charitable causes, Pushpita Gupta, who is actively involved in supporting different faith communities that are victims of sectarian violence in Bangladesh, Dr. Sakti Das, a Professor of Urology who has carried out exceptional humanitarian work in different parts of the world including surgical procedures in Haiti and Afghanistan, Dilawar Hussain who has participated in charitable work in Palestine, Hena Ahmed, a Social Worker, involved in helping a charity that has developed a Mental Health Support Centre in Sylhet, Bangladesh which is being supported by mental health professionals & finally Dr. Muhammad Ahmedullah, a researcher and historian who has travelled extensively and immersed himself with numerous communities around the world.

This performance will be part of an evening of other short acts, entertainment and plays by various artistes. For details, please see  Change of Art festival.

The Real ‘Umrao Jaan’

The Real ‘Umrao Jaan’: An Experimental Performance on Shame & Sexual Exploitation

A brief experimental vocal performance for charity using several images of sex workers in the Indian sub-continent. Based on a Hindi song from the film Umrao Jaan (1981), this performance highlights issues of shame experienced by girls/women who are sold to brothels, and the discrimination that they face when attempting to re-integrate back into mainstream society. This was performed on 24.2.17 at Hope n Mic, Kazi Nazrul Centre, Brick Lane, London.

Raga Therapy: An Experiential Workshop on Indian Classical Singing

Raga Therapy: An Experiential Workshop,  29 November 2017 5.30pm-7pm

What is Raga Therapy?

Raga Therapy is essentially the practice of using Indian Classical Music for enhancing physical and emotional wellbeing. Singing specific notes is believed to activate specific energy channels around the body which can have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing.

Who will be facilitating this Workshop?

Mehboob Nadeem is a British sitarist with international recognition as an artist of great repute. He teaches Indian classical singing at the School Of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and performs both as a sitarist and vocalist. Mr. Nadeem will be taking a lead for teaching the basics of Indian Classical singing and Dr. Sidrah Muntaha, Clinical Psychologist will facilitate the overall workshop including discussions around mental health and the emotional impact of specific music.

What will be covered in the Workshop?

This will be an experiential workshop so although Sidrah will provide a background to the therapeutic benefits of music and singing, the focus will be for participants to experience this for themselves. The following areas will be covered:

1. Breathing techniques (linked with behavioural relaxation exercises)

2. Vocal warm up exercises using Indian notes.

3. Learning a specific Raga (set of notes) which is believed to reduce stress and promote emotional well-being.

4. Learning to sing a semi-classical song (depending on progress).

5. Discussion about how Indian Raga can be applied to every day life to promote wellbeing and help with stress management.

Who can take part in this Workshop?

This workshop is open only to NELFT NHS staff with an interest in alternative healing and music/arts. Prior singing experience is not a requirement although any musical background would be an advantage.

Who do I contact for further information?

For further information, please contact Sidrah.Muntaha@nelft.nhs.uk/ 07949 268 017 or to book your place, please see Ticket Bookings.