Music Therapy in Chad

Nsamu Moonga and Bethan Lee Shrubsole

Africa is a vast continent with diverse cultures and political systems. The landscapes range from the deserts like the Sahara and the Kalahari to the Congo basin rainforests, the rift valley in east Africa and the grassland and woodland savannas of central Africa. Africa boasts of the height of the Kilimanjaro and the depths of the Kariba valley. Presenting the African continent as one homogenous culture would not only be a misrepresentation. It would be causing harm to people who have for the longest time endured misrepresentation. Chimamanda Adichie warns against relying on a single story of anyone or any place. For this reason, the blogs from Africa will allow for voices from specific areas to contribute. I present Bethan, a member of the African Liaison Team, living and working in Chad.

Bethan began her Music Therapy career in northern Uganda, setting up a peripatetic music therapy service that served children who had been abducted or traumatised during the decades-long rebel war. During the nine-year project, she facilitated graduate volunteer placements, trained and supervised many Ugandans as music counsellors/facilitators and extended the project to include art therapy. Her other work in western Uganda included training a Ugandan creative arts counsellor over three years to support the learning and social/emotional skills of children with learning disabilities within a mainstream school.

For five years Bethan worked as a music therapist for Cambridgeshire music service, UK, mostly in mainstream schools with children and adolescents needing extra emotional support, including children in care. She also extended the service's remit to include music therapy in care homes and elderly individuals in their homes, particularly with people suffering from dementia, some of whom she worked with for three years. She co-wrote a project plan and funding applications to procure funding for a transition project, providing arts therapies for vulnerable children in Cambridgeshire as they transition through various stages of their educational lives.

Bethan now works at a hospital in N'djamena, Chad, supported by a Christian development agency. She provides music therapy services for children with developmental disabilities and supports in-patients in their recovery through music and play. She is excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Chadian musicians on a project whose purpose is unfolding gradually but is as yet unknown!

Bethan has always been passionate about singing in, and leading, community choirs. Participation in group singing benefits individuals socially and emotionally and it is this that drives her to start a new choir in every place she lives! As soon as the current Covid19 situation permits, she will begin a community choir in Chad.

Bethan reports that Chad is so diverse that even in the town where she lives (on the outskirts of the capital, N'djamena, on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria), there are several different tribes including nomadic tribes and a mix of religions and as many worldviews as one can imagine!

In the future, she will compile more information from Chadian friends about music and music in healing. She is curious about the types of music healing the local people employed. She is aware of shamanic healers' existence, but she has not yet heard about them using music in their rituals.

"I have seen that the north-south divide that is prevalent in Chad is as much a religious divide as a geographic one," Bethan reports. "On the surface, I have noticed that the southern (sub-Saharan Africans, nominally Christian) people groups of Chad are more music-oriented than the northern (more Arabic, nominally Muslim) ones. Many of the musicians who have managed to gain skills and become performers are from the south. However, I did have an exciting evening watching an array of Chadian rappers performing recently, including a rapping Imam."

About Music Therapy

According to Bethan, Music Therapy, as a registered profession, does not exist in Chad. There are nine universities in Chad, but the closest subject to art or music they offer was Social Science (anthropology, history, geography, philosophy and sociology – no music or art!)

After a year of working in Chad, Bethan's only experience of Music Therapy has been what she offers at the hospital where she works in N'djamena. People are polite and interested but cannot afford to take part in music therapy. Bear in mind that so far most of the year Bethan has been in Chad has been under Covid restrictions so meeting people has proved difficult. She works with children with developmental disorders by offering music therapy interactions in the physiotherapy room's public waiting room while they wait for their physiotherapy treatment, which seems to work well for the children, as long as the place is not too busy and there are not too many distractions. This happens on a mat on the floor and is not ideal, but this way the parents do not get charged for Music Therapy sessions (as they would if they came explicitly for MT) and benefit for free.