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Observations placeholder

Omari and Isa Hassan - On the role of ngoma healing [tr Emmanuel Makala]



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in John M. Janzen – Theories of music in African ngoma healing

Here are the views of the Hassan brothers, two Muslim ngoma healers I met in Dar es Salaam who were heads of one of the major healers' associations in Tanzania. The comments were given in Swahili and translated into English for me by Emmanuel Makala of the National Ministry of Culture.

The aim of healing ngomas is to make the patient talk, to heighten Emotions. lf that fails, you go to the forest for roots, give them medicine. Either way, talking is important. The purpose of the drumming is to know the particular spirit, so it speaks out in the patient, so the healer knows how many, which, where they come from, what they want. When the patient speaks, it's the spirit speaking. Spirit and person are one and the same. After medicine is taken, and ngoma is played, the patient must sing in increasing tempo, the song of the particular spirit. It's thus the patient who directs the healer on the type of treatment.

The spirits like the music, so they may make themselves manifest, so they may talk [through the sufferer]. A specific type of music is for a specific type of spirit; only this way will each spirit reveal ways of releasing the patient. Once the healer has established the type of spirit before him, in the person, he begins the corresponding type of music. The lyrics are the healer's [or the sufferer's] own.
It is impossible to give lyrics of a particular ngoma because there is so much improvisation and variation, so much depends on the individual case. How then does an ngoma help a person? The music enchants the sufferer so he can express himself better, and reveal the spirit.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Spirit helper


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps


Music therapy