Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie
The performance of magical songs for healing or sorcery is a common practice among the Shipibo-Konibo, an indigenous group dwelling on the shores of the Ucayali River in the Peruvian lowlands. Such songs are different from other genres of vocal music in the same community in a variety of ways (e.g. they may be performed in closed rituals, under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs; they are usually much longer than other genres, and can only be performed by trained specialists), especially in the quality of the voice. Performers of magical singing are thought to wield a powerful voice (boman) which is obtained through arduous training called ‘dieting’ (samá) and is responsible for the songs’ effects and efficiency. Even during daily life, these specialists (yobé or meráya) have to be careful e.g. not to get angry lest they would unleash their voice’s power in uncontrolled ways. In rituals for curing or sorcery they apply techniques for additionally charging their voice with power. They undergo transformation into non-human entities or use their contacts to such entities in order to sing more efficiently during ritual. In this lecture, I will present background information, recorded examples and approaches how to theorize and explain this phenomenon.