Food for my Soul
Research has supported and promoted the benefits of music. From reducing anxiety to helping people focus, there are many useful reasons why music is enjoyable.
One study I have looked at described how specific types of music are supposed to assist in managing certain emotions. What disappointed me about the research is that it did not take note of the participant’s nationality or ethnicity. This, I felt, was very important when determining which types of music suit certain people because it can vary.
I know this because I live in a very mixed community. Not everyone appreciates music created by bands and not everyone finds peace in Hip-hop like I do. In fact, it is rare to find someone whose music taste is varied across multiple cultures. Typically, each genre of music has tracks that are supposed to evoke feelings of love, romance, and passion. Each style of music has songs that are empowering or depressing, or even just for fun.
Music has always been an important tool for me. This is to be expected of a dancer. I grew up listening to pop music such as Spice Girls and Destiny Child. I danced to almost every style of music and as I mentioned previously, I repeatedly played the Power Rangers theme song from the original series. During my teen years, I started listening to Nas and DMX and later on I discovered Immortal Technique. You could say that this constituted part of my informal education.
The first song I discovered from Immortal Technique was Point of No Return. He spoke of several concepts I was studying independently. The chorus got me through becoming a single parent:
“This is the point from which I could never return / And if I back down now then forever I burn. / This is the point from which I could never retreat, / ‘Cause If I turn back now there can never be peace. / This is the point from which I will die and succeed. / Living the struggle, I know I’m alive when I bleed. / From now on it can never be the same as before. / ‘Cause the place I’m from doesn’t exist anymore.”
I used these songs to help me cope with depression and anxiety. The curious thing about the songs I listened to is that they could be perceived as, let us say, negative – yet I would feel empowered through them. Take for example Internally Bleeding by Immortal Technique:
“These are my last words, / I’m having difficulty breathing. / Dying on the inside, internally bleeding. / Angel of Death, / dragging me away while I’m sleeping. / Watching my world crumbling in front me, searching for meaning.”
This induced resilience by providing a vessel to pour out my anger. I connected to these lyrics and rallied against the situation that caused me to feel this way. This song was on a CD in my car that I played repeatedly the last few weeks I worked at my old High School. This was just before the 2008 Financial Crisis hit home and I was made redundant for the first time. I was following the news intently and could only express my emotion through these songs. The following example is from Modern Day Slavery by Joell Ortiz featuring Immortal Technique:
“Tryin’ to be strong, but yo (I’ve been running) / I’m exhausted, my feet hurt. / (I don’t) Wanna run no more / (I don’t) Wanna run no more. / They said (a change is gonna come) / When? (a change is gonna come) / When? (a change is gonna come).”
Immortal Technique attracted my attention because he intelligently weaves his lyrics. The Poverty of Philosophy demonstrates this perfectly:
“I’d rather be proud of what I am, rather than desperately try to be something I’m really not, just to fit in.”
Soon after I had exhausted Immortal Technique by playing his songs repeatedly, I developed an interest in music like Evanescence, Bring Me To Life. I recreated myself in my own image through the songs by Linkin Park: In The End and Somewhere I Belong. The video to the latter gives me goosebumps when I watch it now because I recognise the Gundam as we have several in our home.
Some time after a disastrous relationship had ended, I rediscovered my love for Reggae music. I grew up listening to Chaka Demus & Pliers, Shabba Ranks, Terror Fabolous and Buju Banton. I then discovered Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Chronixx, and Jah Sun. These songs make me feel connected to a part of me that finds peace in being exactly who I am.
I continue to add artists to my playlists from a wide range of genres. I know when I feel misbalanced because I stop listening to music. Music is my way of balancing my spirit and soothing my soul. Even now as I listen to my songs through my headphones, I realised that I stim through music. I rock, hand flap and dance without fear of what people think of my strange moves.
Sometimes I cry when I hear a new song that empowers me. Sometimes I hear a song on the radio exactly the moment I need to hear it. I am so grateful for the existence of Shazam to help me add the songs to my collection. It was much harder before when you had to wait to see if the DJ would bother to say the name of the song.
I can listen to violent music without becoming violent. I listen to depressive songs that make me feel empowered. Although there are a lot of meaningless songs, some of them are just fun to bounce along to. Through music, I discover more about myself. I feel a flow as strong as the ocean weaving its magic through my body and soul.
Music is beautiful and awesome. It can save and redeem. It is the result of one of the greatest aspects of humanity: the capacity to feel.
Next time you listen to a good song, fully immerse yourself into the moment.
This is where I find equilibrium.