Music therapist Ayala Gerber Snapir from Israel says that pent up emotions and psychological suppressions can be cured by music

Nearly 30 women gathered for a gala time last week. Madurai was the tenth stop for music therapist Ayala Gerber Snapir and her team from Israel. “We travel all over the world to interact with women and help them improve themselves through music and dance therapy,” says Ayala. Though the team has often visited India, this was their first trip to the south. “This is a technique of working on the mind, body and soul,” says Ayala. “Music is a substitute for words. It transcends language and understanding. Thus, interaction through music becomes easy. Different music brings out different emotions. Sounds have a therapeutic and purifying effect on the soul like the Hindu mantras.”

Ayala says that music therapy is an experiential and entertaining method and doesn’t involve clinical procedures, though it is considered a form of medicine. “Depending on the mental state of the patient, the therapy may vary from just a short intervention involving a dramatic situation to a number of sittings extending over months.” However, Ayala believes in using the technique in a more casual format suited for relaxation and interaction.

Eight years back, armed with a master’s degree in music therapy from Bar-Ilan University, Ayala and her friend Ricky thought of making music therapy more accessible and relevant to women and formed the group Masanashi (the word means ‘flying women’ in Hebrew). The group today has 20 core members from various professions and backgrounds who travel across the globe to interact with women. Masanashi has worked with tsunami victims in India, Japan and Indonesia. Ayala says that music has never failed to touch the emotive quotient in humans. “People have cried and laughed during my sessions. It’s a let-out to express suppressed feelings.”

Ricky says, “Even in modern countries like Israel, women are beaten up and are given less salaries. Women don’t have many opportunities towards themselves. Music is a wonderful way to address women’s issues.” She adds, “In India, women are more tender and fragile than women in the west. Music can make people strong. Through the therapy, character and nature of a person can be made more flexible so that they become equipped to face difficult situations.”

Nily, a radio broadcaster from Israel, says, “Our group encourages women to share their inner feelings, desires and anguish. Not many societies have avenues for women to air feelings. Dance and music are art forms that can heal.” She adds, “I have been doing music therapy with women in North India, where domestic violence and mental illness among women are very high. Music also makes us forget religions. We learn ceremonies, mythology and traditions of different countries through such sessions.” Hamutan, a dance therapist, says that dance also helps in curing ailments related to the mind and nerves. “Dance is an expression of the mind,” she says. “If a person is angry, he might dance fiercely and might like loud and rocky music. If someone is in a peaceful state of mind, he/she may respond to slow music.”

Ayala charges 50 dollars for an individual session of music therapy in Israel, but she says group sessions in India are free and by invitation.

In the session that took place at Urbanspice in town, five instrumentals were played in sequence and the participants were instructed to listen to all of them with closed eyes and open minds. Each participant was asked to pick any one song that they liked the most. Alaya says, “Then we club the members into groups and ask them to either draw or write down the emotions they came across while listening to the particular song. The sheets are put together and a single word or feeling is taken and elaborated on. They also have discussions among the group on that particular feeling. This way, everyone gets a chance to pour out their thoughts to the other. Closing your eyes increases concentration as you shut yourself to the outer world. It helps in connecting with oneself and that’s why we close eyes while praying.”

Sujatha, a participant, found the session highly refreshing and rejuvenating. Amreen, another participant, felt that more such sessions should be held for women’s groups. The event was jointly organized by Urbanspice and Soroptimist International, Madurai Chapter.