Music mends Kosovo minds

9th July 1999 at 01:00
AS ALBANIAN refugees stream back into Kosovo, among the first people to go with them are members of Edinburgh University who from next month will be using music as therapy for traumatised children.

Nigel Osborne, professor of music, and Dee Isaacs, a community musician, have recently returned from the camps in Albania where they began their ambitious creative therapy programme, supported by Dutch charitable finance.

The model was established by Professor Osborne in Bosnia, where he set up a schools' music programme for Mostar, one of the most destroyed areas of the country, and prepared the way for a music therapy unit. This work has been clinically assessed, and Professor Osborne says that good results have been achieved in dealing with stress disorders.

At the Ndroq camp in Albania the musicians worked with 50-60 children aged three to seven using a variety of material, from local folk songs to world music translated into Albanian. Professor Osborne said the children were very responsive. "They had been through a cruel but less sustained process of ethnic cleansing than Bosnian children and they are likely to have a faster road to recovery.

"The children reacted with an urgent appetite. Musical communication seems to have a hot line to the emotional needs of children who have experienced trauma."

He said that at the simplest level music allows feelings to be expressed that cannot be put into words. "At a more complex level, we are able to engage with children at their extremes of depression or hyperactivity and help them to find a little balance, trust and joy in their lives."

There is hope also for the education system in Kosovo. Despite the repression of Albanian culture by the Belgrade government, Professor Osborne says it is alive and well. "These refugees have been able to bring nothing with them from their homes, yet they brought rhythms in their hands, music in their voices and poems in their heads."

The 18-month project will involve three international mobile units comprising community artists, therapists and some medical and psycho-social expertise. Although the initial core is from Edinburgh University, the aim is to recruit Kosovans to take over and intensify the work.

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