INTERVIEW IN EL DESPERTADOR MAGAZINE, #32 Seville
IGNACIO BÉJAR is an international musician, composer and music therapist who works with a different concept of music as a tool for healing, the expansion of consciousness and connection with the spiritual world, rescuing the ritual and unifying sense that this has had in traditional cultures. He works with HEALING SUFI MUSIC ( Eastern Music Therapy) with which he teaches numerous workshops and sessions, in addition to having performed numerous world music concerts. He has published two solo albums in addition to those he has with different musical groups.
He works with Sufi Healing Music (Andalusi and Middle Eastern Music Therapy), conducting many workshops and therapy sessions, besides the myriad of concerts of World Music of which he has been part. He has recorded music with several groups and two solo albums.
Question: Could you explain what is Sufi Healing Music?
I. B: It is a healing and harmonization technique through live music, using original acoustic instruments the way they were used in hospitals in Al-Ándalus and the Middle East by the hakim—doctors who used improvisation with the Middle Eastern musical scales (maqams) as healing techniques.
Q: What´s the basis for this technique?
I.B: Actually, the use of music as a healing technique was used in ancient times—in Egypt, in Pythagoras’s time, and in China and India, where music was used in medicine. There are frescoes and paintings in the Pyramids in Egypt showing musician who are some of the same instruments I use in healing while patients are undergoing surgery, or during birthing, or for fertility rituals, among others. Sacred books in several ancient cultures state that everything in life is vibration, and that sound is the origin of Form and Matter. These concepts were accepted by mystics and doctors, such as the hakim in Al-Ándalus and the Islamic world, who put together a volume with this knowledge and used it to heal patients in the Maristanes or hospitals, such as in the one in the Albaycin in Granada. A lot of documents on this have been preserved, and famous hakim such as Avicena, Ibn Bayá and Al Farabi wrote treatises that describe the effects of the maqams in different parts of the body, and on how they activate different moods in patients
The concept that the hakim used was entirely holistic, connecting the physical with the emotions, the mind with the spirit, because they considered the human being to be an interconnected whole.
Q: What´s the difference between this technique and conventional music therapy?
I.B: Music therapy is a recent phenomenon, born of the encounter among several disciplines like music education, clinical psychology and the practice of music. It is being employed as supplemental treatment mainly with the handicapped, mental health patients and people with emotional problems, and in group dynamics sessions. The music is not live, usually: all this is very new, in the experimental stage. But Andalusi Music Therapy is a very old technique that is practiced with live music to treat specific ailments, physical and emotional, and with an important role as preventive medicine. I would like to add the spiritual aspect, very important for me, since many of the most common illnesses and traumas in modern times have been caused, often, by the lack of connectedness between our spiritual and physical lives, since we live in a very materialistic society.
It is an important tool for inner growth and the expansion of awareness. Learned men in antiquity used music to aid in spiritual alchemy: illness was understood as a desperate cry of the soul, which was sending a message, an alarm to rectify and evolve: illness was seen as an opportunity to grow.
Q: What’s Sufi Music Therapy best for?
I.B: It’s good in many situations, but I am going to center on describing my personal experiences. I have had excellent results helping people acquire a higher degree of self-esteem and assurance. There have been radical changes in the lives of some people after treatment, sometimes after only one session; in some instances, the people undergoing therapy have been surprised at the surge of energy experienced: they were able to make decisions that they never before would have been able to take. I have had many patients healing from different ailments: Parkinson, thyroid, cancer, problems with oral expression, unblocking of emotional issues. I have helped people who have been able to open up to love and affection after years of complete loneliness, finding a partner sometimes just days after the therapy session. I have helped people who had suffered from back pain for years, people with arthritis and other physical suffering.
I have been able to help others achieve greater intellectual strength, development and deepening of their creative powers. I have even guided patients in mystical experiences that have meant for them a complete change in their lives; in processes of opening of the heart and welcoming Love; in conflict resolution in situations that seemed helpless.
What I like the most in my work is that many patients experience healing accompanied by the awakening of the awareness of the illness’s origin, allowing them to go to the root of the problem. I have seen many people experiencing a great happiness with this new awareness, allowing them to make important changes in their lives.
Q: What’s the role of such an old therapy in today’s world?
I.B: We live in a very impersonal world, where people and their needs are not taken into account. Everything now seems to be concentrated towards the material aspects of life and to satisfy physical needs. Personally, I don’t think we can be happy if we are not connected and aware of the fact that we are spiritual beings living a limited and ephemeral experience, because man doesn’t live of bread alone. With my work I help create bridges among these different realities and people. Through Sufi Music Therapy it is possible to achieve an awareness that allows us to feel that we are part of something bigger, that we are not isolated living creatures. This isolation is created by fear and insecurity in a hostile world. In this way, when one has an experience in which barriers among people vanish, and we feel we are united to others, to the universe, to a bigger reality, we gain great strength that empowers and helps us see what we really are, opening us to new experiences. Quantum physics is now dealing with this paradigm from the point of view of science, confirming what mystics and learned people used to say thousands of years ago in different parts of the world, in different cultures.
Personally, I believe that it is the direction in which humanity is going.
Q: How is this therapy done?
I.B: I conduct either one-on-one private sessions, or group therapy sessions. I use the following instruments, in this order: Turkish ney, the oud (Arabic lute), Tibetan bowls and voice, ending with the Turkish clarinet.
The structure of the sessions is improvisation within the maqams (Middle Eastern musical scales); I make decisions on which scales to play according to what I perceive the group needs, because each maqam affects a specific organ and mood. If someone communicates a specific problem, then I play the corresponding maqams, following the information that the patient’s energy is asking of me, in order to bring about harmony and undo emotional or energy blocks. At the end, I approach each participant and play very close to where I perceive the problem to be, or to unite and bring balance to energy centers that are unbalanced.
I don´t influence the participants in any way: I don´t tell them which maqams I will play, neither do I explain why. At the end of the sessions I ask participants to share experiences: to describe any physical sensations, energy movements in any parts of the body, or whether they have felt emotions or have seen any images. Sharing experiences is something very positive for everyone involved: we become aware of the living process of each participant. For me, there are no illnesses, only unique life paths and stages, and my role is to guide and help in this process.
Q: Where have you learned this technique, and what has been the learning process for you?
I.B: I have been working with Sufi Healing Music for more than thirteen years, with incredibly positive results. I don´t even believe it myself sometimes! I have studied with Dr. Oruç Guvenç in Istanbul. He is a clinic psychology doctor who rescued this ancient healing technique which had not been used in Ottoman hospitals for more than two hundred years, having been displaced by allopathic medicine. After this, I have been doing my own research: I have learned to play several Middle Eastern musical instruments in order to play the maqams, since these are scales que cannot be played with western instruments, such as with a piano. There is also an important spiritual training process through which the healer has to go, because he—the healer—is ultimately the instrument, the Bridge between Heaven and Earth. If the healer has not evolved and has not gone through a process of purification himself, he will transfer his unbalance to the patients. It is a great responsibility. One has to make a professional type of commitment, learning to play the instruments, and also a personal one, tuning up the spirit year after year. I am aware that this clashes with the Western concept of life: we want to have everything as soon as possible with a minimum amount of effort. But in what I am doing, there is work not only in the musical technique and form, which is the vehicle, but also one needs to take care of the energy and spiritual quality needed to transmit the help to heal.
There is more in formation in my web for those interested. Thank you!
Interview in ESSENTIAL MAGAZINE of Marbella
Ignacio Béjar’s Magical Music: