The Introverted Artiste and his God

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Music as an ‘Object’ of Attachment 

Musicians and artistes differ in their approaches and passion for music. However, most who I have observed appear to receive some sort of cathartic release through their art. With the exception of those who enter the music industry for popularity and glamour, artistes tend to be interesting in terms of their relationships with music. Their attachment to their art seems to be almost like an attachment with a person. In Psychology we often refer to ‘object relations’ theory, which essentially describes how individuals relate to others in relationships as linked with their initial early attachments with primary caregivers. But I wonder how this may be linked with artistes whose art itself may become an ‘object’ to which they attach their needs, their hopes, their aspirations and their dreams.

Spiritual Connection Through Music 

So when I met Mr. Mehboob Nadeem during his Indian Classical Summer School course at SOAS University, which I eagerly enrolled for a few years ago, I wasn’t surprised by his passion and dedication for music. However, what did surprise me then and in subsequent courses with him was his attachment to God. I experienced him to be incredibly spiritual, and when I first heard him sing a Sufi song (“Yah Gharib Nawaz”) I was taken aback by his spiritual connection with Islamic mysticism.

It is interesting how little we know of the internal world of such artistes who appear to be somewhat introverted. Those who have their needs met through their attachment to God and their art perhaps have little need for worldly interests. Perhaps there is something ultimately divine in Indian Raga. It is said that such music represents sounds of nature and in Hindu scriptures, Indian Raga is believed  to represent Ultimate Truth. Each note (Sa Re Ga etc) is considered to correspond to the different chakras, and thereby each note is thought to activate different energy channels which have a direct effect on the mind and body.

Divine Faith Vs Logical Reasoning 

I am not sure how much I believe or understand the above. There is no clinical evidence for it, but somehow listening to Mr. Nadeem singing  a Sufi song and now listening to this sitar recital makes me wonder. What is it that we don’t understand in the West about music and its spiritual source? What is it we don’t understand about the internal workings of such introverted artistes? Perhaps they themselves don’t know  and are simply gifted with talent and an innate connection which ‘logical’ people like myself will never truly comprehend.

I often search for suitable music to use in relaxation exercises and I find Indian Raga both soothing and energising. There is a lot more to learn about this, and perhaps genuinely gifted artistes like Mr. Nadeem can help us clinicians and students of music to try and understand in order to make Indian Raga more accessible for the mainstream public.

Raga Therapy: An Experiential Workshop on Indian Classical Singing

Raga Therapy: A Half-Day Experiential Workshop,  28 October 2017

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 suitable for anyone with an interest in alternative healing and music/arts. Anyone aged 18 and above is welcome to attend. Prior singing experience is not a requirement although any musical background would be an advantage.

What is the fee for this Workshop?

There will an advanced non-refundable fee of £45 for each participant. However, if you have a medical or psychological condition and on low income, you may be offered a reduced fee although a supporting letter from your health practitioner will be required.

Who do I contact for further information?

If you would like to book your place, or for further information, please contact info@dynamic-therapy.co.uk or 07949 268 017.

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An Inspirational Artiste: Lucy Rahman

Background & Career History

Mrs Lucy Rahman, born into a musical family in Dhaka, Bangladesh, began her Indian Classical and Semi-Classical vocal training at the age of six. Mrs Rahman’s father, Lutfor Rahman, was himself a classical vocalist and composer who encouraged Mrs Rahman to follow in his footsteps. Mrs Rahman enrolled at the Nazrul Academy in Bangladesh where she studied for 6 years and gained a diploma.

Mrs Rahman moved to the UK in 1983, where she soon developed a reputation for being an accomplished artist and vocalist. She is respected by both her peers and the public, not only for her voice but for the emotional depth with which she performs. Since 1998, she has been one of the lead singers in the mainstream Jazz music group, Grand Union Orchestra and continues to perform as the solo vocalist, in Amina Khayyam’s adaptation of Yerma. Mrs. Rahman currently resides in the UK with her family, and continues to perform as well as teach her students.

A Therapeutic Approach to Music

Mrs Rahman is undoubtedly a talented vocalist. Her voice has been developed and refined over the years, and now more enjoyable than ever to listen to. However, Mrs Rahman has an interesting approach to her music. She not only enjoys singing and listening to good performances, she has an appreciation for the therapeutic benefits of singing and engaging in meditative-like practice of singing.

Indian Raga & Emotional Experiences

There is a great deal of evidence demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of singing. Mrs Rahman is particularly interested in Indian Raga and the subjective experiences which accompany singing specific ragas.

The first time I sat with her as she sang Rag Bhairav more than two years ago during one of our lessons, I found myself feeling both tearful and peaceful simultaneously. There was a sadness in her voice and a real sense of her being exported elsewhere emotionally as she sang with only myself as her audience. Her voice communicated the richness of the raga as well as reflected a sombre and almost grief-like state.

When she asked me to visualise an image when considering this raga, I could only imagine a graveyard with a ghostly young woman in white behind a tombstone. Although this rag is considered by many to be majestically peaceful, to me, the image of the sombre graveyard remains as well as the sense of loss, mourning and melancholy. Perhaps it is as much as the listener as it is the artist who creates the subjective emotional experience of any given rag at a given moment.

Mrs Rahman’s Performances

Unfortunately, there are few recordings of Mrs Rahman’s performances. Although she has and continues to perform for large audiences internationally, she experiences her music as almost sacred and wishes to preserve the richness particularly of Nazrul songs. She performs with all her heart, putting in full effort, energy and emotion in each song. Her desire for perfection is common amongst true artists, who no matter how well respected or appreciated, continue to attempt perfection in their art.

My regret is that I am unable to share any recordings which really capture Mrs Rahman’s emotional connection with her music.  However, the following available videos give us examples of her voice in a theatrical production as well as singing a conventional Nazrul song. I hope you enjoy these videos and are encouraged to listen to one of her live performances in the future.

Lucy Rahman as Vocalist in Amina Khayyam’s Yerma
Lucy Rahman on Channel S performing a Nazrul Geeti