We are in the Amazon, the largest jungle in the world, where there are still cultures and communities that mix music with the sacred, the spirits and the healing of the soul.
We go deep into the jungle and it is in the surroundings of the Ucayali River that we meet the Shipibo, and it is then that we approach to listen to their healing song, the icaro:
As a music researcher and music therapist, i was always fascinated by this ritual, where music have a crucial role. Today we are going to talk about the icaro. First of all I would like to thank Ricardo Lopez Alcas, another musicologist colleague who has provided me with some of the information I will talk about in this article. I leave the link to his page in case you are interested in knowing more about his work. And to the other musicologists who are reading me, if you want me to share your work too, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Now, let’s get started.
When we talk about music we immediately think of Mozart, Elvis Presley or Eminem, but music is much more than that. As we have already seen in my youtube chanel, music can have many different functions, from recreation, ritual, mating, relaxing, exciting, many functions! In western society we have forgotten this a little bit, but in the Shipibo community in the Amazon of Peru they still preserve in a conscious way the healing function of music, and they do this through the “Icaro”.
The “Icaro” is a chant that is integrated in a ceremony with a preparation, Ayahuasca, which is a drink that has several components, among them DMT or Dimethyl Tryptamine which is a psychotropic that mainly affects the perception, affect system and cognition, this means that it affects your point of view or how you see the world while the effects of ayahuasca last.
Some of you may think that it is the ayahuasca trip that cures. Yes and no. In this ceremony three things are necessary:
1) The ayahuasca, which is going to open the mind, to allow the alteration of the point of view, to make the brain soft and give it the possibility of change.
2) A very specific environment and surroundings, where you feel a sense of security and at the same time isolated from external stimuli, to avoid influencing the mind so sensitive under the effects of ayahuasca.
3) The third element is the icaro, which is the chant that the shaman will use to influence the “patient”, to guide him/her through the whole ritual depending on the ailment he/she has.
It is through the chant that the shaman guides and accesses the parts of the patient.
The icaro is a monodic chant, that is, it is a melody sung by only one person, the shaman. The register is of approximately one octave, since it does not seek virtuosity with the voice, but rather that healing objective. Another interesting feature is the rhythm, and is that they do not have a completely constant rhythm, although it does have some regularity, sometimes it can be changing, in terms of rhythm in the phrases as in the spaces left between them, thus giving special importance to breathing.
One of the things that I found most curious is that many shamans say that they have not composed the iccaros, but that they have learned them from the spirits.
What do you think about the icaros? Let me know below in the comments.
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