Poetry, Music and Medicine
of musical ideas and the workingsof our minds and bodies may be,or how words bring coherence toseemingly divergent tendencies,and as to when or if I will ever practice psychiatry.However, I’m sure all these pursuits are valid perspectives onour humanity; that the brain has the plasticity to assimilate new ideasand skills at every stage of life; andthat participating in these variousactivities – including medicine – gave me an authentic sense of self and others.Living is an art circumscribed by circumstance and time, andthe greatest achievements of bothart and science ultimately rely onthe imagination! Science makes progress in dramatic ways andcan alleviate suffering, improveour lives and understanding, but humane choices are alsoinformed by the humanities, andtheir meaningfulness has to berediscovered by each generation.Although making choices entailsinvesting more time in one thingand less in another, I believe thatthe rigour of science and the vigour of art lie on one continuum with agreat deal of complementarity.
Taimur Khan, MBBS ’02
When I joined AKU in 1995, Iwas sure that I wanted to becomea psychiatrist. I had read someworks of Freud inspired by tworevered elder brothers’ Ivy Leagueeducation. I had been playing the
guitar for ve years, was very
curious about the workings of thehuman body, and nurtured a vaguefantasy of collating the physicaland mental aspects of human life biochemically, psychoanalytically,musically and poetically.In high school, music was the
rst thing which made me realise
I could concentrate on somethingworthwhile for extended periods.Studying medicine for a year enhanced my patience with books,and when I encountered literary and philosophical texts, I was surprisedthat so many things were suddenlymaking sense. As happens withgreat writings, existential concernsarose. I questioned my opinions andthe type of music I played, whichultimately led to certain decisions Imade about music and myself.
Profoundly inuenced by
Nietzsche and Goethe, I believedthat I had to pursue all myinterests intensively, realising just in time that ours is an age of specialisation; and Goethe’s geniusnotwithstanding, science itself hadchanged over the past couple of centuries. But reasons are no matchfor passions, and so I thought Iwould teach myself poetry as I haddabbled in it since teenage.And this is where the story begins.I started devoting my timeto my newfound love for
- based classical music, one of the oldest musical traditions of the world. I was very far fromknowing the esoteric realm of subcontinental classical music andthe counter-intuitive dynamics of the
, which I had discoveredentirely by chance in a recording ata music shop in 1994. Soon after
buying my rst
in 1996,I saw why this bowed instrumentwith 3 gut and 35 metal strings
was considered to be so difcult to
tune and play. Thanks to the kindconsideration of Dr Jamsheer Talati,Associate Dean of Education at thattime, I was able to take two yearsoff during my education at AgaKhan University, learned music, gotan ample idea of poetic prosody andwrote poems and a novella.Returning to college, I hadthe peace of mind to continue myhumanistic studies and medicinewith more discipline. Music, Iwould ‘tell’ myself, I had to giveup. But then I picked up the
again in 2000 and continued to playtill I graduated in 2002 – a timewhen I thought I would dedicateone more year to studying theinstrument with Ustad Mubarak Ali,a
of the KapurthalaGharana, before resuming medicine.Thereon, I encountered our sub-continental music in its vastness:the elaborate approach towardsimprovisation within the framework of a given melodic idea known as a
. I started anew with a resolveto study this instrument and art formcomprehensively. For that I made
ashcards, revised and memorised
complex melodic patterns in waysthat often reminded me of topicslike glycolysis, the Kerb’s Cycle,cranial nerves, and so on – thingsthat don’t make immediate senseuntil one discovers their application.It took me a year to realise thatthis was just the beginning andI decided to continue practicingand performing on the
indenitely. And so I became a
classical musician.Hence from 2003 till today,I have been practicing and performing music regularly. I alsoreceived guidance from Ustad AllahRakha, who is the last living master of the
in Pakistan and has70 years of musical experience. Myother important project is an onlineclassical music archive,
, launched in 2005. It is agrowing collection of downloadablerecordings of past masters, some of which were previously buried in themusty libraries of Radio Pakistan.Today, I’m less sure as tohow or when the gap betweenneuroscience and psychoanalysismay be bridged, or what theconnection between the intelligence
Hamid Bashir, MBBS ’02
Chapuo drums from Kenya Coast and a ruubob from Tajikistan.
Aika Grace Wangwe
Taimur Khan immersed at a performance.
I do know that just like medicine,music too will continue to evolveand it will remain relevantas long as we exist.
I was a relatively non-seriousstudent but a serious thinker tryingto search for my inner voice. Therewas so much I felt passionatelyabout and so many issues thatneeded to be addressed. Child abusecases presented to the emergencyroom, rape victims with accidental pregnancies, victims of sectarianviolence, torture and bomb blasts,and the list kept growing. By theend of my third year in medicalschool, my thoughts started to takea more practical shape – I wasdiscovering ways of communicatingso I could be heard. AKU presentedme with many opportunities towrite, speak publicly and sing.And then the eureka momenthappened. I heard
, asong by Salman Ahmad of Junoon fame, highlighting theviolence in Pakistan. I had foundmy path. Music need not bestereotypical or meaningless. Iwanted others to listen and learnat the same time from my music.The basic concept that music cansublimate into a thought-provokingexperience led to the creation of Music4Cause, a forum to promote peace and harmony via music.It aims to raise a voice againstwar, terror and torture especiallyin the developing world, and is particularly geared towardscreating awareness about childabuse and neglect.I came to the US for my residencyand during my time off, I keptwriting, editing and creating tuneswith my music revolving aroundchild labour and abuse.Three years later, I sent my
rst video to the ARY network.
To my surprise, they immediatelycalled me for an interview andthings just took off from there. I began composing music on suicide bombings, torture and religiousintolerance with a growingaudience on Facebook, Twitter
Now Music4Cause, despite being in its early stage, hasaccomplished several moregoals. The music is nowfeatured on Amazon, iTunesand the Daniel Pearl Foundationwebsite. Several hundred visitorsfrom all over the world visit
Music4Cause YouTube channel
every day to show encouragementand support.Music has been advocated as atool to heal; I am not so sure aboutthat yet. However, I do know that just like medicine, music too willcontinue to evolve and itwill remain relevant as long aswe exist. I have learnt that bycreativity and innovation wecan give back to society, fromwhich we have taken so much.As the world becomes moreand more connected with therise of a global conscience,we are heading towardsan age where we willeliminate all borders.And perhaps music will be our ambassador and legacy for thecoming generations.