A Matter of Taste: Sound Healing

Men’s self-care, wellness and mental health therapy come in many forms, our columnist discovers
Published: 8 May 2024

If we ask you to think of Bali’s best-known wellness activities, meditation, yoga and various other cross-legged pursuits will probably spring to mind. DJ Harvey would like to remind you that there’s another practice people have been using to get their chakras aligned, their spirits uplifted and their auras cleansed since our cave-dwelling days.

“Dancing around is as ancient and as natural as getting up in the morning,” says the legendary British disc jockey. Harvey argues that rather than being debauched or hedonistic, going out to dance all night is in fact an act of self-care. “If it puts a smile on your face and makes you happy, that’s mental health, that’s healthy. And if you happen to get some aerobic exercise from it, that’s physical health. And if you make a new friend, all the better.” 

In Harvey’s view, “Dancing to music is a wonderful pursuit. I can’t see anything wrong with it in any way, shape, or form. It’s completely beneficial in every single way.” Should you find yourself in Bali in May—and isn’t that why people go to Bali, to find themselves?—you can sample Harvey’s brand of spiritual healing during his month-long residence at Klymax, the new club he’s established at Desa Potatohead in Seminyak. 

The 400-capacity subterranean space was designed to Harvey’s exacting specs, from the state-of-the-art sound system down to a gentle sprinkling of dust on the disco ball, which softens its effect, Harvey reckons. A visual reflection of the ‘cosmic disco’ sound Harvey is often associated with, Klymax’s aesthetic resembles a nightclub scene from a stylish 1970s sci-fi movie—except instead of Michael York or Charlton Heston, here, you’re the star. 

The technology used in DJing has advanced immensely over the course of Harvey’s five-decade career. But at the end of the day (or the end of the night, as the case may be), success as a DJ comes down to playing the right music to suit the moment and the mood, Harvey says. 

“You choose a record, and then you choose the next one—hopefully you haven’t chosen them all before you get to the party, which some people do,” he chides. “You play some music and hope people like it, and then you play another tune and hope they like that, and you try to get from one record to the next without bringing the dance floor to a screeching halt. And if everyone’s smiling at the end, you’ve done your job, simple as that.” 

As space-age as Klymax may appear, as high-tech as the equipment he uses is, the partying Harvey presides over is part of a tradition dating back to the most primitive times, at the very dawn of mankind. “The frequencies don’t change, just the delivery. It used to be we’d beat a stick on a log, now you press a green button. But the rhythm that comes out, that has never changed and can never change because they are frequencies and rhythms that tune into the frequencies and rhythms of your existence,” Harvey believes. “That stuff doesn’t change, it’s just the medium which produces those rhythms or frequencies that evolves.” 

Farina Ghanie, who runs wellness retreats for stressed-out executives in Singapore under the moniker ARISE, says dancing and getting out of your head (perhaps in more ways than one) possess plenty of parallels with the more esoteric forms of mind-body-spirit wellness. “Dancing is effectively a form of meditation because you are one with yourself,” she says. “It’s about connecting with your breath, being connected with your body. It’s similar to when elite sports athletes get into a hyper focus state. That is a form of meditation, too, because everything external, all the ‘noise’ is removed, and they only focus on one thing.” 

More and more men are coming to recognise the importance of taking time for physical and mental self-care before they reach the stage of burning out. “At our retreats, we teach very simple practices like breath work—it’s just breathing, you don’t have to look at it as something spiritual or ‘new age’,” Ghanie says. “It’s just about you, showing up for yourself and giving yourself time to breathe, and just being. It’s about acknowledging the need for these moments of self-care and self-love, the need to recharge our batteries and to make time for ourselves because life is so chaotic.” 

According to Ghanie, many men who attend one of her retreats use it as a way of gaining certain skills necessary to better look after their own physical wellness and mental health, independently. “We help people to experience these ancient tools and techniques that have existed in Asia for thousands of years, that really help with mindfulness,” she says. “These wellness experiences calm the nervous system, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. And when you do that, that’s when the magic happens—you get clarity, you get quietness of the mind, you get focus, and you get creativity coming out.” 

Musician, designer and artist Kiat says for him, creative self-expression is cathartic. “Making music had long been my main form of personal therapy, but I’d always seen it as something to share in person, something linked to a physical space, a sound system, to an actual physical interaction, which wasn’t possible during the pandemic.” During the lockdowns, he says, “I started taking up the brush a lot more, purely out of the need to express myself, not for anyone else, without any feedback, because when I’m painting, it’s just me and the canvas.” 

Artist Kiat says there’s no better self-care than self-expression.

Kiat says when he began making art for art’s sake, painting for the fun of it, “A strange thing happened. I not only felt better—I literally felt like the weight of the world had lifted, I felt a lot lighter, less anxious, I could breathe a bit more. But also, the more I painted and the better I felt, the more my professional work life improved, the more freelance jobs started coming in, even in the middle of the pandemic.” 

The lesson Kiat took away from this intense period was, “Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you wanted or how you’d planned, but it’s ok as long as you keep creating, and as long as you create for yourself, rather than create for other people. Just exercise pure creativity, whether that be through cooking, gardening, writing, painting, singing, dancing, whatever. It’s ok not to be perfect or to reach a finish point—just enjoy the experience. That in itself is its own reward.” 

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