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Rescued sex workers beat the blues with rhythm

The power of music is helping a group of young girls rescued from prostitution rackets to get back their rhythm of life,burn their scars and put their troubled past behind.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas |
September 7, 2012 5:57:16 am

The power of music is helping a group of young girls rescued from prostitution rackets to get back their rhythm of life,burn their scars and put their troubled past behind.

Forty young girls,now in two government rehabilitation homes in Mumbai,have responded well to the music therapy initiative of a research and training organisation that used music and group drumming sessions to help the girls come out of their initial diffidence and participate in the sessions with full vigour.

The study – published in international journal Arts and Health – reveals that the girls gradually started enjoying the music and expressing emotions. They cheered and swayed to the beats,responding to folk songs and the thumping beats of djembe (a West African drum) equally well.

Musicians and counsellors based the study on changes the sessions had on five parameters,stress,relaxation,confidence,self awareness and group cohesiveness.

“We found a definite change after eight sessions of group drumming,” says Varun Venkit,founder of Taal Inc. a training and research organisation that coordinated the research effort with the psychology department of Fergusson College.

Group drumming uses various musical elements as part of the rehabilitation programme,and can be applied to individuals and groups by creating a platform for expression and exchange,explains Prof Anand Godse of the Department of Psychology,Fergusson College.

“These are girls who had been exploited and abused through sex work and run considerable risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. There is psychological trauma. Serious drumming really began once we got past the giggling stage,built a rapport with them and they understood we were there to help them,” says Venkit,who had earlier teamed up with counsellors and researchers to conduct group drumming sessions for children with special needs,alcoholics,drug addicts,cancer patients and juvenile delinquents. On his agenda is a community drum circle on September 8. “It helps develop team spirit and also focuses on how to deal with problems,” says Venkit.

A specially designed group drumming programme was devised for the rescued girls. Pre- and post-programme interviews,observation checklists and drumming experience feedback forms were developed and used to collect data,says professor Godse. Post-session feedback was also taken from caregivers at the rehabilitation homes.

“We exposed the girls to drum circle rhythms,exercises such as layering,sculpting and used themes to explore their emotional state. Drumming helped them visualize situations that had given them happiness,” says Venkit.

Instruments like the djembe,tambourine and the shaker were given to them to play simple rhythms. The session included a ‘Makers and Breakers’ game. They were divided into two groups,the makers who created a simple rhythm and tried to hold it while the breakers tried to break it using drums and instruments.

The transformation,from disinterest in the initial stages to full and vigorous participation was gradual but sure. For many participants the music brought back happy memories of home,family and dear ones. The fact that they were away from their families also led to a feeling of immediate sadness,which led some participants to express it by crying.

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