Window to the World – Strengthening a culture from a music therapy perspective

Hi! I’m Toshi Senda, a Brazilian student of music therapy since 2019. And I’m here to share a little of the change of perspective about musical experiences I’ve had from the graduation of music therapy at UNESPAR (Universidade Estadual do Paraná). And how that new vision affected positively in my cultural/religious practice, more specifically in Koteki Bands.

I’m a member of Tenrikyo church, a religion which teachings were transmitted by Miki Nakayama, the mother of humanity, in 1838, in Japan. We believe God the Parent revealed itself through Oyassama (Miki Nakayama) to guide all humans to the Joyous Life, the aim of humanity’s creation.

Today, in Brazil, there are more than a hundred Tenrikyo churches and houses of disclosure around the country. And some of them join staff and resources to form a Koteki Band. Koteki bands are part of the Tenrikyo Boys and Girls Association, and they’re groups of kids and teenagers that learn not only music, but human values like gratitude, selflessness, team work and respect. Nowadays, there’re around 10 groups in Brazil.

Once there’re almost no music professionals in koteki bands in the country, the staff members (adults and teenagers usually with more than 15 years-old) teach younger children everything they’ve learned in koteki when they were kids. The main instruments are the fife, the melodica and the percussion (snare drum, cymbal and bass drum). And that’s how it’s been working for a couple of generations.

Each koteki band is like a big family. The children and teenagers play instruments, the older members teach and organize the rehearsals, and the parents usually prepare the meals and lunch time. All together help in activities like washing the dishes and sweeping the floor.

However, since I started to study the powerful world of music therapy, I’ve also noticed that playing music in koteki is hard, rigid and even boring to the kids, like there’s a right and a wrong way to make music. All the other activities are pleasuring, for example, the lunch time, the breaks when we play football or ride a bike, or the sleepovers. Playing music itself is only pleasuring in the end, when everyone has learned the music, but all the musical process is tiring for both who’s teaching and learning. That’s why I began to rethink about the way we experience and teach music in koteki bands.

Composing, improvising and recreating songs in groups can be a funnier way to learn music (instrument, rhythm and perception) and at the same time strengthen the relations within the members of the group. Also, music therapy is teaching me that music experiences can help people find their identities, explore new ways of existence, and discover their own potentials and limits. And that’s all incredibly powerful to children and teenagers, once they’re able to develop their independence and autonomy sooner.

In addition, the process of learning a musical instrument requires patience and dedication. And when it’s done in a ludic way plus in a good company, the process turns faster, more efficient and more pleasuring.

Nowadays, me and my friend Mari Kondo (who’s also a Tenrikyo member and is studying music at USP - Universidade de São Paulo) are trying to spread and inspire new practical ideas of teaching and living music in koteki bands, so more people can give new meanings for musical experiences and, consequently, for inter and intrapersonal relations.

No one is capable of “saving the world” alone, but every single act of hope in humanity is a big change in the world. In my vision, there’re many ways of doing those acts of hope, and I strongly believe that music therapy is a great one.


Toshi Senda, music therapy graduate

Universidade Estadual do Paraná, Brazil