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Koolulam, the global mass singing experience, to hold event at Asbury Hall


Tue, Apr 23rd 2024 03:40 pm

‘Many people call these performances one of the most impactful events of their lives,’ says UB social psychologist, event organizer

By the University at Buffalo

Koolulam, the global mass singing experience, is coming to Asbury Hall at 8 p.m. May 9, thanks to a University at Buffalo faculty member who is an expert on the benefits and delights of collective song performance. The evening also has a research component that includes an opportunity for attendees to make a few bucks in addition to having a great time.

Koolulam is a social music initiative that, for seven years, has been presenting mass singing events meant to strengthen societal relationships and connections by singing in large groups.

The format is simple. The experience is profound. It begins by teaching the audience a new take on a familiar song. Participants are organized into three groups arranged by pitch. There’s a brief rehearsal before the song comes to life in a community, perfectly harmonized in under an hour, with the video recording of the event shared on social media. (See an example on YouTube.)

Koolulam is for everyone, even those who don’t believe they have any talent for music or singing.

“I have seen how unifying and fun and special these events are firsthand,” said Shira Gabriel, Ph.D., a professor of psychology in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences. “There is something very special about this kind of event.”

Gabriel is an expert on the social self, and her research is guided by the proposition that humans are a fundamentally social species. She says a great deal of human behavior can be understood as being in service of connecting with others.

She says people have been singing with others in all cultures, throughout history. Her lab has even been studying Koolulam.

“Koolulam has done hundreds of events with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world,” Gabriel said. “Many people call these performances one of the most impactful events of their lives. In about an hour, you can experience something really special.”

Gabriel’s lab has been doing research studying Koolulam to better understand why these events are so meaningful for attendees. Gabriel was able to bring Koolulam to Buffalo through a grant to the university from the Templeton Foundation.

It is also through that grant that attendees can earn money via the research component to the evening. Attendees who complete four brief online questionnaires (one before the event and three after the event) will receive $100.

Tickets are available online and are $25 for the public and $10 for UB faculty, students and staff (and their friends) who use the code UBUFFALO when buying tickets.

“It’s rare for a city the size of Buffalo to have one of these events,” Gabriel said. “But now we all have this great opportunity to be part of a worldwide phenomenon in one of the most beautiful venues in the city.”

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