Music is universal, and one of the most popular forms of art nowadays. All cultures listen to music. Music is as old as human history. It has the power to take us on a journey to the world around the artist, but also within the artist – it can be easier to share feelings and emotions through music. For this reason, some artists use their music production to talk about the mental health challenges they have experienced – since music can support understanding and acceptance.

Recently, societal changes have supported new routes into the music scene for a greater diversity of artists, including those with mental health needs. One of these changes, is a new approach to recovery, that accepts the symptoms of illness are not always eliminated; the individual does not have to fit into a rigid world, but can learn to live with symptoms and rebuild her life in spite of them. In this new context, mental illness and its ability to bring new and alternative perspectives, can be understood as a creative advantage. However, people experiencing  mental health problems often have no access to the music sector in order to tell their stories, and the music sector and song-writers do not have access to the alternative experiences, stories and even inner worlds of people who have experienced mental ill health. The result is highly visible in unrealistic songs using a romanticised concept of madness, which fails to reflect a true diversity of experience. The only way to change this situation is for the musical stage to open up and include people with mental health challenges in the creation process – and this is where the Introspection Music Experience project begins.

The project

Introspection Music Experience (IME) is a 3 year long international project that brings together musicians and composers with and without psychiatric vulnerabilities from Belgium, England, Greece and Spain. During this project, 12 solo artists and bands will collaborate with composers with experience of mental health challenges in order to create music together that will make new audiences aware of real experiences of mental ill health. IME will create a space for diverse communities to get to know each other, initiating a dialogue, sharing experiences, and finally, producing bold and authentic artistic expressions to share with the wider world. The artists will use music as a vehicle to talk about the reality of living with mental ill health from a first hand perspective, and thus contribute to the elimination of the persisting stigma towards mental illness and people living with it

What are IME’s outcomes?
  • A music album co-created by artists from four European countries, composed of 16 singles
  • Four tracks with video clips and twelve video lyrics
  • Twelve local concerts in Athens, Brussels, London and Valladolid
  • An international tour with concerts in Belgium, England, Greece and Spain
  • A documentary film illustrating the process of creating the final products of the IME project
  • An e-book providing external organizations with all the information needed to replicate the IME project or to adapt it to their target groups’ needs

IME Artist Azat Chelvatzian shares her source of inspiration behind the songs – “To Teras” & “I Agapi Ola ta Nika”

The first lyric video for the song titled “To Teras” – “The Monster” (lyrics by Azat Chelvatzian and music by Ioannis Bairaktaris) is finally ready, thanks to our amazing video producer and editor George Ktistakis.  “To Teras”, as well as “I Agapi Ola ta Nika” (“Love Beats Everything”), also written by Azat and performed by Ioannis, approach the issue of mental health and its various challenges, as well as the means to deal with them.

Azat elaborated on the songs’ titles and shared what it inspired her the most:

 “In the context of IME Project which brings mental health to the foreground, I chose to write two songs opposite to each other; the first one talks about the struggle (“To Teras” – “The Monster”), while the other one (“I Agapi Ola ta Nika” – “Love Beats Everything”) talks about how love can conquer all and help people deal with mental health challenges. However, both songs reflect on the soul’s strength and will for liberation.

The song titled “To Teras” (“The Monster”), refers to the ways depression can affect an individual’s everyday life, by taking the form of a monster. The monster can often take control, making people constantly feel stagnant and scared, unable to fulfill their dreams. In the chorus, the lyricist refers to the daily struggle and how one manages to kill the monster, even temporarily (“ti mera to skotono, ti nixta me nika” – “every day I kill it and every night it beats me”), as well as the wish to be liberated completely. However, the fight will not stop until the individual manages to take control of his/her life again and get back on track.

Finally, through the song “I agapi Ola ta Nika” (“Love Beats Everything”), I wanted to point out the power of love that can work wonders! Love unites, creates and makes people stronger, so they can face the challenges ahead and touch the light. My professional involvement with mental health, as well as various situations I have come across in life, have often given me the chance to feel the therapeutic power that love can offer.”

‘Intro Music Week’

INTRAS organizes the ‘Intro Music Week’ with a ‘jam session’ at LAVA and a concert at Kafka.

  • The program, which took place from February 10th to 14th, included master classes and workshops in which a dozen different groups and soloists from Belgium, Greece and Spain participated.
  • All the acts are part of the European project IME (INTROSPECTION MUSIC EXPERIENCE), funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union, in which emerging musical creators with and without mental illness will write songs about experiences of psychological distress.

Fundación INTRAS organizes a week of cultural activities around musical creation and mental health including a ‘jam session’ on February 12 th and a free concert in the bar Kakfa on the 13 th , together with master classes and workshops on composition, musical creation or ‘management’ in which a dozen groups and soloists from Belgium, Greece and Spain has participated.

These groups, which are the members of the European IME project led by INTRAS, were the protagonists of the free concert that was held at the Kakfa bar (C \ Arribas, 14), starting at 10 p.m. on February 13. Katerina Pipili, Nassos Polyzoidis and Ioannis Bairaktaris (Greece), Chloë Nols, Thomas Werbrocuk and Korneel Muyllee (Belgium) and Naïa, Nacho Prada, Grounded Theory and Rober and the Optimists (Spain) rehearsed songs from their respective repertoires in this free musical event. A day before, on the 12th at 9pm, the ‘black room’ of the Laboratory of Arts in Valladolid
(LAVA) hosted a ‘jam session’ coordinated by the Greek Christos Kladas, which was open o any musician from Valladolid interested in joining it.
The Kafka concert and the jam session were the two central acts open to the public of the ‘Intro Music Week’, but during this week master classes were delivered by the musicians Sean Marholm (Vocalist for the Spanish Band ‘Dinero’) and Christos Kladas, in addition to Grace Puluczek (3 notes training) with whom they delved into all fields of musical creation, from the most artistic to the technical, including commercial and economic ones.
The ‘Intro Music Week’ workshops thus added to the individual work of creation and composition carried out by Spanish, Greek and Belgian groups and soloists for months and which will crystallize, at the end of the project, in a handful of songs about mental health, local concerts in the participants’ home cities and an international mini-tour of three concerts in Athens, Brussels and Valladolid.

Final Song List of IME’s Greek participation completed!

The Intro Music Lab, which opened on early September 2019 and finally completed in January 2020, produced not only four beautiful and inspiring songs, but also a very warm and inspirational collaboration between the participants. 

After the final formation of the team, which consists of Azat Helvatzian and Christina Tsaliki as lyricists and Nassos Polyzoidis, John Bairaktaris and Katerina Pipili as performers, the creative phase began; the sessions, as well as the recordings were organized under the supervision of musician and artistic director, Christos Kladas. 

The issue of mental health was addressed from the beginning, in order to guide the chosen participants; lyrics were entailed, melodies were composed, rhythmic patterns and harmonic sequences were synthesized accordingly, with mental health being the core of the artists’ expression. The artists worked during some sessions in couples, where they experimented extensively on musical styles and instrumentation.

During the closing session, each performer presented two songs and the final song list was formed:

  • I Agapi Ola ta Nika (Music by Yiannis Bairaktaris/Lyrics by Azat Helvatzian)
  • To Teras (Music by Yiannis Bairaktaris/Lyrics by Azat Helvatzian)
  • It’s a Moveable Feast (Music by Nasos Polyzoidis/Lyrics by Christina Tsaliki) 
  • Collateral (Music by Katerina Pipili/Lyrics by Christina Tsaliki) 

Finally, the song “I Agapi Ola ta Nika” (translated as “Love beats everything”) was selected as the one which will be accompanied by a video clip, mostly because of its cheerful tune, as well as its optimistic content. Moreover, the Greek lyrics are surely a distinctive asset, as part of an international project where voices from various countries will be heard.

The sessions, as well the recordings took place in the studio of National Music School, Ilioupolis, in Athens, Greece. Our multitalented musicians worked together for the production of all four songs; John played the bass, as well as the trombone, along with fellow musician George Arnaoutis who supported the team as a drummer; Nassos played the banjo and the ukulele, while Christos Kladas the saxophone. Such interaction empowers the aim for artistic expression and creative collaboration, while it reflects IME’s goal of creating a common space for diverse communities, initiating a dialogue and sharing their feelings through music. 

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