The haunting, plaintive music of Peruvian shamans was recorded atceremonies in the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon rainforest.The chants and icaros have an organic relationship to the medicineplants, and are primarily intended as devotional music for a ceremony. Itis equally possible to listen to the hypnotically beautiful sounds in theirown right and simply enjoy them for their otherworldly beauty.
The CD contains chants and dramatic effects of six different ceremonieswith shamans. . Two ceremonies with San Pedro maestros working inthe atmospheric ruins of Puruchucu; two ayahuasca shamans, a man anda woman, in separate sessions working in a jungle temple on the RiverMomon, outside Iquitos; a Shipibo shaman working in Yarinacocha,outside Pucullpa; and lastly, a despacho in the ruins of Pisaq, Cusco. Inaddition there are three tracks of atmospheric music played onpre‐Colombian instruments.Shamanism in PeruOf all the countries of Latin America, Peru is perhaps the richest in Indianand Pre‐Colombian culture. The practice of shamanism anywhere in theworld is inevitably rooted in the culture’s belief system. In our encounterwith Andean and Amazonian shamanism we are brought into contactwith other worlds, and a cosmology diametrically opposed to Westernrationalism.Tracks 1-3 San Pedro ceremony held in Puruchucu, at the head of theRimac valley. The ruins of this sacred site or huaca date back to pre‐Incatimes and have been accurately reconstructed. Setting the scene for theceremony, three musicians play replicas of pre‐Hispanic instruments.Alonso del Rio says: ‘while keeping to their original tuning, we haveexplored the instruments musical possibilities to give an idea of what themusic could have been like in pre‐Colombian times. The melodies cameto us through the ancestral memory evoked through medicinal plantslike San Pedro and Ayahuasca’. Instruments: the ceramic notch flutes ofthe Chincha civilization, Nazca panpipes or ‘antaras’ with their specialtuning similar to Oriental scales, and Nazca drums. The Mesa Nortena is a particular ceremonial tradition best conserved inthe region of ‘Las Huaringas’, high and remote sacred lakes in thenorthern Department of Piura.There are probably only a few good maestros who continue this ancienttradition in Peru today. The rest simply work with the externalities of themesa, while giving their clients minimal doses of the visionary San Pedro
cactus. Originally more importance was given to the medicine, whichmust be in the organism of the participants as well as the maestro forthe power to flow. The mesa then served to intensify the power of theplant.An altered state is needed to enter the symbolic world of the objects onthe mesa (the word refers to the altar as well as the ceremony itself).The abundance of macerated plants, perfumes and smells employed inthe mesa function to move the feelings associated with one’s memories.At a deep level, sensations are translated into vibrations which themedicine brings to consciousness so that associated hurt and pain canbe ‘re‐membered’ again and a new attitude can emerge.The singado, or absorption of macerated tobacco juice through thenostrils involves another power medicine which is used to intensify theSan Pedro at regular intervals. The instruction from the maestro to pourup the left or right nostril reflects the notion of duality found inshamanic disciplines all over the world: masculine and feminine, hot andcold, upper world and earth, expansion and contraction, flowing andstagnant. Illness arises from one of these polarities loosing equilibrium.The word singado comes from the Quechua word singa meaning noseand is perhaps an Andean notion of Pranayama! Also audible in the following two mesas 4‐ 5 are the clicking of chontas, or black bamboo sticks used for cleansing people’s auras and the spraying from the maestro and assistants’ mouths, of perfumes and plant macerations over the participants. The tendency to commercialise a tradition is inherent in urbanization and seeing things for their utility and business. For example mesas are sometimes held so that lawyers win legal battles. Piles of
documents are laid on the mesa so that the power works on them andthey win their case. In this way a shamanic ceremony is degraded tofolklore. We can try to reconstruct the original tradition to how it was inpre‐Colombian times and remove the images of Sarita Colonia and theother saints, crucifixes, photos etc., which have accumulated throughoutthe centuries and evolved the mesa into the mestizo tradition whichsurvives today. Left behind are the ancient stones, magic plant brewsand the enchanted waters of the lakes of Las Huaringas, being theoriginal elements, which have survived underneath.Track 4 Mesa with Alejandro Sanchez. Maestro Sanchez lives in Comas, adistant suburb of Lima which began in the 1960s as a shanty town. It issurrounded by impressive parched stony desert hills. The maestro’shouse is at the end of a road near the cemetery and overlooks thisimmense settlement from where he draws his clients. Sanchez was bornin Sondorillo near the legendary sacred lakes of Las Huaringas. At age 11,while still at school, he seemed to have perceptions and to be ableforesee things accurately. His astonished teachers thought he washaving hallucinations and called for maestro Florentin Garcia. LaterAlejandro became his apprentice and learned from him the secrets ofplants.The other‐worldliness of these ceremonies can be seen as part of the‘trappings’ of rituals in general. This ‘otherness’ serves to bypass therational mind so that it will not interfere with the subtle processes takingplace in the subconscious. When we are fully awake, things can indeedseem strange… ‘people are strange, when you’re a stranger…’ as thesong by The Doors goes. A part of healing is recovering the lost gift ofperception, the feeling of being alive again. Track 5 Mesa with Leopoldo Vilela who was also born near the celebrated Las Huaringas in Radiopampa, an extremely cold place at 3,500 meters altitude. He was 90 years old and in very good health at the time of this mesa which was also held in the ruins of Puruchucu. At three years old he was sent outside to look for herbs for his mother who was suffering from a stomach ache; there he knew he would become a curandero. He used to watch his father who was clairvoyant and assisted people in his community to
find their animals when they were lost. He used tarot cards and lookedinto bottles of aguardiente (firewater) with grains of corn of differentcolours at the bottom. Don Leopoldo improvises sessions for groups andindividuals, which may continue for hours. These are full of idiosyncrasy,and characterized by warmth, dedication and playfulness, which is quitetouching at times. The seemingly endless sequence of bottles of tastesand smells and other procedures are often extremely weird while hisinadvertent remarks and caresses on his guitar (of his own manufacture)often provoke smiles and laughter in all present.Human beings have an instinctive awareness of other people’s consciousstates of mind. When another person, a shaman, is authentic andspontaneously creative in the moment, this has the power to focus themind, stopping it from verbalizing and rationalizing. A sense of purewonder is evoked.Track 6 Closing calls. The conch shells or pututus, still used in Andeancommunities today, are handed down from the Incas who obtainedthem from the Caribbean. They are used for convening meetings andceremonies.Tracks 7-9 Shipibo icaros of Mateus Castro, a shaman living outsidePucullpa in Yarinacocha. The arts of the Shipibo, especially textiledesigns, are closely related to ayahuasca icaros. The words of the chantsare symbolic stories telling of the ability of nature to heal itself. Forexample the crystalline waters from a stream wash the unwell person,while coloured flowers attract the hummingbirds whose delicate wingsfan healing energies etc. You might see such things in your visions butthe essence which cures you is perhaps more likely to be theunderstanding of what is happening in your life, allowing inner feelingsto unblock so that bitterness and anger con change to ecstasy and love.To awaken from the ‘illusion of being alive’ is to experience life itself.Tracks 10-16 Dona Cotrina Valles was born in Agua Blanca, Departmentof San Martin. She apprenticed herself to a maestro in 1979 and latercame to live in Iquitos with her husband. Today she lives alone with herchildren. It is very unusual for a woman to be a shaman in urbansituations although they do exist amongst indigenous peoples. Amongstother limiting beliefs, it is thought that women break taboos as they areunable to take dieting seriously because of demands from their
husbands and that when they go shopping in the market they will havecontact with menstruating women or people who are mal dormida, (ie. aperson who has been making love all night).The diet is a vexed question in the city as the temptations of rich spicyfood as well as sex are greater than in the rainforest. As all shamans willtell you, Dona too, says that sex is bad. The ‘mother plant’ loves you andif you make love to another person, you are being unfaithful to her. Forthis reason it is often said that Ayahuasca is jealous, and if you do notrespect her, she makes you ill instead of healing you. You will also not beable to see any visions. The ill effects from not respecting the diet arecalled cutipa and range from a sense of trauma and stress to skinproblems.Dona’s chants are sung in Spanish and Quechua, as also are the chants ofJavier Arevalo which follow. Both Dona and Javier are mestizo shamans,that is to say their ancestors moved to the Amazon from the Andes,rather than being indigenous to the Amazon as the Shipibo are. Themelodies of mestizo icaros have an Andean structure and are sung partlyin Quechua, a language of the Andes. Track 17 Despacho to Pachamama in the ruins of Pisaq. A despacho is an offering to the Earth Goddess, Pachamama, which nurtures all life on earth. The ceremony symbolizes the reciprocity of nature and speaks back to her saying ‘we understand the message and we have the same attitude’. The word despacho was mistakenly translated into Spanish after the Conquest as pago, meaning payment, to imply a satanic pact with dark forces. As each participant made their contribution tothe despacho convened by the Curandera Doris Rivera Lenz. Therenowned traditional Andean musician Kike Pinto, played pre‐Colombianinstruments. The first piece is a Harawi from the Department of Cusco
played on a quena, or notch flute, made from the wing bone of a condor.This little melody has been handed down from Inca times, thanks to itsincorporation into Catholic mass in Colonial times. The second piece is aHaylli from San Pedro de Castas, Department of Lima, played on ach’iriqway, or antara (panpipes), made from condor feathers. Themelody also has pre‐Hispanic roots and has survived in a form played onthe chirisuya, kind of oboe, of probable Moorish origin. This track isended with some calls on the putu, or conch shell.Kike Pinto is a lifetime musician and researcher of traditional Andeanmusic. He has recorded several CDs and is curator of his own Museum ofAndean Music in Hatunrumiyoq, Cusco.Tracks 18-26 Javier Arevalo comes from Nuevo Progreso, a community of 50 families on the Rio Napo. Many generations of his family before him were shamans and already at 17 years old he knew this was his future. However when he was 20 his father died from a virote (a poisoned dart in the spiritual world) sent by a jealous and malicious brujo (sorcerer) who lived in his community. Soon after, he began his two‐year retreat in the rainforest with his maestro grandfather, dieting many plants, later to become his ‘doctors’. During his time in the wilderness he realised that it was better to leave God to punish the brujo who killed his father, and he decided to be a healer not a sorcerer. There are several different kinds of icaros, at the beginning of the session. Their purpose is to provoke themareacion or effects, and, in the words of Javier, ‘to render the mindsusceptible for visions to penetrate, then the curtains can open for thestart of the theatre’. Other Icaros call the spirit of Ayahuasca to openvisions ‘as though exposing the optic nerve to light’. Alternatively, if the
visions are too strong, the same spirit can be made to fly away in orderto bring the person back to normality.There are icaros for calling the ‘doctors’, or plant spirits, for healing,while other icaros call animal spirits, which protect and rid patients ofspells. Healing icaros may be for specific conditions like manchare whicha child may suffer when it gets a fright. The spirit of a child is not so fixedin its body as that of an adult, therefore a small fall can easily cause it tofly. Manchare is a common reason for taking children to ayahuascasessions.Tracks 18 Llamada de mareacion in which the spirits of various healingplants are called, here the huacapurana, a tall tree with hard wood,whose bark is used for arthritis. Huacapurana (campsiandra angustifolia)is also used as an arcana, or spirit to protect the body. Also theremocaspi (Aspidosperma excelsum) the bark of which is used to reducefever and cure malaria. PURCHASE THE SHAMANS OF PERU CD DOWNLOADABLE ON THE WEB US$9.99 www.cdbaby.com/cd/shamansofperuTo order the physical CD:£12 inclusive of postage for UKUS$ 21 inclusive of Postage USA15 Euro inclusive of Postage EuropeOrder from Howard G. Charing: email: email@example.comPayment via UK Cheque or via Paypal (accepts all Credit Cards).