Nietzsche was right. Without music, life would be a mistake.

We all know that music helps you relax and boosts your productivity. But music is also vital in times of crisis: It helps bring a sense of community and cheer during times of social distancing and isolation. 

Look at the way people across the world have turned to music since the coronavirus pandemic broke. Social media is full of videos all the way from China to Italy and Canada of people singing, playing instruments, and clapping from their windows, balconies, and across apartment buildings. 

Remember the first videos of Italians singing in their balconies in solidarity with health workers? One even sang Puccini’s aria Nessum Dorma while others clapped along in a show of resilience in a country that has borne the brunt of the disease in Europe.

Inspired by the Italians, Indians also took to their balconies with music. Residents of high-rises sang bhajans and inspiring songs such as Hum Honge Kamyab, while others played 'antakshari 'or organized live concerts to sing away the lockdown blues and connect with their neighbors.

But nothing brought people together like Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli’s live-streamed concert in an empty Milan cathedral on Easter. Some three million people tuned in to listen to the Italian tenor’s concert which included classics such as Ave Maria and a version of Amazing Grace.  

“Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth's pulsing heart,” Bocelli said in a statement.

Experts say community-based music serves as a source of solace and helps process emotions during a crisis. It brings people together and makes them recognize that they are not alone. 

During these times of social isolation, music lifts spirits and gives people a sense of belonging.

Music also helps us regain control at a time when our lives have turned upside down and we feel a loss of control over our lives. It gives us hope.

Musicologist Gunter Kreutz, from Germany’s University of Oldenburg who has written on the mental health benefits of singing, said in an interview to KCRW Berlin radio station: “In crises, music has a very strong function to balance people, and show them there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

When the Notre Dame Cathedral burned down last year, hundreds of emotional Parisians gathered outside, some with folded hands, and sang hymns in an act of togetherness.

Apart from bringing people together, music is also acting as an information disseminator during the coronavirus pandemic.

A host of mashups and parodies of popular old songs has sprung up not just to entertain but also to inform. One of the most popular ones is a COVID-19 version of The Sound of Music’s iconic Do-Re-Mi song by a New Zealand photographer. 

The humorous parody makes everybody laugh and also spreads the message about taking necessary precautions through its lyrics:

Do not fear – but please stay here

Stay at home now, everyone. We must wash and clean things well

Cars? No long trips just for fun!

Don’t let COVID virus spread. Isolate yourself at home

See your friends online instead

That’s the healthy way to go oh oh oh

So, the next time you’re feeling low about the coronavirus crisis, step out into your balcony and sing along with your neighbor. It will cheer you up.

Sugita Katyal is an Associate Director with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education.

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