Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Poder Verde - A preview

As you know I've been hard at work finishing the rewards for our kickstarter campaign.

As Songs of Ayahuasca CD is well on its way I've turned my attention to the second promised CD:


Last week I spent two sleepless nights at DJ Akasha's house finishing the mix. We had a blast doing it and are super happy with the results.

Here are some selections from the 50 minutes mix, let us know what you think!


Here's the full liner notes


Poder Verde is a sound journey through some of my favorite Amazonian audio: Cumbia, the sounds of the rainforest, the radio ads of travelling curanderos and the songs of real ayahuasqueros.


In terms of total listeners Cumbia is probably more popular all over South America than all the better-known styles (in the global North) such as salsa, merengue or bachata put together.

Cumbia originated in Colombia’s Caribbean coast and parts of Panama as a courtship dance practiced among the African population that had been brought to America as slaves. Cumbia unites West African rhythms, indigenous instruments (Milo and Gaita flutes from the Kogi and Kuna tribes) and European instruments (the Spanish guitar and later the accordion, brought by German immigrants.)

During the mid XXth century Colombian musicians created a more refined form of cumbia that became very popular, expanding all over South America, as time passed it gave birth to a great variety of regional styles. Today Cumbia is truly a panamerican music, there are distinct Andean, Argentinean, Chilean and digital cumbia styles, among many others. This mix contains a number of such styles:

“Classic” cumbias – The “reference” style, if such thing can even be said (tracks ) where the african influence is clear. I picked these tracks off a great mix from the Ritmo y Sabor blog 

…I haven’t been able to find out much about the original artists, other than Virgenes de Sol is from the Mexican Luis Ornelas

The Peruvian cumbia sound sprung as a distinct style in the early 60´s, when Henry Delgado took the accordion -which was the staple sound of the original Colombian Cumbia- and substituted it with the electric guitar, creating a sound that, by our standards, is reminiscing of surf music. Soon there were regional variations of the Peruvian sound. Juaneco y Combo, together with the fantastic Los Mirlos were the major originators of the Cumbia Amazónica, also known as Cumbia de Oriente or Poder Verde, a style which appeared in the 70´s together with the first oil boom of the Peruvian Amazon. The style has experienced a revival of sorts recently thanks to reissues by Barbes Records, and new re-recordings by bands such as Bareto.

This mix includes tracks from Cumbia Beats Vol. 1, The Roots of Chicha Vol. 2 and the less known but absolutely killer Ranil’s Jungle Party. If you love the music, please support the artists by buying some of these records

Cumbias rebajadas – Meanwhile something strange happened in the 70s in La Campana and Independencia, two rough neigborhoods in Monterrey, Mexico where Colombian Cumbias were very popular. People began to listen to the 45 rpm records at 33 rpm. It all started as an accident when Sonido Dueñez’s system malfunctioned and started playing cumbias at half the speed. The audience, instead of complaining, loved the new sound, the voices had become psychedelic, the rhythm hypnotic. People began to ask for their cumbias “rebajadas” (slowed down) Dueñez began to put out mixtapes of rebajadas, which became enormously popular.  Here's the full story

The style spread all over Mexico and then all over the Americas, eventually influencing other genres. It is believed, for example, that the Screw Rap style from Houston is a sort of rap rebajado.

The rebajadas on this compilation come from this great mix


Altogether I must have spent nearly 2 years of my life in the Amazon, including a few months deep in the jungle. I’ve been into weird experimental music and sound art for many many years, that means that I will actually listen to just about any sound (musical or not) with some interest. From that perspective the jungle soundscape is –to me- nothing short of sonic luxury. You’ll never find so many sounds, most of them beautiful, all of them interesting, going on at the same time, and with so much variation as the day progresses. I could listen to the jungle all day and a number of times, I have!

I’ve collected I this mix some of my favorite Amazonian field recordings, including sunrise and sunset, insect and frog choirs, and a full-on tropical rainstorm, starting with the first drops for rain, passing through the giant thunders and downpour, all the way to the growth of the rivers’ flow after the storm. I’ve placed them throughout the mix in a progression from calm morning to sunset, to rainstorm, to morning after, that in a way follows the progression of an ayahuasca experience.

If you want jungle field recordings without the cumbias, Paco Lopez, the big Kahuna of Spanish experimental sound is your man


I've also included number of Ikaros and other songs recorded during ayahuasca sessions.

The first track is called "Amazon Indian ayahuasca song.mp3" I downloaded it from soulseek many many years ago. I tried to find out more about it because I really like it, but I was unable. It remains a mystery to me. Let me know if you have any info about it.

The second ikaro is by Maria Luisa Tuesta Flores who worked with Howard Lawler at Spirit Quest. She was also one of Steve Beyer’s teachers, he wrote about her here

The third is Madre Ayahuasca, received by Rosa Giove and sung by Jacques Mabit

The fourth song is not technically an ikaro. It’s a song to Tonantzin, the Mexican mother goddess. But it was sung by a friend named Sofia the morning after an aya session. I really like it and decided to include it.

Fourth and fifth ikaros are from that same session, sung by Raffaelle Mackay with Fabian and Nico, refer to Songs of Ayahuasca for more info.


The last and perhaps the most original element of the journey are the curandero ads from Radio Tropical, Tarapoto. (on tracks ) In the Peruvian jungle where I’ve spent most time everybody that can afford a small radio receiver has one. Generally it’s on all day. It keeps them company while they work on the chacra. It was out of those radios that I began to hear ads for travelling curanderos, magical remedies, medicinal plants and removal of evil eye and witchcraft. I was completely fascinated by these ads (some as long as infomercials.) One part snake oil salesmen, one part XXIst century shamanism, seven parts crazy reverb and boombastic radio hosting, these ads read to me like the audio embodiment of the worst collective fears of Amazonian folk: the envy of others manifested as witchcraft, bad luck in crops, in business and in health, the loss of love though the calculated actions of others… The themes will be familiar to anyone who has spent time around indigenous and mestizo curanderos in the Amazon, yet I’ve never heard them expressed with such force and destructive paranoia. Scary stuff meant to scare, down to the ghoulish sound effects...

A friend in Madrid once told me “Advertising is the tax that the irrelevant have to pay.” Later a friend in Perú told me “No real curandero would ever buy an ad on the radio.” Indeed, real curanderos, like good chiropractors, don't need advertising. Word of mouth is enough to keep them relevant and fully booked. It is these travelling medicine-show curanderos, who pass by town and leave, and who therefore have no local reputation to bank on (or to protect) that need to fill the radio waves with ads as amazing and disturbing as the one’s you will hear here.


It took Akasha and I a couple of sleepless nights to complete this mix, we hope you have as much fun listening as we had making it

Madrid, Jan 2017

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Songs Of Ayahuasca - A preview

It is with much trepidation (and a long delay, my apologies) that I present a preview of the Songs of Ayahuasca CD that I've been preparing as a reward for our Kickstarter backers.

As you will see the it is a lot more ambitious than a collection of songs, it is designed as a journey through ayahuasca musical traditions, starting with the most ancient, in Ecuador and moving through Colombia, Perú, Brazil and finally the rest of the world.

The CD will be accompanied by ample notes in 2 languages as well as transcriptions and translations of the song lyrics.

What follows is a partial preview of the liner notes of about half of the tracks that will appear the 2 CD compilation.


About Songs of Ayahuasca

When we started with our ayahuasca documentary project in 2002, we had a simple objective: To make a film that documented all the different manifestations of ayahuasca culture(s). It took us a few years to realize how naïve we’d been. It was impossible, traditional ayahuasca cultures were just too too varied to fit into one film.. or even in 10 films.

I am glad we tried, though, in the attempt we got to witness the incredible richness and diversity of ayahuasca cultures which include:

-More than 70 Amazonian indigenous groups that use it (and quickly expanding to indigenous groups that didn’t have a history of previous use)

-Mestizo Vegetalismo and urban curanderismo

-The three main lines of syncretic churches in Brazil (Santo Daime, Barquinha and UDV plus numerous offshoots) some which have now expanded across the world

-Neoshamanic, psychedelic therapists and other alternative groups of every imaginable persuasion.

In the 10 years that we spent going from place to place, naively trying to fit all of the above in one film, it occurred to me that despite the enormous differences from group to group (in everything from the way the brew was prepared to philosophy and ceremony and dietary restrictions) there were a number of common threads throughout:

The first one was that everyone everywhere agreed that drinking ayahuasca was a Good Thing (this might seem obvious, but it’s more important than you think.)

The second common thread was that everywhere we went everyone sang to ayahuasca. These Songs of Ayahuasca, often inspired by Ayahuasca, to be sung for and during Ayahuasca, represent the musical embodiment of the Ayahuasca experience, they direct the experience, modulate it, sustain it, hold it and drive it.

Where there is Ayahuasca, there is song.

About the song selection

This collection represents a selection of some of my most cherished personal recordings after 10 years investigating traditional ayahuasca cultures in Brazil, Perú, Colombia and Ecuador. I organized the tracks it as journey, starting with the manifestations that are most ancient in origin and slowly moving towards the most modern, but always staying within the range of “tradition.”

In the past few years, with ayahuasca’s expansion there’s been an explosion of new Ayahuasca music being generated, some of which uses studio recording and modern instruments and amplification. I enjoy these new styles myself (and I have included some links at the end notes for those interested in finding more) but for this collection I have chosen to stick to tradition, by this I mean raw recordings, most time recorded live during real ayahuasca sessions and without any sort of instruments or amplification (the last 2 songs being the exception).

I’ve also done my best to transcribe and translate the lyrics so you can read the words as you listen and understand better what is being said.

The end notes include additional information, research and links in case you want to investigate further.

I hope you enjoy listening to these Songs if Ayahuasca as much as I‘ve enjoyed putting them together.

Jeronimo M.M. – Ibiza August 2016

1 – Fidel Andi Grefa - healing

Fidel Andi is a Kichwa healer from Tena by Napo River in Ecuador. He comes from a long family tradition of curanderismo and has a very interesting life as a indigenous rights & traditional medicine activist. This healing song was recorded live during an ayahuasca session (you will notice the throwing up in the background)

This is where the journey begins, for it is theorized by some researchers that the origin of ayahuasca use lies in this very geographical area, the Napo river, in Ecuador.

Here’s a quick summary of these theories: In the Pleistocene Age (2 million BC to 10000 BC) there were a series of glaciations that put most of the American continent under a sheet of ice.  During these glaciations there were certain areas called Pleistocene refuges where the ice didn’t reach. In the entire American continent there were only 9 such refuges.  It was vegetation from these areas, veritable centers of biological diversity that re-populated the continent when the ice ages passed. The Amazonian Piedmont of Ecuador and Colombia is recognized as one of the areas with the highest biodiversity in the world.  All of it originated in the Napo Pleistocene Refuge, which includes the Napo River and spans the area between the Aguarico River and the Caquetá River in Colombia.

Most of the plant species in today’s Amazon come from that refuge, including -it is theorized- the ayahuasca vine. Thus the indigenous groups of that area are thought by some academics (G. Zuluaga, G. Highpine) to maintain the oldest, longest, traditions of ayahuasca use, starting with the Napo Runa (which would include Fidel) and then further down to the Siona, Kofan, Kamsá, Koreguage, Ingano and others.  It is in these tribes where ancestral ayahuasca use can be proven.  It is also among these groups that wild vine use is has prevalence over cultivated vines. Some academics (P.Gow, Brabec de Mori) believe that in other tribes ayahuasca use can be as young as a few hundred years old.

Fidel’s style of working is slightly different from what I have seen further downriver in that right after the effects are felt he will begin the individual healings which are fairly long in duration. So on any give night he won’t treat more than 8 people or so, after he's done he will talk in the patient's ear for a while, telling them you what he’s seen and giving advice.


When Fidel did his healing on me after singing the song that you hear here, he said the following on my ear:

“I looked at you and saw you are alright. It’s just that recently you were born again and that’s why you are still a bit weak, like a baby."

"In order to get strong you need to drink tobacco”

“Drink tobacco, how?” I asked

“You take a large tobacco roll and cut a slice, leave it in a glass of water overnight.  In the morning you filter out the tobacco leaves out and drink the water on an empty stomach.”

“But if you leave tobacco in water over night the water gets really really dark” I said

“Precisely” he answered

“But I’ve drunk such tobacco juice before and it made really really sick”

He clicked his tongue

“That’s because you had NO FAITH in it."

"You have to drink tobacco.”

And with that he sent me back to my place.

It took me a few years to realize how right he’d been, but that’s another story for another time.  I’ll just say that nowadays I drink tobacco as he prescribed, and it no longer makes me sick.  I learned to have faith in tobacco.

2 - Humberto Piaguaje - Healing Song

This is a live recording of a healing performed by Siona Taita Humberto Piaguaje.  Humberto is one of the sons of Francisco (Pacho) Piaguaje, one of the best-known shamans of the Putumayo River and founding member of the UMIYAC. The Piaguajes come form a long family of Siona shamans, as well as a long history of interaction with researchers.  The number of people who have passed by the Piaguaje house since the 50s reads like a veritable who is who of Ayahuasca research: Richard E. Schultes, William Burroughs, Andrew Weill, Jean Langdon, Jimmy Weiskopf among others have spent time and written about the Piaguaje family.

In the previous song we spoke about the theory of some academics that the origin of ayahuasca use lies with the Napo Runa, and in general in the Amazonian Piedmont of Ecuador and Colombia. We are now a bit further downriver, in the border between Ecuador and Colombia. As you can hear there are similarities in the song.

Nowadays one can observe in these piedmont ayahuasca cultures mostly a therapeutic use of ayahuasca, usually in collective rituals, led by a healer, that include individual healings, usually at the end of the night. These rituals might actually be late adaptations to colonial forces that pushed shamanism into the corner, only allowing for its therapeutic expression, while repressing the more communal, mythical, and political side.  We don’t know.

This aspect, the healings at the end of the night, are common to the Ecuadorean, Colombian, and Peruvian traditions I’ve seen, what’s different in Humberto’s Siona tradition is that the bulk of the Yage session is run not through song, but through silence.   It is only at the end of the night, after drinking the second cup, that the taita begins to call the participants one by one, to sit in front of him and be healed, with the song that you can hear here.

4 - Emilio - Icaro 

On the first song we spoke about the Pleistocene/Napo theory of ayahuasca dissemination.  There is a second theory, championed by Cambridge anthropologist (and all-around beautiful person) Francoise Barbira-Freedman, who spent a number of years of researching Lamista shamanism and speaks Quechua fluently.  According to Freedman the vector of expansion of ayahuasca throughout the Amazon are a series of migratory waves from Quechua Lamista populations who descended further and further into the lowlands and trading medicinal plants (including cursare and ayahuasca).  Napo o Lamista? The jury is still out, I’ve seen academics argue quite passionately for either option. It is also possible that both things are true at the same time, since we are speaking of two separate river systems and each group could have taken ayahuasca down their own rivers.

In any case, we have arrived to the Lamista area of Perú, in the Alto Río Huallaga area, the area where I’ve done most of my fieldwork. This is high jungle (800m over sea level) the distinctly hilly area, where the Andes meet the Amazon. Because of its height and different soil composition this area of jungle is somewhat cooler but most importantly more bio-diverse than the flat, sandy soils of the low jungle.  This bio-diversity manifests itself in a type of shamanism that have a much richer repertoire of plants than those of the low lands.  Indeed Lamista Vegetalistas such as Emilio, consider ayahuasca just one more plant in a very large plant toolkit, that includes dozens of other purgas, and an equally large number of palos and dieta plants.


Emilio was born in the Alto Huallaga, in a hamlet a couple of hours away from Chazuta (where in the 40s Manuel Cordova Rios went to gather curare for NYC pharmaceutical companies)

Emilio's story is similar to that of many vegetalistas. After number of terrible working accidents he found himself chaining one therapeutic dieta after another, on the seventh dieta, one night the spirit “el genio” of the plants appeared to him in his dreams, and told him:

“It is high time you begin to cure, to soplar (blow tobacco) and pulsar (read people’s pulse)”

“But I don’t know how to do those things” Emilio answered

 “We are about to teach you” Replied the spirit and they sang to him the icaro (song) that I have included here.

“Nothing is as marvelous” Emilio says in the interview “as when one hears a song in dreams and then wakes up in wonder.”

This icaro includes a number of structural features that are common to this cultural area. The icaro lists a number of plants, animals, spirits, and places and one by one calls them to come to the help of the curandero so that he might bring back the soul of the sick person.  We’ll see this structure re-appear in the Peruvian icaros that follow as well.

In the following video he tells the whole story, sings the icaro and explains it line by line

Ikaro transcription & translation by Jaume Sanz Biset

I call (the spirit of the sick person), we (the ones present) call (this lost soul)

Who do I call? I call the muyu wayra (spirit that causes “susto” and has trapped the sick person’s soul)

Muyu wayra, bring back the soul (of the sick person)

We defend (the sick person) (with our) icaro (and the) icarero(s) (genios)

(We call) the icarero (genios) (and) the supay runa (devil-man, another genio)

We call the guacamayos (the spirits of the parrots)

(We are calling the spirits of) the guacamayos (parrots) and the ikarero (genios)

Pinsha (Toucan, its genio) catch (the muyu wayra)

On top of the hill, there they are (Toucan, muyu waira y and the soul of the sick person)

(Now) you play in the aguaje (thorny palm) we call the (lost) soul

Ikaro and ikarero (genios) bring (the muyu wayra), (thus I) call (you with) this song

Who (am I calling)? (I am calling) the muyu waira (the genio who caused this “susto”)

Bring the soul (of the sick person) (with the) icaro (that) we (are) singing

We defend (the sick person) (with the) icarero(s) (genios)

I call (the muyu waira). There you are (muyu waira) playing (with the soul.)

(On) the top of the hill (the muyu waira) plays, there it crashes (with the rock walls)

Who am I (calling)? I call you (muyu waira), (you that) plays in the branches of the Came (Came Renaco tree, used to heal bones)

There I ask (of the sick man’s soul)(that with the muyu waira they move the branches of the Came tree, making a sound like the) trapiche

(Now)(you muyu wayra) play in the Shimbillo (fruit tree)
I call you yacu waira (genio of the Shimbillo) (so that you bring muyu wayra)

(With the) icaro we call (the genios) (with the) icaro

I call the genio of the Yacu Coca.  You Yacu Runa (genio of the yacu coca) black black (I call you)

Yacu supay (genio de la yacu coca) bring back the soul (of the sick person)

I (with my icaro) call you (yacu supay) (so that) you defend (the soul of the sick person)

(with) the icaro of the Bobensana (medicinal plant) I call you yacu warmi (genio of the Bobensana) (so that you bring the muyu wayra)

(with) the ícaro of the Bobensana I call you yacu warmi (genio of the Bobensana) (so that you bring muyu wayra)

(I call you) sirena (genio of the Bobensana). (I call you) yacu warmi

We call with the icaro, we call

We call the muyu wayra (that now) plays (with the soul of the sick person) in a large river beach

There (is also) that bancoruna (genio) (I call him so that he brings the soul of the sick person)

(with the) bancoruna (genio that brings the muyu wayra), I call you (muyu wayra)

I call the bancoruna and the crocodile (its spirit).
I call the yacu supay (water devil)
(I call you) (so that you bing the lost soul)

To the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird) we call, we call

On top of the road (is) the supay runa, we call him (to bring the lost soul)

We call these ones, we call the genios

I call you supay warmi (genio) on top of the path, I call your power

We call to the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird)

We call the genio of the Tibiwaman (bird) so that you bring (the lost soul)

I call the genio of the anguiia (eel fish)

(we) call the anguilla, (and the) yacusupay (genio of the anguilla)

(in) a large lagoon (the muyu wayra) plays, there he plays

We call (to the) muyu wayra genio

We call to them (muyu wayra with the lost soul) we call

(we call their) ícaro, (their) genio

We call the genio of the lobo marino (giant otter), we call it (to bring the muyu wayra)

We call the genio of the giant otter
(so that it brings the muyu wayra and returns the lost soul to the body of the sick person

5 - Jacques Mabit - Icaro de las Tribus (by Maestro Solon Tello)

Jacques Mabit was born in France where he studied medicine, and moved to Tarapoto, a few hours form Chazuta, in the late 80s to work with Doctors Without Borders.  His encounter with traditional doctors and ayahuasca was to change his life forever. In 1992 he founded the Takiwasi center that pioneered the integration of western and Amazonian medicine for the treatment of drug addicts.  He was one of the main characters in The Jungle Prescription.

In the 20+ years that the center has been running a veritable who’s who of ayahuasca shamans have spent periods there, these periods produced rich interchanges of knowledge and song. More 20 years later Mabit’s icaro repertoire contains dozens of songs, from many sources.  The following song is one such example.  This icaro is originally from Maestro Solon Tello (1918-2000) who was one of Iquito’s most respected vegetalistas.  He lived to be 92, and ran ayahuasca sessions on the back of the kitchen of his Iquitos apartment.

6 - Jacques Mabit - Madrecita Ayahuasca (by maestro José Campos)

The story of this song goes like this: in 2007 while doing research for the film in Perú I met a man who was convinced he was possessed by the devil. I won't go into the details, he looked normal enough. I'll just say that when I met him he had been drinking ayahuasca for a few months with no major effects. The first 2 times I drank with him it was uneventful. The third time, however, something happened. During the session what he called his devil "came out" in the open for the first time. It just so happened that I was recording audio that night.

I will save you from that recording, suffice it to say it is some of the most hair-raising shrieking I have ever heard. The entire rom was terrified. When I revisited the recording I could barely listen for more than a few seconds. That night it took the curanderos all their power and more than an hour to get the situation to the point where the shrieks became a whimper.

When there was finally silence, the entire room breathed out a collective sight of relief.

When the room was finally at peace Jacques Mabit sang this ícaro: madrecita ayahuasca.

Mabit told me that the author of the ícaro is maestro José Campos.  This ayahuasca song is almost a battle chant, meant to cast off evil, and claim the space back. Mabit calls to his side the spirits of the most powerful plants, and of everything he holds most sacred. It's almost a declaration of principles, a manifesto, stating where the curandero stands, and under which forces his sessions are run. As you will see it is also full of poetic turns, and inspiring calls.

I will say no more. I think the song speaks for itself.

The video has english subtitles, click on the gear icon to activate

6 - Jacques Mabit - Les Trefons (J. Mabit)

This is one of Mabit’s own icaros and the only icaro in the French Language I have ever heard.  It is absolutely beautiful.  Jacques told me the song, together with its melody came to him in a dream.  Most icaros in Takiwasi have a very specific function, almost like tools.  I’ve heard Jacques say that Les Tréfonds is an icaro for childhood issues & hurts.

8 - Jacques Mabit - Madre Ayahuasca (by Rosa Giove)

Jacques Mabit’s wife Dr. Rosa Giove is co-founder of Takiwasi and has been working side to side with him for more than 2 decades. She is also the author of a number of extraordinary icaros -although she would certainly disagree with the author title, arguing that she never composed the songs, she merely received them, in this aspect she's in agreement with vegetalistas and daimistas, who claim the exact same origin to their songs

Madre Ayahuasca is perhaps the best known of all of Rosa's icaros.  It has transcended Takiwasi and taken a life of its own, I’ve heard it sang many times in many different places, often by people who didn’t know its origin.


Rosa wrote the first time she heard this song being sung to her was during an ayahuasca session.  She says she saw a vision of a young girl flowing out of a bottle.  It was ayahuasca, who started to dance around her, always playfully. The young dancer then became an old woman who kept dancing without losing her grace, then with a twinkle in her eye, she went back to being a young girl.

The girl then took Rosa by the hand and walked her across a great forest, all the way to the sea, then she took Rosa inside the water, in spite of Rosa´s resistance.  To her surprise Rosa found there was nothing to be afraid of, the sea floor was full of fish, coral, and light, on the bottom of the sea was a chest, and inside Rosa knew was a part of her that she had locked up.  Then and there she understood the mischievous look that ayahuasca had given her.

Rosa was then taken out of the water and through a trail lined with flowers, the path lead to a stone tower. Rosa understood that there was a treasure inside the tower, and that one could only access it if they had the key.  Ayahuasca reappeared, dancing around Rosa, and Rosa realized that she'd had that key all along. However, the young girl explained, it is not enough to have the key, one must also find the door and the lock, and even then, one must know how to open it.

Rosa had the key and she realized could see the lock, but there was a strong feeling she shouldn't open that door, someone else must do it.

She realized that “Everyone must find their own role along the path of life, but also their own complement, the other that will make them whole.”

At that moment a song came to her, it started to play in her head. She tried to ignore it, but the icaro wouldn’t let her be, it kept returning, in dreams, in other ayahuasca sessions, until -against her own resistances- she had to sing it.

That’s how Madre Ayahuasca came to be


Madre Ayahuasca, madre …
Mother ayahuasca, mother

Llévame hasta el sol..
Take me up to the sun

De la savia de la tierra hazme beber
Make me drink of the sage of the earth

llévame contigo hacia el sol
take me with you towards sun

del sol interior hacia arriba,
from the inner sun, going up

hacia arriba subiré.
I will go up

Úsame, háblame, enséñame
Use me, talk to me, teach me

enséñame a ver, a ver más allá.
teach me to see, to see beyond

Madre . . .

Enséñame a ver,
teach me how to see

a ver al Hombre dentro del hombre
how to see the Man inside the man

a ver el Sol dentro y fuera del hombre
how to see the sun,
(that shines) inside and outside of man

enséñame a ver …
teach me how to see

Usa mi cuerpo, hazme brillar
Use my body, make me shine

con brillo de estrellas,
with the glow of the stars

con calor de sol,
with the heat of the sun

con luz de luna y fuerza de tierra,
with the light of the moon
and the strength of the earth

con luz de luna y calor de sol
with the light of the moon
and the heat of the sun

hazme brillar
make me shine

Madre Ayahuasca … madre …
Mother ayahuasca… mother

10 - Rosa Giove - Icaro de la "S"

This is one of my favorite icaros from my favorite curandera, Dra. Rosa Giove.  I'll let her explain it in her own words

"During a 2 year period I received a total of 6 icaros. They came to me in different places and times, without any premeditation on my part in terms of content or order.  The songs always came to me unexpectedly and involuntarily, through visions, dreams, or the semi-dream state produced by dietas and ritual work with plant teachers.

This icaro corresponds to the base chakra, related to sexuality and the letter "S" It's represented by a small red snake, a fire snake, that starts its ascension (the awakening of Kundalini?) by crawling slowly towards the abdomen. It's related to the life energy, the body's healing power, and the ascending force of life that moves upward, towards the sun.

I listened to the small plant-woman sing this icaro to me with a soft voice, dragging all the SSSSS, as if emphasizing the snake's crawl. I looked at the other people in the ayahuasca session and saw a red glow in their base.  Suddenly there was a voice is coming out me that I didn't recognize it as mine. It was singing this icaro"

Introdúceme en tu cuerpo
Introduce me in your body

desde allí yo te hablaré.
i’ll talk to you from there

Introdúceme en tu mente,
Introduce me in your mind

desde allí te alumbraré.
i’ll light your way form there

Introdúceme en tu corazón,
Introduce me in your heart

desde allí te daré calor.
i’ll warm you up from there

Oirás mi voz de serpiente
You will hear my snake voice

deslizarse en tu oído.
slide into your ear

Verás mi luz sin verla
you will see my light without seeing it

a través de Los sentidos...
through the senses

y mi calor te seguirá
and my warmth will stay with you

más allá del frío frío
beyond the cold cold

Y seré parte de ti,
And I will be a part of you

tierra lanzada al infinito...
earth flung into the infinite

Mi voz te susurrará
My voice will whisper

cosas que crees no saber.
things you think you don’t know

Dentro de ti vas a encontrar
Inside of you, you will find

la respuesta a tu ser
the answer to your being

Ocho (8), doble círculo fecundo
eight, fertile double circle 

dos serpientes enroscadas,
two coiled snakes

que te hablan sin decir...
that talk to you without speaking

que te dicen sin hablar...
that speak without saying


Soy la energía en ti dormida,
I am the energy asleep within you

despiértame ya.
wake me up already

Quiero ascender, reptar de una vez,
I want to rise, crawl up

Cruzar el cero (O) ya,
cross that zero now

cerrar el círculo aquel,
and close that circle

donde la flor duerme en la cruz...
where the flower sleeps on the cross

Cuando el azul llegue a tu cara
When the blue reaches your face

y la luna a tu cabeza,
and the moon reaches your head

a su encuentro yo iré,
I will come to meet you

serpiente roja, desde la base,
red snake, rising from the base

a fundirme con el sol...
to meet with the sun

Y mi voz te guiará a través del agua
And my voice will guide you across the water

con el color del amor... 
with the color of love

11 - Rosa Giove - Icaro de la "M"

I heard once Jacques Mabit say that rituals are a collection of gestures that are only operative when they are "the outward manifestation of an internal process."  In other words, the same ritual could be a meaningless charade or a transformative experience, full of significance and power.  It all depends on the intention (internal state) of the person performing the ritual.

New patients in Takiwasi, for example, before they join the other patients undergo an entry ritual where among other things, they make a fire, burn something of their past, walk around the fire backwards and then forwards, while inside a circle formed by his future companions, the other patients.

There are many such rituals in Takiwasi, patients plant a tree, make a mask of their negative face and then burn it, or, in this case, literally dig their own grave, and then lay on it, to be buried and reborn.

The common thread among all these rituals, is that they address -or make visible- what in my opinion is an important aspect of the recovery process in addictions:  The reckoning of the patient with his past.  Ayahuasca often brings in the former drug addicts vivid recollections of how much they have hurt themselves and other people, followed by a lot of guilt and shame over things they have done in the past.  All of these rituals, the walking backwards, the planting the tree, address the issue in different ways, as they embody ways to the deal with negative aspects of a person's self and past.

The earth ritual is by far the most powerful.  I think the images speaks for themselves, a symbolic death and rebirth of patient is being enacted. It's tough to watch, one can only imagine what it feels like.  The patients take certain things from themselves and leave them on the earth.  This is symbolized by the 3 coca leaves they throw in the river, and lay under their body to leave behind in their grave.   They are given a tube to breathe and they are covered with soil.  Halfway through their burial a sound is made by hitting a stone, so that the patient knows he's halfway through and he'll soon be coming out.

I've seen 5 patients got through this ritual, with very different reactions, some could barely stand being covered by the earth, others found being underground "extremely peaceful."

About the icaro

This song by Rosa Giove, is part of a series that she has been receiving for some time.  The most popular icaro of the series is "Madre Ayahuasca" which has become something of an anthem.

This icaro of the "M" is part of the same series, but it is not a song to spirits, but to matter, to physical reality, to the body, and to the earth. This is the chakra that follows the sexual one, activated by the icaro of the "S" (see above.)

Here's what Rosa said about this icaro

"The second infra-umbilical chakra corresponds to the letter "M" which I visualize as solid, resting on the earth, concrete, material.  It's a sound that comes from the belly, which is the cradle of our instincts, the origin of fear, life and death"

I have included 3 versions of the song.  The first is sang by Rosa Giove herself, then Jacques Mabit, sings, then Jaime Torres, so you can heard it sang by all three main curanderos in Takiwasi. I also added English subtitles although as usual I fear some of the poetry is lost in the translation.

To activate the English subtitles click on the gear icon next to the timer.

14 - Santo Daime - A Meu Pai Peço Firmeza

This song was recorded in the state of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon. It is one of the opening hymns of a Santo Daime ritual, from the Padrino Sebastiao Hymnbook. For those unfamiliar with the Santo Daime it is a syncretic church that mixes European Catholicism, African spirituality, and the indigenous use of ayahuasca. It was founded by Raimundo Irienu Serra, a descendant of African slaves, who at the beginning of the last century was part of the first wave of immigrants to the jungle -the seringueiros or rubber tappers- who came in contact with the indigenous populations, and with ayahuasca. The result is a most wonderful combination of traditions. Daime rituals, or “works”, revolve around the singing of hymns. These songs of ayahuasca, often "received" under its effects hold and contain within them the "doctrina" the teachings, of the Santo Daime. Part spiritual revelation, part entheogenic inspiration, part Nordestino folk music. They are some of my favorite ayahuasca musics.


This congregation you see in the video is headed by Luiz Mendez, who lived with and met Irineu Serra while he was alive. This recording took place in Fortaleza, their ranch, where approximately five families of Daimistas live together and try to survive off the land.

Their ritual works take place in a wall-less building by the jungle’s edge. They were some of the most intimate, beautiful, and emotional Daime works I have ever attended. To this day they remain one of my fondest memories of Brazil. About 25 people, 10 of them children, sat around a table lighted by candles and sang for hours with almost no instruments, just the voices weaving in and out. It was simply one of the most beautiful collective songs of praise I have ever witnessed.

At the end of the night everyone stood up, held hands in a circle, and sang one last song. Holding my left hand was a child of about 10, holding my right hand was a very old man.

We sang like that, holding hands, feeling the circle of song and life pass through us and it must have been the Daime I drank, but I could barely hold back the tears.

A Meu Pai Peço Firmeza
Padrinho Sebastião

To my Father I ask for firmness

And to stay mindful

I give teachings to the ignorant

And advice to the innocent

I pray to you, My Father

to stay by my side

To gimme strength, and gimme love

So that I do this work

I pray to you, My Father

I'm at your feet

Praying for the people

to be worthy

Oh! My Virgin Mother

Oh! Virgin Protectress

You are Queen of the Sea

You are My Teacher

Oh! My blessed Father

Oh! My people of Juramidam

Call them one by one

to receive your forgiveness

If everyone knew

the power that my Father has

They would leave behind

their inconvenient illusions

The world is in balance

And all will swing

But at the feet of my Father

all must bow

16 - A Barquinha - Culto Santo & 17 - A Barquinha  - Sao Sebastiao

These songs were recorded in one of the 3 Barquinha churches in Rio Branco. These churches were founded by Daniel Pereira Matos, one of Irineu Serras disciples. A Barquinha shares with the Daime many of its hymns and culture, but integrates more rituals of African/Umbanda origin. Daniel had a vision that his congregation was sailing towards God on a boat, so he called his church A Barquinha (the little boat) To this day its members, many of whom have never seen the sea, dress in homemade sailor uniforms to drink ayahuasca, pray, sing and dance.


The dance you can see in this video was the conclusion of many hours of singing in the temple. I'm not much of the dancing type, but to my surprise after a while I found myself joining the dance.  While I was lost I the middle of the reverie I came to two no less surprising insights:

The first insight was that far from being a superstitious error, the act of devotion to the divine was somehow intrinsic to human beings. I let go of my postmodern skepticism, and had to admit that what I was witnessing: the praying, the singing, the dancing, seemed not deluded, or superstitious, but actually very natural: The expression of something that was very much not only integral dimension of the human experience, but also an important part of being alive.

The second insight -and this was quite a surprise- was that I realized in a flash that one day I would have children.

Both realizations were completely in contradiction with what I had been thinking and believing about religion, and about parenthood, up to that point. I was very surprised to find myself thinking these thoughts.

They marked a first step of what has been a long road for me. More than a decade I am the father of two girls, and I have a very different attitude towards spirituality... But at the time I didn’t know any of this would happen, I did feel I should give thanks, and dance, and that is what I did (as you can see in the video .-)

Recorded at Antonio Geraldo da Silva Filho´s church. Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil.

Begins with Salmo de Abertura e Fechamento do Trabalho, o 'Culto Santo. Followed by a hino-ponto de Abertura dos trabalhos do Parque (bailado) e, last a hino-ponto para São Sebastião.

18 - Raffaele Mackay & Fabian - Morning Improv

These two last songs are the only ones that stand outside of any indigenous/mestizo/syncretic traditions, but they are *so* beautiful I had to include them. We recorded them on the twilight of an ayahuasca session in Nabi Nuhue, Colombia, as the sun was coming up the Pasto mountains at the very entrance of the legendary Sibundoy Valley.

Rafaelle Mckay is an old friend, extraordinary vocalist, composer and voice coach from Montreal, she was accompanied by Fabian, Kahuyali Tsamani's apprentice, on the harmonica

19 - Raffaele Mackay & Nicolas Jolliet - Morning Improv 2

Here's another morning improv from the same day

Rafaelle Mackay on voice accompanied by musician, filmmaker, drone hacker, VR guru and all around cool guy Nicolas Jolliet

Next up: We'll begin to post selections from The Ayahuasca Conversations Book!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Joining the ICEERS Foundation and coming out in public

ENGLISH TEXT - (texto en español abajo)

It is with great joy that I announce that I have been asked to join ICEERS's board of directors as secretary. I am honored to be part of such an incredible group of people.

ICEERS is a charitable non-profit organization founded in 2009 by Benjamin De Loenen in the Netherlands and is dedicated to:

  • The integration of ayahuasca, iboga and other traditional plants as therapeutic tools in modern society
  • The preservation of the indigenous cultures that have been using these plant species since antiquity on, their habitat and botanical resources.
  • ICEERS is dedicated to marshall the forces of the ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous peoples and modern therapeutic practice, responding to the urgent need for efficient tools for personal and social development. you can see I am feeling right at home! ;-)

ICEERS has promoted a number of important projects, from organizing conferences and training programs on Iboga, to keeping a close eye on the latest movements of the international drug authorities to ban ethnobotanicals.

It was on ICEERS’ request that the International Narcotics Control Board confirmed by letter that DMT containing plants such as the ones used in ayahuasca are not themselves under international control. In other words, until individual countries take steps to make ayahuasca containing plants illegal (like France did) they are not technically illegal, anywhere. That letter in itself has helped to keep a number of people out of jail in a number of countries like Spain and Chile.  (We must add that in some countries, like the US, taking those legal plants and cooking them together to make aya is in itself ilegal)

ICEERS is also currently running a program to test the purity of iboga extracts, so people know what they are using and more insight is gained into the quality, purity and possible contaminants of the available materials on the market.

They also helped fund the publication of Jose Carlos Bouso´s seminal study on long-term ayahuasca
use for the scientific journal PLOS, a respected online journal, making these important findings available for the scientific community as well as the general public. This is the largest study to date on the effects of long term ayahuasca use.

And there is a lot more coming... We all know how much misinformation and misunderstandings about ayahuasca and iboga is out there. The idea behind ICEERS has always been to make the best objective science-based information about these plants and their legitimate uses widely available. We have prepared a number of guides for first time consumers of ayahuasca and iboga, as well as guides for those interested in travelling to the Amazon and Gabon. But we are also working on a more ambitious project, an online help center where people with questions and concerns can consult one-on-one with experts on these matters. Going beyond the users, we are preparing a body of documents and guides for ayahuasca providers, from best practices to a set of minimum safety standards. The purpose is generate a series of guidelines to minimize risks and maximize benefits, to help draft a set of safety and ethics standards (like the plantaforma´s) that can help ayahuasca and iboga providers self regulate, in order to avoid situations like the one that took place in Chimbre.

So, like I said, I couldn't be happier to join an organization whose aims are so closely aligned with my own. On a personal note, I have always felt an affinity with Benjamin, who started as a documentary filmmaker, and ended up has an activist and advocate for the very plants he was filming. Benjamin made a documentary about Iboga (trailer here) in 2004, which became an international reference on this matter. What started as a personal interest as a filmmaker became much more, and began to demand from him a different type of commitment. It is a story that has many parallels with my own.

I think at this point I should confess that when I began began making a documentary about ethnobotanicals with Mark Ellam, my main motivation wasn't so much making a film, as it was getting closer to a topic that greatly interested me. The film gave me an excuse to travel, to contact perfect strangers whose work I admired and to ask them questions, what a great idea! More than 13 years later, and on my 4th documentary the results have been tremendously rewarding. But I have been feeling for some time that making films is not enough. It is as if the plants are demanding a bigger commitment, they have been so instrumental in my development that it is time to give back to them in a more meaningful way. It is time to move from generating information into more direct forms of action.

This has been manifested in my work the Asociación Eleusis, the Plantaforma, The Platform for the defense of Ayahuasca and now the ICEERS Foundation. It has been a gradual process of coming out in public. For many years I kept all my work with ethnobotanicals hidden under a slight pseudonym. For all documentary and ayahuasca publications I was Jeronimo M.M. For the rest of my other work, I went by my real name. It was a clean split. I had 2 email addresses, 2 facebook accounts, 2 lives.

I think it is a good time to put an end to that, and come out of the closet.

For the past 8 years my avatar, as Jeronimo M.M. has turned its back to the public gaze 

I think it is time to face the world

See you arround! .-)

PD if you want to know more about ICEERS´ activities please join our mailing list


Me da mucha alegría anunciar que he sido invitado a formar parte de la junta directiva de ICEERS como secretario.  Es un honor para mi unirme a un grupo de gente tan estupenda.

ICEERS es una organización sin ánimo de lucro fundada por Benjamin De Loenen en el 2009 dedicada a:
  • La integración de la ayahuasca, la iboga y otras plantas tradicionales como herramientas terapéuticas en la sociedad occidental
  • La preservación de las culturas indígenas que han utilizado estas especies botánicas desde la antigüedad, su hábitat y recursos botánicos.
  • Integrar el conocimiento etnobotánico de los pueblos indígenas en la terapia occidental actual, en respuesta a la necesidad urgente de herramientas eficientes para el desarrollo personal y social.

...como podéis ver me encuentro como en casa! ;-)

Desde su fundación ICEERS ha promovido toda una serie de importantes proyectos, desde la organización de conferencias y programas de capacitación, hasta el seguimiento de las actividades de las distintas autoridades internacionales de control de drogas con respecto a las plantas tradicionales.

Fue bajo petición de ICEERS que el International Narcotics Control Board confirmó por carta que las plantas que contienen DMT, como las que se usan en la ayahuasca, no están por si mismas bajo fiscalización internacional.  En otras palabras, hasta que los países tomen de forma individual las medidas oportunas para fiscalizar estas plantas (como ya ha hecho Francia) estas plantas no son tecnicamente ilegales, en ningún lugar.  Esa carta por si sola ha sido suficiente para evitar el encarcelamiento de varias personas en España y Chile.  (Una nota de caución: En algunos países, como EEUU, aunque las plantas son legales, cocinarlas para obtener ayahuasca es ilegal)

ICEERS también está llevando a cabo un programa para analizar la pureza de los extractos de iboga, para los facilitadores que trabajan con ella, y se gane un mayor conocimiento de la calidad, pureza y posibles contaminates de los materiales disponibles en el mercado.

ICEERS también contribuyó a financiar la publicación del importante estudio de José Carlos Bouso sobre los efectos del uso prolongado de ayahuasca, en PLOS online, una muy respetada revista cientifica.  Dando a conocer estos importantes hallazgos a la comunidad cientifica y el público en general del mayor estudio jamás realizado sobre los efectos del uso prolongado de la ayahuasca.

Y hay mucho más en camino... todos sabemos cuántos  malentendidos y desinformación hay alrededor de la ayahuasca y el iboga.  La idea detrás de ICEERS siempre ha sido hacer pública la mejor selección de información objetiva y científica de calidad que hay sobre estas plantas y sus usos legítimos.  ICEERS ha preparado una serie de guías para aquellos que vayan por primera vez a tomar ayahuasca e iboga, así como guías para aquellos interesados en viajar al Amazonas, o a Gabón, en busca de estas plantas. Pero también estamos trabajando en un proyecto mucho más ambicioso.  Un centro de ayuda online donde personas podrán llevar sus preguntas y dudas y consultarlas individualmente con expertos en estos asuntos.  Más allá de los consumidores estamos preparando un grupo de documentos y guias para proveedores de ayahuasca, incluyendo un documento de mejores practicas y uno de standards de seguridad mínimos.  El objetivo es generar una serie de consejos para maximizar beneficios y minimizar los riesgos de la ayahuasca, así como para contribuir a la redacción de códigos éticos y de seguridad (como el de la Plantaforma) que pueden ayudar a la auto-regulación de los proveedores de ayahuasca, para evitar situaciones como la de Chimbre.

En fin, que estoy feliz de formar parte de una organización cuyos objetivos son tan cercanos a los míos propios.  Personalmente hablando, siempre he sentido cierta afinidad con Benjamin, el fundador de ICEERS, que empezó como realizador de documentales para acabar en el activismo y abogacía de aquellas plantas que había estado filmado.  En el 2004 Benjamin hizo un documental sobre la Iboga (aquí el trailer) que se convirtió en una referencia internacional sobre el tema.  Lo que había empezado como un interés personal como cineasta pronto se convirtió en algo más grande, que pedía de él otro tipo de compromiso.  Es una historia que tiene muchos paralelos con la mía.

Creo que es hora de confesar que cuando empecé a grabar junto a Mark Ellam un documental sobre los enteógenos mi principal motivación no era hacer una película, sino acercarme a un tema que me interesaba mucho.  El documental me dio excusa para viajar por el mundo, y contactar a gente cuyo trabajo admiraba para hacerles preguntas, fue una idea estupenda.  Más de trece años después, y trabajando en mi 4 documental, puedo decir que los resultados han sido de lo más gratificantes.  Pero desde hace algún tiempo vengo sintiendo que no basta con hacer películas.  Es como si se me estuviera pidiendo un compromiso mayor, estas plantas y prácticas han sido tan claves en mi vida que es la hora de devolver de una forma más activa.  Es la hora de pasar de generar información hasta otras formas de acción más directas.

Creo que este impulso de ha ido manifestando en el trabajo que he venido haciendo como parte de la Asociación Eleusis, de la Plantaforma (La Plataforma para la Defensa de la Ayahuasca) y ahora en ICEERS.  Ha sido un proceso gradual de salida del armario en público.  Durante todos estos años he mantenido todo el trabajo relacionado con enteogenos oculto bajo un pequeño pseudonimo.  Para todo mi trabajo con el documental y articulos sobre ayahuasca era Jeronimo M.M. (o Jerónimo M. Muñoz).  Para el resto de mi trabajo usaba mi verdadero nombre.  Era una división total, tenía dos direcciones de correo, dos cuentas de facebook, dos blogs, dos vidas.

Creo que hoy es un buen día para acabar con ello y salir a la luz.

Durante los últimos 8 años mi avatar como Jerónimo M.M. le daba la espalda al público 

Creo que ya es hora de dar la cara.

Nos vemos por el mundo! .-)

PD Si queréis saber más de las actividades de ICEERS podéis suscribiros a nuestra lista de correos