The Polyrhythms of Music Therapy

From the beginning of time, Africa has moved to the rhythms and sounds that gave birth to civilisation. The cradle of humankind pulsates with the music of life and life on the continent is inextricabaly tied to music. From marking life events such as birth and death and the celebration of marriage, to teaching our little ones to count and competing against each other in sports events, music is the golden thread of continuity in our lives. The polyrhythms of Africa hold a diversity of music, expression and possibility.

It is in this context that music therapy was born in South Africa in 1999. From small beginnings the discipline has grown to become a respected practice in academic, health, education and community settings. Music Therapy in South Africa has also trailblazed outside of traditional areas of music therapy practice to explore community applications of the discipline. Nineteen years after its inception as a formal field of study and work in South Africa, Music Therapy is poised to expand into Sub Saharan African countries.

We invite you to explore the polyrhythms of Music Therapy as you join us for the 2020 World Congress of Music Therapy. We invite music therapists from around the world to experience the richness, diversity, resources and depths of Africa!

Call for papers

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Greeting from the president of the WFMT

As the current President of the WFMT, I want to thank the SAMTA for organizing the 16th World Congress of Music Therapy in partnership with the WFMT, University of Pretoria, MusicWorks and the Tshwane School of Music where the congress will be hosted in July 2020.

What a wonderful opportunity for music therapists, health care professionals, musicians, students, researchers and educators to share their work and contribute the development of Music Therapy. The SAMTA is working hard to prepare an outstanding and dynamic event which will feature exciting spotlight educational sessions, pre-conference seminars, presentations, symposia and workshops along with special cultural events. I am encouraging all of you to attend.

The congress theme is “The Polyrhythms of Music Therapy”. Through this theme, the intention of the congress is to

  • Honour diversity
  • Promote decolonisation
  • Value debate and difference
  • Recognise and strengthen resources and resilience
  • Hear silenced voices, and invite new voices
  • Grow music therapy with consideration for context, and
  • Champion relevant social issues

This will be the first time since the formation of the WFMT that the international congress will take place in Africa. The WFMT officers are also committed to work with the SAMTA in planning the culturally diverse scientific program and event. What a unique opportunity. So, start making your travel plans today!

We invite music therapists as well as arts therapists, allied health professionals, educators and community arts practitioners to submit proposals.  It is our hope and desire that music therapists from throughout the world will present on research and practice showcasing the diversity of our field in various contexts. 

I look forward to meeting you in Tshwane.

Melissa Mercadal-Brotons, PhD, MT-BC, SMTAE
President WFMT

Greeting from the organizer

On behalf of  SAMTA, the University of Pretoria, MusicWorks and the Tshwane School of Music I warmly invite you to attend the 16th World Congress of Music Therapy to be hosted for the first time ever on the Continent of Africa. The congress will take place from 7-11 July 2020 at the University of Pretoria, Tshwane, South Africa.

The congress theme, Polyrhythms of Music Therapy, acknowledges the diversity of music therapy practice throughout the world. We thus invite music therapists from all corners of the globe to attend the congress and to share your work in the form of presentations, posters, workshops and round table presentations. 

We also invite community art practitioners, arts therapists, health professionals and educators to attend and present work which may enrich and inform the work of music therapy. 

A special invitation goes out to students. We encourage you to attend and share the work you are doing in your training placements.

Apart from the Congress itself, we are offering a special package tour to Cape Town which will be facilitated by MusicWorks. Details will be available in due course. There will be limited space, so be sure to get in early!

Finally, we invite you to explore the beauty and diversity of South Africa before or after the conference. The link to tourism information is on the website on the Conference drop down menu.  

It is our privilege to host you at the 16th World Congress of Music Therapy and we look forward to dialogue, sharing, networking and celebrating.

Woza Africa!
Dr. Carol Lotter
Congress organizer

Greeting from the SAMTA chairperson

It is a tremendous pleasure and honour to host the 16thWorld Congress of Music Therapy here in Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa in July 2020.  Since the reconstitution of the South African Music Therapy Association (SAMTA) in 2012, it seemed a far-off dream that we would ever host the World Congress of Music Therapy (WCMT). A mere eight years later, the SAMTA has become a strong network of professionals working in various provinces across the country, with the common aim of promoting and supporting the Music Therapy profession in the South African context. As a key stakeholder alongside the University of Pretoria, the Tshwane School of Music, and MusicWorks in Cape Town, we are excited to host the 16th iteration of this prestigious event.

This WCMT event intends to provide a rich platform for bringing together, exploring, learning about and coming to a greater understanding of the Music Therapy polyrhythms of our different continents. Partake first-hand as arts therapists, allied health professionals, educators and community arts practitioners from around the world share ideas, experiences, trends, and research outcomes. 

We encourage each and every one of you to lay hold of this opportunity to grow and connect with other experts, and to enjoy the unmatched experience of exploring one of the most beautifully diverse countries in the world. We look forward to welcoming you at the 2020 WCMT!


Mrs Ilse van Niekerk
Chairperson SAMTA