From COVID headlines to threats of nuclear war, it’s no surprise that 2022 is feeling less like a utopian age of aquarius and more like the age of anxiety. Fortunately, in times like these, there is one thing we can lean on to spark joy, keep us sane and bring us hope: music. 

Whether you’re hitting the gym with a dance banger, hitting the highway with seventies classics or hitting the high notes in your garage band, music can mean moments of escape, elation, spiritual awakening and everything in between. 

If music were to be produced with intention, could it be viewed as a medicine for our modern times? These two think so. Meet Neal Sarin and Warren Riker, two of the brilliant minds behind the latest technology changing how music shapes our lives.

Their lifelong journey with music both began in the studio. Riker as a guitar player turned Grammy Award-winning sound engineer and Sarin as a producer turned music industry executive with JioSaavn, India’s largest music streaming app that welcomes millions to its platform daily. 

They are both key players in sona, the new app making waves on the music and mental health front. On the mental health side of things, sona creates music that relieves anxiety symptoms. These restorative soundscapes are produced by Grammy-winning composers and engineers using a creation process backed by leading neuroscientists.

“We tend to think of music as entertainment,” shares sona founder, Sarin. “In an age when we’re more stressed than ever, why aren’t we signing composers making restorative music? And if we are, how are we connecting them to an audience that benefits from this music?” These questions were the start of creating the music and the app that houses it.

Sarin’s passion for stress reduction comes from his own experience with anxiety. Transcendental Meditation is one practice he used to decrease his and it came along with other benefits like improved focus and creativity. This sparked his question: can we create music that has benefits similar to meditation? 

It was at this stage that Robert Knight M.D., Professor of Neuroscience at University of California Berkeley, joined sona as an advisor and the rounds of research began.

In one study, the data showed that after 10 minutes of listening to music produced for sona, there was a significant increase in alpha brain wave activity which induces a state of calm and relaxation. The music also gifted users an increase in working memory. Sarin adds, “in the control group, the results were inverse as beta waves were more prevalent. We thought this was interesting as we listen to things like pop music all the time. We might think it’s having a relaxing kind of effect, but in reality, our brains are actually working harder to process the music.” The team consistently reviews the music they produce to ensure it stimulates alpha brain waves ensuring the music has a restorative effect.

Founder and CEO of sona, Neal Sarin, shares his philosophy of music as medicine.

The music composition process took Sarin four years to develop. One of the next steps was bringing Riker into the fold. Known for his studio work on Grammy-winning albums, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Santana’s Supernatural, he joined the project as sona’s head of sound design. 

“The process is much different than what I do in terms of making a record. The expected outcome is completely different. Each song has a specific purpose,” he adds. “Aside from the process itself, the intentions while creating become a part of the tune, the energy around us, everything vibrating, it all comes together.”

Riker composes for the app and does all of the mixing for the composers. “I’ve created a little matrix to help enhance sounds that are attached to chakra frequencies and Solfeggio frequencies. I can pull these certain frequencies out by manipulating EQs. A lot of music targeted at relaxation is focused on ambience and resonance. We want to bring more musicality into the experience.” Ultimately, these mixes become music that produces alpha brain waves creating a restorative experience for the listener. “It’s wonderful having a sound bath with a group, but when you’re busy and life is hectic, sona provides that restorative effect, anytime and anywhere.”

With a smartphone, anyone can access the basic membership for free by visiting Subscribers gain access to the full music library and additional features like breath guides, reminders, and a sleep timer. 

Sarin continued adding that “we want to educate people about the restorative potential of music. One of our goals is to validate music as a form of medicine and change the perception around that.”

Sona’s long-term research is focused on achieving FDA approval for their signature music therapy and conducting additional trials and research. The team hopes that this reinforces their mantra of music as medicine.


  • Jane Puchniak

    Founder & Creative Director


    As a writer, creative director, agent and award-winning publicist, Jane Puchniak’s professional background spans North American, European, Asian and Australian markets. Her experience as a journalist, artist, publicist and brand director brings a multifaceted perspective to her marketing campaigns and brand development strategies.

    Much of her work in music, entertainment and technology connects brands and artists to broader social themes, adding their voice to impactful conversation on diverse global issues. Jane also specializes in music journalism, videography and photography. This work has taken her to arena shows, music festivals, music conferences and performing arts events across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. If you talk to her in person, you’ll find that above all, she has a firm belief that music, creative expression and mindfulness are keystones to creating a more connected and peaceful global community.