Entertainment & Arts

How music therapy helped Black Eyed Peas star Taboo

Black Eyed Peas Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Black Eyed Peas (L-R): Apl.de.ap, Taboo and will.i.am

The Black Eyed Peas won best international group at the Silver Clef Awards on Thursday, and they had a special reason for being there.

The awards support music therapy charity Nordoff Robins, and rapper Taboo, told the BBC he had personal experience of music's "healing power".

"Music was my therapy while I was on chemo," said the star, who was treated for testicular cancer in 2014.

"It kept my mind off the stress and the trauma I was experiencing."

Taboo, whose real name is Jaime Luis Gomez, was diagnosed with cancer after going to the emergency room for what he thought was the flu.

After an intensive 12-week course of chemotherapy, he is "celebrating five-years of being cancer-free".

His band-mate will.i.am added that music had helped him when he was "down or stressed or trying to get out of the clutches of depression".

"So it was an honour when they asked us to be part of this event."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Dua Lipa: "You are changing so many people's lives, I know music has changed mine"

Other winners at the ceremony included Ed Sheeran, Mabel and The Chemical Brothers.

Accepting the award for best male, Sam Smith paid tribute to Nordoff Robins' practitioners, saying: "What you do is sensational, it takes my breath away."

Best female winner Dua Lipa added: "You are changing so many people's lives, I know music has changed mine."

Pop band Years & Years, who won best group, also spoke about their experience of attending a music therapy session with three young children.

"We got to make some music with them and have a jam," said singer Olly Alexander. "It was so inspiring. The work they do is literally life-changing."

"You sometimes forget when you're in this business that it's essentially about play, being creative and having fun," said his band-mate Emre Turkmen.

"So when we went there it was quite… humbling isn't the right word. It was fun. They were having fun and we were having fun, and it connects you because you're all doing it together. It's amazing."

As part of the ceremony, the band auctioned off a personalised song to raise funds for the charity. Last year's event generated £750,000, which organisers were hoping to top in 2019.

The event, at London's Grosvenor House Hotel, also highlighted some of the lives changed by music therapy.

The audience, which also included stars like Gary Numan, Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Bernard Sumner, saw a video of Charlie, a five-year-old with Down's Syndrome, who contracted leukaemia and spent six months in hospital.

His mother, Emma, said the music therapy sessions "were an invaluable part of Charlie's treatment.

"As he couldn't verbalise his feelings, music was a huge outlet. It just made him so happy - like a ray of sunshine for his mind and soul."

The fan of the year prize also went to Samih El Sanhouri, who lost both of his eyes to cancer as a child,

"Music is his passion and joy and the way he experiences beauty and creativity," said his mother, Taghreed.

"For me, it's genuinely been a lifesaver," added Samih. "It was hard as a young child, growing up blind, and it's definitely gotten me through."

Host Edith Bowman, returning for the third year, said the Silver Clef ceremony was "always a really emotional day," adding: "I have extra-thick waterproof mascara on."

She noted that many stars turn up to this event when they shun other awards ceremonies, because they recognise the importance of Nordoff Robins' work.

"For them, it's not about the awards. They can see what their music can do for people - emotionally and physically.

"You know when you hear a song and the hairs on your arms stand up? It's an uncontrollable reflex. And that's the power of music."

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