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Merdu Ruang: Helping COVID-19 patients, medical personnel through music

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, May 30, 2020  /  10:38 am
Merdu Ruang: Helping COVID-19 patients, medical personnel through music

Merdu Ruang aims to give moral support to medical staff and patients, including COVID-19-positive patients. (Shutterstock.com/Beautyimage/File)

Merdu Ruang (Meruang) is an initiative that provides a series of background music playlists for medical staff and patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The playlists are curated with therapeutic purposes, such as to ease medical personnel’s pressures when handling COVID-19 cases in hospitals and to support the patients’ healing.

“We want to give moral support to medical personnel fighting the disease. They’ve given their all,” Venti Wijayanti, part of the production team at Merdu Ruang, told The Jakarta Post via email. “The government seems to be unprepared in dealing with the pandemic – which includes their policies and medical equipment. It prompted us to start this initiative.”

For now, Merdu Ruang offers electronic music and traditional Javanese karawitan (music ensemble). The playlists can be enjoyed online on the initiative’s website or offline via flash disks – the latter is for hospitals or clinics with limited internet access. The flash disk can be requested through the website, and Merdu Ruang also welcomes donations of flash disks.

Additionally, the music is divided based on the room categories in hospitals (waiting room, private inpatient room and shared inpatient room) and time period (morning, afternoon, evening and night).

Venti said each room and time period had different characteristics. “People’s needs are different and each time period has its own characteristic based on psychological aspects in that particular period,” she said.

Read also: Anxiety: A playlist to calm the mind from a music therapist

The initiative originated from a creative worker in Yogyakarta named Aisyah “Ilal” Hilal. She expressed her opinions on Music for Everyone, a WhatsApp group for musicians in Yogyakarta.

“Though she’s not a musician, Ilal felt that musicians have the ability to support medical workers,” Venti said. “A number of users recommended making songs to raise the public’s awareness about the importance of the medical workers’ roles. Others suggested making playlists, either to lift the spirits of medical workers and patients or to create a sense of calm. The playlist idea became Merdu Ruang.”

Merdu Ruang consists of different teams that have worked on the initiative since mid-May, such as music curators, medical consultants, artistic designers and production workers. The music curators selected the songs based on the categories under the direction of their acoustemology expert.

“Afterward, we got in touch with musicians who produced the music to get their permission. We also explained that this is a non-profit platform for medical staff and patients,” Venti said.

Among musicians and groups who allowed their works to be featured on the playlists are United States-based ensemble Gamelan Pacifica, musical group Keluarga Karawitan RRI Surakarta, Japanese musician Hiroshi Yoshimura and Swedish artist Golden Ivy.

Those who are interested in gaining access to the playlists need to sign up first. Registered patients will get three-month access, while registered medical personnel will get one year access to the playlists.

Venti explained that the limitation was based on the use of music for therapy purposes. Patients are expected to heal after two or three months and they may not need the playlists afterward.

“For the medical staff, they will meet other patients aside from those who are infected by COVID-19. The period will be longer as it’s predicted that the virus will only subside a year from now,” she said. “But if they wish to extend, they can reregister.” (wng)

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