Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Win with Their Musical Medicine

medium_7851916574Macklemore’s got it right. Music is good for you. And not just if it means winning a Grammy. Anyone who watched this year’s Grammys not only got a treat to hearing terrific performers but also a little health boost as well. Music has long been recognized for its therapeutic effects in humans, dating back to ancient times.  The  benefits of music continue to be appreciated by cultures across the globe.


 For example, the Gnaoua musicians, who have their cultural base in Essaouira Morocco, have been known for centuries for their ability to heal through music.  The Gnaoua (Gnawa) originated from West and North Africa  via the slave trade that brought many of them to Morocco from the ancient Ghanaian empire (which is now the West African countries of Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia and Burkino Faso).  The Gnaoua people were prized for their ability to cure scorpion stings and psychological disorders through placing their patients into a musical trance.  Their music is known for its use of the lute and castanets combined with ritual poetry and dancing. Today, it is celebrated in the annual Gnaoua World Festival, which brings together musicians from all over the world. A number of artists from all genres participate in this lively festival, which typically spans from the end of June through the end of August each year. The festival is unique in not only uniting musical forms but in bridging cultures as well, with about a half a million attendees coming together to celebrate and dance together as one. Whether you listen to the sounds of the Gnaoua musicians or the beats of Beyonce, studies have shown that music is good for you. For example, music has been shown to lower anxiety in patients awaiting surgery and those receiving cancer therapy.  It has also been shown to improve mood and help with memory in people with dementia. Music Education And Therapy Music actually may alter the levels of certain hormones that mediate stress in our bodies and help boost the cells that help with our immune response.  In addition, the social benefits of group music activities, such as singing and dancing, have additional positive effects. The exact type of music that is found to be most effective depends on the individual.  

According to a study by researchers Mona Chandra and Daniel Levitin music may actually alter the chemistry of many of the hormones that mediate stress in our brain. Two markers beta endorphin and cortisol are impacted by musical interventions.  Music can also help calm heart rate and blood pressure caused by stress.  In addition, the social benefits of group music activities, such as singing and dancing, may also have positive responses on our body through two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin.

So whatever your music of choice may be, go ahead, turn on that radio andyou’re your groove on for some stress relief. It’s good for you!


Bradt J. Dileo C. Shim M. Bradt J. Dileo C. Shim M.Musical Interventions for Preoperative Anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 6:CD006908, 2013. Bradt J. Dileo C. Grocke D. Magill L. Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. (8):CD006911, 2011.

Chandra ML, Levitin DJ. The neurochemistry of music.  Trens Cogn Sci. 2013; 17:179-183.

Gnawa stories: mystical musician healers from Morocco. 

Gnawa music of Morocco.

Moroccan Gnawa and transglobal trance. 

Reid MC. Papaleontiou M. Ong A. Breckman R. Wethington E. Pillemer K. Self-management strategies to reduce pain and improve function among older adults in community settings: a review of the evidence.

Photo credits (Creative Commons photos):

Cover photo credit: photo credit: <a href=””>Magharebia</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

Essaouira port photo credit: Shahaf Flikr

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