Mindful Music Curation | A Literary Interview with @AscendingRose, DJ and Mental Health Pro
How many of us have been that sad teenager, transported by sound, unedited lyrics, & the drowning out of the noise of the world around us - that underage clubber, suddenly one with the room as the bass rocks through the body from the inside out & outside in, perfectly curated DJ sets scoring the realization that maybe you’re wrapped up in the world you’re supposed to expand, perhaps even explode in.
The luckiest amongst us have even gotten to experience existence as working adults, rediscovering what we’ve already come to know about music through feeling.
Highly Recommended: Listen while reading. | Image Credit: John Bell
More than anecdotal, that sense of healing, of wholeness, however momentary, has been studied & reported on by publications like the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, where you can read about how music is used to facilitate a healing environment for the suffering & sick.
Still, even those who bring us the healing, face their own share of suffering. According to the Independent, the leading music charity based in the UK, Help Musicians, found in 2014, that 60% of musicians have mental health struggles, while the response from the UK’s population as a whole reflected less than half that number.
Hours before this was written, the family of successful EDM DJ & producer Avicii announced the opening of the Tim Bergling Foundation, an eponymous foundation conceived in the memory of the artist who we lost to suicide in 2018. The Tim Bergling Foundation will raise both awareness & funds for not only suicide prevention & mental health, but also for causes such as climate change & endangered species; a whole environment approach - addressing both the mental & physical worlds we all live in - raising funds & awareness in the musicians’ home country of Sweden & beyond.
The intentional merging of music into a wellness practice, as well as the merging of wellness into a musical practice, from DJ & Therapeutic Wellness Coach, Sara Rose Gumataotao ties into these issues in a tangible & impacting way. Her involvement in the art of music, & method of infusing her art form into the lifestyles of those who would benefit from it is a perfect example of what Postmodern Indigenous exists to address & share, so here we are...
Global Mental Health Resources for Musicians:
Amy Winehouse Foundation
Tim Bergling Foundation
Asked about her journey, Gumataotao replies,
I have been connected to music from a young age. I first remember being attached to a little synthesizer keyboard & making up songs on it, then recording cassette mixtapes using a boom box, my family’s CDs [&] tapes, & the radio. I have a fond memory of one summer waiting around a radio all day long for “Let’s Get Blown” by Pharrell & Snoop Dogg so I could record it on to my mixtape. I really began my music digging during the Limewire era. I loved sharing the music I collected by burning thoughtfully curated CDs.
Her somewhat unconventional association with playlist creation, rhythmic movement, & timing are reflective of the sort of interdisciplinary reference points that deepen the meaning of a visual art practice.
I was also a competitive synchronized swimmer for 10 years & picked out & put my music routine together. I learned that I loved to perform & express myself through music. As I got older, I found myself attracted to the realm of healing & self-care. I began teaching yoga & fitness classes & loved creating a healing musical experience for my students. I would find myself more focused on making the music playlist than the actual class lesson plan itself. I began to realize that I could see myself being a DJ & creating an even deeper musical experience than what I was doing at the moment.
What we see as possible is often linked to what we do, so any understanding of Sara’s creative work should be connected to a deeper understanding of how it conceptually came to be. After deciding it was best for both of our schedules to conduct an interview via email, questions like, “Did DJ & mental health professional seem like callings that would be difficult to build a bridge between?”, came to mind & were sent off in exchange for answers such as:
As an adult, I have been searching for a creative & healing outlet that I could use with my musical experience. Once I got into djing, I knew that I finally found the missing piece to my musically creative void. ...I constantly encourage & promote music as a coping mechanism, healing art form, & emotional expression. My two passions of music & mental health came together organically & I could not be more thankful. I aspire to continue to find links between the two in the work I do.
I recently have stepped into the role of being a Therapeutic Behavioral coach for at-risk youth. Through this deep work,... I now know for sure how impacting childhood trauma is on people & am learning how to teach tools on how to cope with trauma through skills such as self-care. I want the people I come across to know that the stories & feelings they have regarding their own traumas are completely valid & are seen & heard.
The healing & self-care process looks different for everyone & is easier said than done. There is hope. One must take care of one’s self in order to take care of others & [remember] the importance of celebrating our small victories along the way.
Looking ahead, I would like to stay consistent with curating mixes, boosting my improvisation skills, & booking gigs in creative spaces that are in alignment with my views & passions.
When asked about her process & multigenerational approach to music selection, she talked of inspirations including:
...the genre I am listening to at the time, a theme I come across with songs in my music collection, or an event such as a holiday or set for a gig. I create a set of songs & run through mixing the songs together (based on beats per minute, theme, & wordplay), record, listen back, cut out any needed songs, & practice the set. Once I feel good about the live recording, I then like to find creative cover art &, more recently, short looped visuals to accompany the mix.. when it’s all together I share it on SoundCloud & Instagram.
I really enjoy taking the listener on a journey. I’m an old soul & a sucker for nostalgia, but also love finding new underground or upcoming artists & sharing their art & story with others. I am all over the place with my music choice, recently, with producing more mixes, I will stream artist radios to dig/collect new songs, or I get stuck on listening to a few selected artist or genres for a few months at a time. Of late, the genres have been experimental R&B, future bass, trap, hip hop, Lo-fi, & instrumental beats. I’ll also sprinkle in nostalgic early 2000’s hip hop, R&B, punk, ska, reggae, & alternative rock songs when I’m feeling expressive.
& on using social media to grow an artistically aligned practice.
...what I do is a healing art form for myself & an artistic expression in which I can share the art that inspires me to heal with others. My first intentions with social media were inspiration & connection. I've slowly made the transition from a consumer of social media content to a content creator & see the need for content that makes people feel good vs bad. I see how powerful [IG] is & choose to adapt to it so that I can continue to connect & share with others, not just for my own personal gain, but for the well being of others.
I don’t think I am what is helping others well-being, rather, I am sharing the struggle & validating their experience by sharing mine.
For those of you wondering how you can engage with Rose’s work, she’s shared that she is focusing on production, a music & mental health focused podcast, & creating an ecstatic dance event for youth to support their mental health.
You can also listen to the mix she so generously created for Postmodern Indigenous, & share it with a friend who’ll vibe.
We’ll be supporting & continuing to share what comes of her journey here on Postmodern Indigenous. - Ashley J.