Meet the music therapist inspiring young people with special needs in Argentina

Meet the music therapist inspiring young people with special needs in Argentina
Meet the music therapist inspiring young people with special needs in Argentina Copyright Nacho Larumbe
By Sharifah Fadhilah AlshahabNacho Larumbe
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In partnership with Media City, Qatar. "Seeing all their limitations, everything they can't do and here we come to show them they can do everything."


SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.

American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "Music is the universal language of mankind." While most people take this to mean music transcends cultural and language barriers, one man takes it a step further.

Ralf Niedenthal's take on music is that it is inherently inclusive. For him, music can break the boundaries of physical and cognitive impairments. He substantiates his belief through his non-governmental organisation, 'We All Make Music".

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American poet Henry Wadsworth once said, "Music is the universal language of mankind."Nacho Larumbe

"We All Make Music" is made up of people with all kinds of disabilities, including Cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, blindness, and autism," Ralf tells SCENES.

A music therapist by profession, Ralf uses music as a therapeutic tool to help many special needs patients. During his sessions, it was their capabilities, despite their disabilities, that inspired him.

"I observed that many patients had various potentials, whether it was singing, playing instruments or dancing," Ralf said.

Striking a chord

A band is formed with Angy on the vocals, Florencia on the drums, and Diego on the guitar. In fact, "We All Make Music" comprises of three bands - THM, Jade and Sabadabadú. They're often invited to play at different events around the country's capital, Buenos Aires.

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Angy, Florencia and Diego band's invited to play at different events around the country's capital, Buenos Aires.Nacho Larumbe

Performing at concerts is a fulfilling and cherished time for band members like Angy.

"I'm usually a little nervous, but then once I start singing with the band, it feels different. It makes me happy to sing," says Angy.

Fellow singer Paloma Facchini agrees. Singing has a beguiling effect on her. "I immediately enter a bubble, and all the issues I have are forgotten. I'm like on a cloud; I let myself go," she explains.

Mind and music

The benefits of music are well-studied. Many researchers, including Harvard Medical School neurologist and psychiatrist David Silbersweig, found that music activates different parts of the brain, often simultaneously. The positive side effects range from behavioural boosts to improved mental health and physiological states.

Depending on the type of music and which areas of the brain it stimulates, Silbersweig's study also suggests music can promote healing and improve wellness.

Paloma and her family observed remarkable changes. Her mother, Veronica Mendez, recalls several concerts where Paloma was determined to stand independently without relying on her walker.

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"We All Make Music' helped Paloma gaining a stronger sense of self-assurance.Nacho Larumbe

"I feel that "We All Make Music" helped me a lot to stand up," Paloma explains, "It has helped me feel more confident."

According to Veronica, Paloma is usually not vocal about her opinions. Paloma has changed her tune since joining "We All Make Music. "On stage, she transforms herself," her mother shares.

Music has no limits

Although Angy and Paloma both have cerebral palsy, their condition does not present physical limitations preventing them from singing or picking up an instrument. Unlike them, some members have more severe disabilities that make speaking or moving nearly impossible.

"That is the case with Yael. She is in a wheelchair and cannot speak," Ralf says.

Ralf has a way of making music possible for musicians like Yael with the help of a secret weapon - technology.


"Using a sensor along with head movements, one can compose music," Ralf explains. "We are people who make music. Each one has difficulties and limitations but also potential," he adds.

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Ralf beats disabilities and difficulties with a help of technology.Nacho Larumbe

Supporting people with special needs through song and dance is Ralf's forte. Those who know him constantly sing his praises.

Paloma thinks he has "a magical way of seeing things".

While Angy's father, Eduardo Mallea, considers him more than a teacher. "He managed to bring out the joy in the hearts of all these kids, and we all realised that music has no limits."

It is clear that Ralf and his organisation have touched hearts and have had a profound impact. Yet, for him, it's all in a day's work.

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Ralf Plans "We All Make Music" travel the world making music in the future.Nacho Larumbe

"What more could you ask for?" Ralf asks. "Seeing all their limitations, everything they can't do and here we come to show them they can do everything. When I see them happily making music on stage, I feel complete," he says.

Ralf has led "We All Make Music" on various tours across Argentina, recorded albums and even published a book since its launch in 2007. And he has big plans for them to travel the world making music in the future. He hopes performing at concerts and recording albums will earn band members a good income.

Journalist • Sharifah Fadhilah Alshahab

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