HIGH NOTES: 7 Songs That Will Connect You to the Spirit of Ayahuasca
British-Portuguese musician Nessi Gomes had an artistic awakening after living in Central America; could her work contain thinly veiled references to ayahuasca?
According to traditional belief, ayahuasca is not just a powerful psychogenic substance – it’s a spirit. When you ingest the Amazonian plant, “Mother Ayahuasca” scans your body and soul for places that need healing. And after the ceremony, she lingers in you, guiding you to implement her lessons in your life.
After I developed an illness that prevented me from drinking ayahuasca, my therapist told me, “This is your ceremony. You can contact ayahuasca whenever you want.” She suggested I play music that made me think of ayahuasca while calling on the spirit, and I thought back to the songs played by Maria Johanna during ceremonies at her house in the Netherlands. I began searching for them on Youtube; the site’s recommendations led me down a rabbit hole of ayahuasca-reminiscent songs. Before I knew it, I had a playlist that altered my state of mind, almost as if I were actually on ayahuasca.
Sometimes, when I play these songs, I’m transported back to those ceremonies and the lessons I learned. And I remember that I’m still learning them every day. This is my ceremony. And this is its soundtrack.
“Machi” by Peia
This is an ode to the machi, a shaman in Chile and Argentina’s Mapuche culture, and everything she represents. Peia’s soaring voice transports the listener to a higher plane of existence, so they can absorb the shaman’s healing power wherever they are.
“Mother I Feel You” by Windsong Dianne Martin
Ayahuasca connects us to the earth and reminds us we’re part of nature, and this song describes that connection. It could, in fact, be addressed to mother ayahuasca herself. We can always feel her under our feet.
“Pacha Mama” by Nessi Gomes
Pachamama is mother earth to the Andes’ indigenous people, and this gorgeous ode to her could also be an ode to ayahuasca. The lyrics translate to: “In the sky and on the earth / The little moon and the stars / I feel the fire inside / I feel the fire here and I find you / Pachamama in this fire.”
“Medicine” by Rising Appalachia
This incredibly catchy song is about the power of plants and shamans to heal us — and our power to heal ourselves. Ayahuasca is often called “the medicine,” and this song’s lyrics reflect what ayahuasca teaches us: “Wise men say that rushing is violence / And so is your silence / When its rooted in compliance / To stand firm in loving defiance / Make art your alliance / Give voice to the fire.”
“Wonderful Life” by Katie Melua
This song’s sound may not mimic traditional Amazonian chants, but its lyrics encapsulate ayahuasca’s message. Ayahuasca reminds us of the wonderful life we’ve been given — and makes us painfully aware of how our minds make it seem less than wonderful. Though the song was originally released by Black in 1987, Katie Melua’s voice captures its sad yet celebratory mood. I’d cry each time I heard it at Maria Johanna’s ceremonies, thinking of all the ways I “run and hide” from what would be a “wonderful life” if I would only live in it.
“Wise in Her Ways” by Luna Deva & Tombaba
Ayahuasca is considered a feminine spirit, and this song (which I also first heard at Maria Johanna’s), celebrates and empowers the feminine within all of us, reminding us to sing, dance, and “speak the truth” of who we are. I’ll never forget the ceremony where all the women got up and danced to this song, and then a man entered the circle and said, “I want to be a woman now.” Ayahuasca affirms the woman in all of us.
“How Could Anyone?” by Shaina Noll
I have to credit Maria Johanna for finding this one as well — and for approaching me during one ceremony and saying, “This song’s for you.” The lyrics — “how could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? / How could anyone ever tell you you were less than whole? / How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle? / How deeply you’re connected to my soul” — encapsulate the theme of many of my (and, I’d venture to say, others’) ceremonies. Who can’t relate to those words? Ayahuasca shows us all that we are no less than beautiful or whole. And many of us keep returning to ayahuasca, in and outside ceremony, to live life as our true, whole, beautiful selves, to experience the miracle of our love.