Volume 10 (2) 2018– Article (first published on 8 March 2017)
When music therapists adopt an ethnographic approach: Discovering the music of ultra-religious boys in Israel
Nir Seri & Avi Gilboa
Our music therapy encounters with boys from a unique cultural sector in Israel, namely ultra-religious Jews, indicated an urgent need to investigate what their musical world was composed of. Since no prior research has systematically mapped the musical world of these children, a basic field study was required and an ethnographic approach seemed most appropriate. Interviews were conducted with the main musicians who are responsible for shaping much of the musical world of ultra-religious children, as well as music educators, and the data was analysed according to an ethnographically informed framework. Results indicated the existence of a rich and varied musical repertoire that contains sub-genres such as popular ultra-religious music, children’s songs, play songs for toddlers, lullabies and waking up songs, Shabbat table songs, learning songs, and traditional melodies (audio recordings are provided). Several distinct environments were revealed in which the music was relevant to the children: the home, educational spaces, weddings and celebrations, and the synagogue. The contribution of these findings to music therapists is discussed. It is stressed that music therapists with such knowledge may increase the level of trust between themselves and their client. In addition, this knowledge has the potential of enabling a music therapist to be better attuned to the ultra-religious communal agenda and thus have increased levels of empathy and tolerance to the client and the issues he or she faces.
music therapy, ethnomusicology, ethnographic study, culture, cultural-sensitive therapy, ultra-religious Jews
Nir Seri is a musician and a music therapist with experience of working with children from different cultural backgrounds in general and with ultra-religious children in particular. He also works with children who have special needs in a special education school. Nir is currently a PhD student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
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Dr. Avi Gilboa is a music therapist with experience of working with autistic children, hospitalised children, and children with ADHD. He is currently the Head of the Music Department as well as the Music Therapy Programme at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. His fields of research include theoretical and clinical issues in music therapy, and social aspects of music.
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