Its a beautiful and warmy sunday morning in the city of Montevideo. I just came back from a walk by the Rambla, just beside the "Río de la Plata" [The Silver River], river by which this city spreads out. The sun shinning...The river, called "river broad as the sea", just looked as silver today.
It's waters are generally clear and salty, because it melts with the Atlantic Ocean. What a beautiful city, what a privilege to be born and live in a city like this, so bonded with nature, to be able to walk by the coast, beside the salty river, listening and watching the seagulls, stepping over very white sands, greeting people passing by.
While I'm at home preparing the tomato sauce for the classical Sunday ravioli, the sound of drums gathered two blocks away from my house comes in through my kitchen window.
In the quietness of the morning, the sound of the drums triggers my thoughts away. I can feel the energy, I can feel the vibration.
We can now listen more frecquently to the sound of the drums of the Candombe in the different neighborhoods of the city. It is a typical african-uruguayan rythm. Its rythmical part consists of three drums of different sizes playing different patterns that melt together into one complex and very characteristic one.
Until a few years ago, it was patrimony of the small community of african american inhabitants of the country, but today, it became part of almost every social group. Nowadays, we can also listen to the drums not only during February, when Carnival, a very popular feast, is celebrated. All the year around, we can find people, usually during weekends, at different corners or squares, gathered around the drums, playing or dancing with their sound. Students, workers, professionals, ordinary people find something around this activity which makes them feel good. Women also dare to play now. It was a "men's thing" until a few years ago.
The drum speaks about the identity of this place.
I have been a music therapist for a few years, in this small country, where there is actually no universitary training program, and where I have to answer to the question: "What is Music therapy?" almost daily.
Uruguay with no training program. It's hard. It has been, for the last years, a sterile and permanent struggle. In spite of the efforts, the invested energy and the negotiations done, there has been no advances in that direction. But, in the meantime, various musical expressions, like the one with the drums, take place around me.
For a while now, this kind of expressions, that appeared in my city around sound and music, have called my attention. Spontaneous activities sometimes, or others coordinated by different persons, but not by music therapists. Musicians, or people from different disciplines who integrate music to their work, and who value and consider the clear therapeutic effects of it.
What is it that makes so many people to assist to a Tibethian Bowls Concert, in this very small South American country, and express not only pleasure and relaxation with it's soundings, but also internal movements, the emergency of slept emotions, or the appearence of memories that seemed erased?
What is it that makes , in so many different scenarios – working places, student centers, hospitals, social clubs – people form "Murgas" (another very popular expression of this country), in which people "free and express themselves" through singing and dancing?
What is it that makes people gather around a few drums, every single week, to share, without speaking, that sacred moment?
Energy, vibration, force, colors, sounds, serenity....
As a music therapist in this country I've had, and have to make the permanent effort to look outside, first to my neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, and then further, to nurture myself, not to be isolated, to bond, to exchange, to learn, to be present. You have to be up to date with publications and research. You have to study, work a lot, try to generate new ideas, write and try to publish, translate a lot of material, but also make the other work: look "to the inside": Explain almost every day, work in divulgement, start all over again each time I want to work with a new population, go to the media, talk with national authorities to try to get them interested into the possibility of a training program. There is no time for boredom.
I've had the chance to travel and assist to International Conferences and be in contact with outstanding music therapists, learn a lot, and then come back home to continue with this task. It's like this marvelous experience I had this past summer, when I climbed a small mountain beneath the sea. I loved the perspective from up there. As I looked all around, the landscape changed continuously, but everything was included, everything was part of a whole: The sea, the city, the mountains, the country. I had this sense of completeness. I feel something similar when I try to look at the situation of my country and others in similar conditions, and see myself in there, from a certain perspective...watching all this different landscapes: The accademical, the "official" music therapy, and all the other things I've mentioned before. And I feel also very lucky, because I am able to live intenselly in this wonderful world of sounds and music. And I feel, and think about myself like a bridge.
I like bridges very much: bridge between music and music therapy, between music therapy in my country and other countries, between the drums around the corner and the tibethian bowls and the instruments in my office or at the Hospital where I work, bridges between sounds and music, between music therapy and people from other disciplines, bridges between different music therapy approaches. Isn't it what music therapy is about? Building bridges towards people, to help them, through those bridges, to have a better life?
We struggle to convince people that music belongs to everyone, that it is not a privilege that some talented people have, that musicality is an inborn quality of every human being. I can feel that music belongs to everyone. It is time to try to listen to what is happening around. Listen very carefully, see the power that each of those musical expressions has in the community, the effects they have. Integrate, helping with the bridges.
Our neighbors are working towards a PH.D in music therapy for their countries. We have been dreaming with a training course for years, as other countries do. Disparity is huge.
Something is happening here with sound and music. Something that we have to take into consideration, because I believe that that is what is going to lead us to a music therapy training program in this country, and maybe in other countries too. We have the tools to try to answer to those questions above. We can build the bridges.-
Hugo, Mayra (2006). Like a bridge.... Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colhugo100406