The Woven Songs of the Amazon, recorded in May of 2004 around the village of San Francisco de Yarina Cocha in the Peruvian Amazon, by Barrett Martin and Luis Guerra of Fast Horse Records. Is is a collection of the healing icaros of the Shipibo Shamans, featuring Herlinda Augustine & Enrique Sinure and many other people from the Shipibo community. To weave is to sing and to sing is to heal.
The following is a description of the project and vision behind the magical sounds of The Woven Songs of the Amazon as expressed by Barrett:
The Recording Process
The Shipibo live in approximately 100 villages along the pristine headwaters of the Ucayali River, which eventually becomes the mighty Amazon River. The icaros on this album were recorded in the village of San Francisco de Yarina Cocha, the largest of these Shipibo villages, in a make-shift recording studio that Luis Guerra and I built in an abandoned thatched-roofed hut. “Build it and they will come” they say, and that is exactly what happened. We put the word out to the village singers that two musicians were recording music for a documentary film and if anyone wanted to participate, please come to the abandoned hut down the eastern path, turn right at the giant Lapuna tree, and walk straight on for 300 paces until you see a pile of discarded batteries and a tangle of microphone cables. They came to us, singing as they walked, ranging in age from eight to eighty, some of them shamans, others just giggling children with fascination and wonder in their eyes.
The Shipibo generally sing in their native language of Panoan, occasionally peppering their words with Spanish, a result of the Peruvian language programs. Often you will hear the word “shamani” in these icaros, which in Panoan literally means, “to sing.” The word “caya”, meaning “soul”, is a reference to the spiritual nature of these icaros. This is truly phenomenal singing, holy singing, on par with the highest levels of western liturgical music, with a background of rainforest sounds that are equally as hypnotic. The Shipibo shamans can heal with their voices alone, but so can the children with their pristine innocence, and the many voices of the rainforest, birds and insects and thunderstorms alike.
When I think of the many reasons to preserve the Amazon Rainforest, and all of our planet’s forests for that matter, it is the indigenous people I think of first. But what is forever emblazoned in my heart and mind are the faces and voices of the children we lived with, in this tiny Amazon village. To me, these children represent all the generations of indigenous children waiting to be born and to have their chance to walk and sing in this magnificent corner of Creation. These children literally sing to the trees, to the plants, to the birds and to each other, because to them, all beings are sacred and deserve the honor of being sung to. This gives them great joy, to sing and participate with the great Oneness of the jungle, and this is why we must preserve the rainforest at all costs – to honor these people, their traditions, and their birthright to live in this most sacred of places.
The rainforest biosphere exists in a symbiotic relationship between itself and its stewards, the indigenous peoples, simultaneously creating the greatest natural pharmacy on the planet. This is the true Garden of Eden, and not only does the rainforest give us the breath of life, it also gives us the very medicine to heal our own sicknesses. There are thousands, perhaps millions of undiscovered medicinal potentialities that could save us individually, and the planet as a whole.
But once you cut it down, that gift is gone forever, it will never grow back, and that will certainly be the end of us all, literally. As you listen to this music, try and imagine what it might be like to live in that pristine rainforest environment, as the Shipibo still do today. Be conscious of the rainforest products you consume, and if you can, become an activist in your own small way. That’s all we are doing with this album of music, presented to you to enlighten your heart and enrich your mind. Because just as we in the West schedule our busy lives with the day planners of modern life, so do the Shipibo in their own way. But instead of using cell phones and computers, they use textiles and songs, musical incantations and prayers, to define their existence in the last sacred garden of our fragile planet.