The power of sound

For many people around the world, music plays an important role in their way of life. A few years ago, while working with Indigenous populations, I was invited to a World Conference where I met a Māori women. Māori people are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand or Aotearoa, “The Long White Cloud”. She told us that Māori people believe that they are the children of the mist, fruit of the union between the Earth and the Sky. Then, she sang.

Although I could not understand a word, I was profoundly touched by her song, tears filled-up my eyes and chills ran down my spine. Once she was done, she explained to us the meaning of this song, the story of a warrior yearning for the time when he would be reunited with his Love. Unfortunately, as the song and the story goes, he is killed in battle and thus, never sees her again. Music has a predominant role in Māori culture.

They say that music is a way for us to express what cannot be said through words. And so, while Aristotle pondered “Why do rhythms and melodies, which are mere sounds, resemble dispositions, while tastes do not, nor yet colours or smells?”, Darwin suggested that music preceded speech, as a sort of mating call, a bit like bird song. Perhaps this may be a reason why we seem to respond so strongly to music?

Some suggest that the origin of music likely stems from naturally occurring sounds and rhythms. A great example of this is throat singing, or katajjaq, by Inuit women in Canada, to which I was introduced to during a First Nation’s Ceremony. The two women sang facing each other, repeating sounds in a rhythmic fashion, re-creating the sound of a gushing river. It was bewitching: everyone in the room was speechless, captivated by this beautiful performance.

In an article entitled History of language and music in humans, Alan Harvey, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Western Australia in Perth, suggests that “apart from keeping many of us sane, there is considerable evidence, that music has therapeutic powers. Numerous recent brain-imaging studies confirm that there are identifiable regions involved in the processing of music. It seems music has biological and not just cultural roots. Interestingly, areas of the limbic system, associated with emotions, are also activated when listening to music.”

Finally, in Vedic tradition, the role played by primordial sound is very important. In fact, the Vedic tradition suggests that the very creation of the universe, or the Big Bang Theory as we refer to it, was in fact a result of the vibrational impulse and energy that emanated from the sound “Om” or “Aum”. And so, in Vedic practice, sounds are used to cure and to heal the body and the mind.

As explained by The Chopra Centre, Primordial Sound Meditation isn’t about forcing your mind to be quiet, but about experiencing the quiet that is already there. It is a healing practice that allows us to experience inner calm and deep relaxation. In fact, for thousands of years, people have used meditation to move beyond the mind’s busy activity and emotional turbulence into profound peace and expanded awareness. The term “restful awareness” captures the unique combination of physical relaxation and an alert yet quiet mind.”

And so, if we choose too, music has the power to heal us and to make us feel happy. Use this gift to motivate and make you feel better. Crank up the volume and dance and sing! For life is beautiful and music is one of the many ways to enjoy it. Namaste.

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