The Federal Republic of Nigeria comprises of 36 states and her capital territory, Abuja. Nigeria is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin, Chad and Cameroon. The largest and most influential ethnic groups in Nigeria are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The majority of Nigerian ethnics practice Christian or Muslim religions and a minority practice traditional religion.
In Nigeria, there are 774 local government areas (LGAs) and six cities (Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Kaduna, Portharcourt, and Benin city). The number of languages currently estimated and categorized in Nigeria is 521. The number includes 510 languages, two foreign languages without the native speakers and nine extinct languages. In some areas of Nigeria, ethnic groups speak more than one language. The official language in Nigeria is English which was chosen to facilitate the cultural and linguistic unity of the country.
In the African tradition, music accompanies Africans from the cradle to the grave. It is a well-known fact that music is employed abundantly in every stage of life and virtually every event in people’s existence. Music is played and enjoyed in African societies at various social, ritual and ceremonial occasions.
The use of music for healing in Nigeria is a very old tradition. Music healing is performed in various traditional cultures in Nigeria. Basically, it has been in oral form. Traditional music healing is mostly carried out by specialized native doctors. In few communities, they are specialists who are not doctors (native doctors), but just specialized music healers. The major tool of the healing intervention is music of special types, often played with special instruments and dancing. The therapy takes place at a specific place and at particular hours of the day or night; thus location and timing are very important.
Professor Anthony Mereni made a number of research studies into traditional music healing practices in Nigeria. One of the studies was based in the major town of Irigwe in the plateau state of Nigeria. He found that the traditional medicine man (locally called “Nevo”) prescribed the “Sa rije” ritual - a ritual characterized by music and dancing - as treatment for women suffering from a syndrome locally known as “Ci rima”. The “Ci rima” syndrome manifests itself in the patient with such symptoms as protracted abnormal pains, vomiting, habitual diarrhea, hallucination, fever and protracted loss of appetite. These symptoms are collectively designated by the natives of the locality as “Owie dzio” (literally “spoiled stomach”). When the “Nevo” prescribed this musico-ritual ceremony called the “Sa rije” as treatment for a person suffering from Ci rima syndrome, the aim and scope, gestation, administration and quality of the music in healing can be compared with clinical music therapy procedures (Mereni, 2007). He commented that it was in consideration of conditions, aims, procedures, gestation and organizational patterns of the music that we could safely recognize such practices as traditional music therapy. His research on the classifications of traditional music therapy can be found in his publication Kinesis and Katharsis (Mereni, 1996)
Clinical music therapy was introduced in Nigeria in 1985 by Prof. Mereni. He came to music therapy by the way of musicology and through music psychology and aesthetics. He then undertook his practical work under Frau Dr. Posch at the Salzburg Neurological Hospital in Austria. Prof Mereni then worked both in clinical practice and as a music therapy lecturer in Florence (Italy) under the aegis of Ce.Tom - the central body controlling Music therapy awareness and practice in the province of Tuscany in Italy.
He is a member British Society for Music Therapy, an Honorary Fellow of Imaginative Music therapy (Trento- Italy), the co-founder of the (APSI) Association for Psycho-Therapy and Holistic Science (Vioterra- Italy) and the founder of the Music Therapy Association of Nigeria (MUTAN). He runs the Gemma -Regis Center for Music Therapy and also did music therapy consultancy at Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba at the request of Dr. Malomo. He is currently the Head of Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.
The Gemma-Regis Center for Music Therapy, owned by Prof. Anthony Mereni, is situated at his home town, Okigwe in Imo State of Nigeria and his clinic at the Modupe Cole School for the handicapped at Pako, Yaba, Lagos State, is just the functional branch of this center since he is resident in Lagos State. Clients of the Gemma-Regis Center for Music Therapy include children with the cerebral palsy, children with profound and multiple disabilities and those with other complex psychiatric diagnoses. The sessions are held in small groups but individual music therapy sessions are also offered depending on the clients’ needs. In addition he conducts music therapy seminars, workshops and other practical duties.
In Nigeria, music therapy programs are yet to be studied in any institution. Prof. Mereni is faced with the task of making music therapy known to authorities so that its study may be included in the curriculum of teachers’ training institutes and universities, and its uses brought into schools, care homes and hospitals. He has successfully included music therapy as part of the core courses taught in the Music Psychology Graduate Degree Program and also as an elective course for the Master of Music Education students at the Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos - State. His proposal to the authorities of the University of Lagos Akoka- Yaba, for a music therapy program (both at diploma and postgraduate level) is expected to be approved soon.
He is currently supervising me, in an individually designed music therapy program. I graduated from the University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos State, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, and Master of Arts in music psychology. He intends to present me as the first nationally trained music therapist in Nigeria with a Master of Music Therapy (MMT). I am currently working with various population such as; special needs clients, psychiatric clients and in an early childhood music program. My experience with children at Tenderloving Childcare, Ikoyi- Lagos, Nigeria (creche and preschool) is quite unique. Music therapy is incorporated in the school’s program to care for the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children to overcoming learning difficulties and to encourage the development of the children as a whole.
Song repertoires are built for every part of the school day, using music to address all learning styles. We play and make simple instruments and the children learn and listen to songs. Music in this setting is used to reinforce teaching, enhance language and communication skills, improve social skills, enhance fine and motor skills, and also stimulate play activities.
Photos: A group music therapy session at Tenderloving Childcare, Ikoyi, Lagos with Mr Olayinka Ogunlade assisted by a class teacher. (The story continues below the photos).
The journey of creating music therapy practice in Nigeria, despite its potential, is challenging. It is piloted by only a handful of people and as yet, the real lack of facilities for research, infrastructure and lack of support and assistance from organizations both in the private and public sectors has hindered the growth of this discipline. We expect the planned music therapy program in the University Of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos State (for a diploma and postgraduate degree in music therapy) to be established soon, as it will promote and encourage the study and certification of music therapy in Nigeria. It will encourage research with various populations and promote relationships with international music therapy associations.
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