If there is one constant in my life, it’s Freshlyground! Now, my history with the famous African band known as Freshlyground goes a long way back. Indulge me dear reader- it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when I first saw them live on stage. But, back then they were just a group of students performing at my first year orientation. Little did they know that when they called me up on stage and handed me a copy of their album “Jika Jika” they had changed my life forever! Now, many albums have passed and I seem to have lost the moves I displayed on stage that fateful Tuesday afternoon. But, if there is one constant in my life, it is listening to AT LEAST one Freshlyground album, every single day. Now, I know some may call this a little obsessive, and sure they might have a point- but here I want to highlight the importance of music in keeping motivation and spirits high during your Ph.D.

Firstly, graduate school — especially a Ph.D in biology (read more about it here) –encompasses wet lab (doing experiments in the lab) and writing (accounting for the most part). I enjoy the writing process immensely and I find it very cathartic to release all of the knowledge gained papers read during my ‘free’ time. With the writing process, music helps me focus. Specifically, I like listening to opera, especially Puccini. My entire MSc thesis was written with “La Bohème” and “Madame Butterfly” on repeat 🙂 . Most people prefer listening to classical music when they write and Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco– twitter) wrote a blog “6 strategies to focus on writing (or research)” discussing the calming effect of classic music on helping with focus. Personally, I find instrumental music tends make me wander off into space and not focus my thought.

Interestingly, every lab I have visited has had music playing- it was always the Top 40 stations. It is rather universal and I am not sure why. . . Funny enough, the uncertainty of not knowing which song is going to play next makes me nervous! Lab work can be at times rather monotonous and I need music that is familiar, with a BASS, and a little loud. Think of Lady Gaga (the Art Pop years; not Joanne), Toto, Mandoza (Nkalakatha only !), and always Rihanna. I find that music like this tends to keep me alert and more focused on the experiments. So, I am always wearing my noise-cancelling headphones to keep me focused when I am working.

Of all the artists I have access to (thanks, Spotify !)- Freshlyground is the one I reserve for my relaxation time. First thing in the morning, I will ALWAYS listen to my favourites: “Mowbray Kaap”, “Vanish”, and “Doo be doo” in that order. Thereafter, my I will play it on shuffle, as I get ready for my day and start it with a smile on my face.

Ever wondered how your choice of music affects your mood? Do you play certain artists when do you different tasks? Or do you prefer the sound of silence…?

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