Icaros, the sacred songs of the Amazonian shamans, are traditionally sung either unaccompanied or with the rhythmic shaking of the shacapa, the leaf-bundle rattle. Recently, however, there has been some experimentation with additional instrumentation. Don Agustin Rivas Vasquez, for example, sings his icaros using a variety of drums, pan pipes, maracas, a harmonica, and a stringed instrument of his own devising, as well as a variety of singing styles, some sounding very much like Peruvian popular music. For example:
Flautist Tito La Rosa has backed the singing of Shipibo shamans Amelia Panduro, her son Milke Sinuiri, and Jose Campos with traditional Peruvian instruments — bone flutes, pan pipes, conch shells, rattles, and whistling vessels — as well as contemporary percussion, violin, charango, and keyboard. Here is La Rosa’s version of Milke Sinuiri’s Madre Ayahuasca:
Similarly, musician Alonso Del Rio served as an apprentice to don Benito Arevalo, a renowned Shipibo shaman, for three years, and now sings his own icaros accompanied by his guitar — and sometimes traditional Peruvian wind and string instruments — in a style sometimes close to folk music. The following is Del Rio’s La Casa de Mis Abuelos:
By the way, CDs by Tito La Rosa and Alonso Del Rio are available for sale here.
Most elaborately, Dada World Data — consisting of Jim Sanders, Andre Clement, and Dustin Leader — has set the icaros of Ashaninka shaman don Juan Flores Salazar to jazz-inflected electronica, using guitar, drums, bass, and keyboard, as part of a live multimedia performance they call Maestro Ayahuasquero, and as part of a series of films they are producing about don Juan, ayahuasca, and plant medicine. A good example of the resulting sound — an icaro by don Juan called Mapacho — can be found here:
For purposes of comparison, here is a video of don Juan singing an ayahuasca icaro without any accompaniment:
And here is a video of the same icaro with the full multimedia treatment:
Some of these adaptations are, it seems to me, more successful than others. I am curious about what people think.