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How is Body Percussion Good for the Brain?

Ethnomusicologist Javier Romero with some of his students.

Clapping, snapping, and tapping one’s body can teach rhythm and enliven a musical performance. And, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, body percussion is also being used to make people feel better.

Radio Script: 

Susan Lewis: You can make a lot of sounds just by tapping different parts of your body. Get a lot of people together doing choreographed moves, and you have a performance. 

But that’s not all.

Ethnomusicologist Javier Romero, now based at the University of Alicante in Spain, was intrigued by the African practice of treating pain with movement, and by the way different cultures view the relationship between music and movement.  

Javier Romero: Our music is in the brain, and the body is for technique. If we travel to Africa, it’s the opposite; the body is first and the brain is after.

SL:  He calls his method of body percussion BAPNE.

JR: Biomechanic Anatomy Psychology Neuroscience and Ethnomusicology.  

SL: BAPNE exercises use hands, feet. and vocal sounds in different sequence to stimulate executive functions, such as concentration, memory, impulse and motor control.

JR: You have to move your feet, you have to move your hands, and you have to speak - three different things together. If we change the activity every three minutes, your brain is high attention all the time.

SL: Romero conducts research into the various applications of his method, from health care to teaching rhythms to young musicians, to improving memory and concentration in the general population.  

Listen to violist and ArCoNet Artistic Director Adriana Linares talk about how the BAPNE method of body percussion was used at the 2015 Dali Quartet Music Festival in suburban Philadelphia.

Listen to classically trained musician and ethnomusicologist Javier Romero talk about how he came to explore the use of body percussion to not only teach rhythm, but also as a way to help people feel better.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.