Nia Campinha-Bacote

Sonic Medicine: Healing in the Midst of Death and Dying


The majority of current scholarship documents musical practices of the African diaspora post-death (such as New Orleans’ jazz funerals and the professionalization of wailers and mourners in African and African-American communities), however, very little has been written regarding music played or sung in the interstitial space between life and death, right before an individual passes on. In this presentation, I will share my findings from two years worth of interviews with death doulas, ethnomusicologists, family members, and healthcare professionals of African ancestry, revealing the dynamic ways in which music and sound have the capacity to facilitate healing, even in the midst of death and dying.


Nia Campinha-Bacote received her Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School as well as certification from Yale Institute of Sacred Music for her work in the field of music thanatology, in which she collaboratively worked to produce a sonic healing album melding the melodies and instrumentation of Afro-diasporic musicians with nature ( Resting on the power of embodied epistemologies, Nia’s research incorporates literature and film reviews alongside interviews with African-American death doulas, ethnomusicologists, colleagues, and family members as she investigates music’s ability to facilitate health and healing within the African-American community. Nia also holds a bachelor’s in health and human biology from Brown University as well as certifications as a somatic-trauma informed yoga instructor and Emotional Emancipation Circle facilitator, holding space for evidence-informed, psychologically sound, culturally grounded, and community-defined self-help support groups for people of African ancestry.


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