Music has a positive impact on the mental well-being of people who need it the most: Violinist Sunita Bhuyan
Sunita Bhuyan tells us how feeling good after listening to music is actually scientific, how it helps destress us, and a lot more
14th January 2020
Music heals. All of us agreed on this as we listened to Indo-fusion violinist Sunita Bhuyan in awe while she played at The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave, which was held at the ITC Grand Chola on January 8-9, 2020. An HR professional on wellness, leadership and change through the medium of music for almost 20 years, the musician has presented her talks and workshops in international forums like TED talks, SHRM, Asia Scotland Society, Edinburgh and the like. Currently, she conducts music workshops around the world and makes sure that arts is given equal importance in the development of a child along with basic education. She also works with special educators abroad to help provide these facilities and make them more accessible to the less privileged in our country. She spoke to us about the importance of music in our lives and a lot more.
Excerpts from an enriching conversation:
What importance and relevance does music hold in building each of our lives?
Aesthetically music makes us feel good, and this entire feeling is scientific. When you hear a piece of music your brain responds to the sound, then your body calms down and that’s when the feel-good hormones get produced. That’s the essence ideally. And that’s why the music you like or are exposed to, you enjoy that more. So, it also teaches us that we have to diverse in our tastes in the understanding of people, you may like a raag and I may not like that. That’s how music impacts you. The basic context of the sound and how it impacts the mind is where it all starts. Our lives depend on how we think and how we relate to the environment, as music has a very meditative impact on our minds. The people who listen to music are usually calm and composed and know how to deal with situations better. Research says that sound waves help preserve brain cells. I have been working on research with a brain scientist and we have found that certain kinds of music at different times of the days can repair and regenerate our brain cells.
Sunita Bhuyan with her accompanying musicians (Pic: Ashwin Prasath)
How do you use your music as a tool to help less-privileged children and cancer patients?
I am not a music therapist but I use music as an engagement and intervention tool for facilitating certain values. After having worked in the corporate world for almost 20 years now, I realised that the young and the old alike, have come and told me that they really forgot the pain or some headache they had in the morning after attending my session. So the illness doesn’t just vanish but during those two hours, they were transported to a different world because the craft is such. And it has a greater impact on people with challenges like differently abler children, children from disturbed households and more. 15 years ago I got introduced to the Don Bosco Street children NGO in Mumbai and that has been the biggest learning for me. Music till then was my craft, I was an artist. But then I realised how it can impact the mental well being of people who need it. The more I worked with these children, I realised how fortunate we are. I got my music very easily, from my mother who was also a musician. But these children do not even get food, so including them in our lives, we going to their communities and interacting with them is what inclusion means to me. There are various stages of cancer. An important stage when the patient needs palliative care, chemo is over but they need to do the things that they like. Then music acts a post recuperative tool. Some people only depend on palliative care - they will die one day but as long as they are alive music helps in these cases a lot. Those two hours I spend with them, they don’t feel the pain.
Sunita Bhuyan with the New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla at the ThinkEdu Conclave (Pic: Ashwin Prasath)
Do you think music therapy is gaining ground in India, now that we see so many alternative ways in which children are taught?
I would say not in a structured way like it’s in the west. There are hospitals like John Hopkins that use music as a mode of mainstream therapy for various patients. What you see in India is mainly the yoga clinics playing music or using music for their sessions. I am not aware of exactly what kind of music is played at these places. There's a lot of scope in rehabilitation programmes outside India but here it’s not yet there I feel.