This musician uses karaoke to help those living with early Alzheimer’s disease

Tarana Marwah has collaborated with MTV for the launch of Memory Karaoke, an initiative to help those with early Alzheimer’s, and cope with memory loss

Musician Tarana Marwah describes how her grandfather’s eyes light up when her mother plays his favourite bhajans. “He was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. But before that, it was his morning routine to wake up, have biscuits with tea, and listen to these bhajans. Now, though he can’t get out of bed, whenever we play them we see certain reactions: his fingers move, or he smiles, or his eyes shine…” says the composer for the webseries Bombay Begums.

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Musical triggers, she realised, can serve as a powerful memory recall. Under her act Komorebi, Tarana has collaborated with MTV-Ogilvy for the launch of Memory Karaoke, an initiative to help those living with early Alzheimer’s, cope with memory loss. The four songs in Memory Karaoke’s jukebox have been written to help people remember important details such as their name, address, names of their relatives and caregivers, important life events and the meals they had during the day.

Tarana Marwah/ Komorebi
 

The songs are customisable — while the tune remains the same for all, you can input your details to fill up gaps in the pre-written Hindi lyrics, which then show up on screen for you to sing along. Singing daily to the same tune will help retain that information over time, according to MTV.

For this project, the company has joined forces with Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India. The NGO, with inputs from caregivers, helped it choose the themes for the songs that would be most useful. “Music is a therapeutic tool for the mind, body and soul. Memory Karaoke will be an enjoyable, assistive aid for those with early Alzheimer’s to retain, reminisce and recall,” says ARDSI secretary-general Vidya Shenoy, an integrative therapist and dementia care specialist.

 

The tracks range from rap and rock to retro Bollywood numbers. “We kept the age group of people with early Alzhiemer’s in mind and kept a slower tempo. We used old Bollywood tracks that would be familiar to the patient,” says Tarana, explaining that the goal was to create an earworm. “Music helps people create associations in minds with others in their lives. It not only builds connections, but also helps us on a cathartic level,” she adds.

Though the songs are currently all in Hindi, Anshul Ailawadi, Head, Youth Music and English Entertainment at Viacom18, says the company hopes to make it a multilingual platform in the coming months.

“So far, we’ve tried it on about a dozen patients, or more precisely, their caregivers,” he adds, “The response has been extremely positive, and their suggestions for design, among other things, have been implemented. This is a new space for us — we will evolve as we go along.”

Visit www.mtvmemorykaraoke.com

 

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