Plant Spirit Medicine traditions have existed for thousands of years, working with Ayahuasca, Peyote,  Psilocybin Mushrooms, Iboga, Cannabis and other psychedelic plants in a ceremonial setting. Each of these traditions has its own songs and music that collectively might be described as Medicine Music.

More recently Indigenous musicians have begun to make albums of their songs and perform at festivals, and Western musicians have begun to take part in medicine ceremonies, subsequently reinterpreting the music of the sacred medicine traditions, as well as writing and recording their own songs.

All of these elements together make up the new genre of Medicine Music.

Medicine songs from different traditions share the common themes of Self-Healing and Reconnection with Mother Nature.

Medicine songs allow us to reconnect to the Spirit of Nature that is our own true nature.
The separation from this spirit of nature is the agony of the human condition.
Medicine songs teach us to become receptive to the messages that are reconnecting us with the natural and astral realms.

Medicine songs heal, like all good medicine. They heal that part of ourselves which is waiting for the touch of the highest source, the touch of affirmation that we are unified with that source.

Medicine songs clear the way. They open the path, open the heart, cleanse the mind and align our intentions with the highest good for ourselves and all beings.

Medicine songs remove the veil, they help us to see and they help us to feel. They do this through the medium of music, because the act of listening is the purest channel that guides us to that part of ourselves which is always ready to receive wisdom and comfort.

Medicine songs are the keys that allow us to unlock whatever it is within ourselves that is waiting to be unlocked. They formulate our highest potential as human beings and they express that awareness through songs that guide us step by step on the path of self-realisation.

Medicine songs are an expression of the highest potential for human beings to guide our own steps towards wholeness and unity with nature and with supreme consciousness –  the foundation of all life which is often obscured in plain view.

Medicine Songs have a tribal frequency. They are a call to come together.

They teach us how to gather, how to sit together in stillness, how sing together, how to consecrate space, how to pray, how to be receptive to the healing guidances that call to awake us to our higher destiny. The medicine songs teach us how to love ourselves and each other unconditionally. They show us how to navigate both the shadows and the light that are alive within us. How to transform pain into light. How to be the Medicine.

As Gandhi said, “Be the change in the world you wish to see”. Medicine songs are encouraging us to manifest true change in ourselves so that we in effect become the medicine that the world needs to heal.

“We are a mirror of the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi was guiding us to do the inner work that we often shy away from; the inner change beyond simply wishing or visualising. The real change comes when we go within and do the work of inner transformation. To examine ourselves openly, honestly, vulnerably and to purge out any resemblance of selfishness, or insecurity.

It is exactly these deep transformational healing processes that the plant spirit medicines and the medicine songs are encouraging us to engage with.

Medicine Songs are intended to be sung around the fire, or around a sacred altar of candles, incense, feathers and flowers. That is the way these songs have been sung for countless generations.

However, in the contemporary paradigm we are living, the songs will also be heard at music festivals, on car radios, in TV documentaries and films and on social media. The important messages they contain can start to be disseminated in broader ways, and this spread in popularity of the Medicine Music genre can only be a good thing as the messages are shared in response to the deep call for ancestral wisdom and healing at this time of crisis and transformation on our planet.

What started the Medicine Music Movement and when did it start?

The genre of Medicine Music has the most ancient lineage and also reaches into the heart of contemporary society.

Medicine Music refers to music associated with plant spirit healing rituals and ceremonies, in which a substance from Mother nature, external to the body, is ingested, and this opens up an inner dialogue between the inherent wisdoms of these teacher plants, and the individuals that are consuming them. Medicine traditions of indigenous cultures that cultivate a teacher/student relationship with plants such as Ayahuasca, Peyote and other psychoactive elements of Mother Nature have existed since the dawn of humanity and there is a long history of indigenous communities from the forests, deserts and mountains of all continents engaging with shamanic, sacred, devotional, healing practices in which the spirit wisdom of psychoactive plants is channeled in the form of songs.

More recently, a new growth of awareness of these traditions and practices has taken place, and many individuals from Western culture have begun to have their own revelatory healing experiences in the ceremonial setting, and these experiences have begun to be expressed in new songs and music. This new wave of music has coincided with much of this music being recorded and distributed globally for the first time, and some of these new songs and albums have millions of listens on the mainstream online streaming platforms.

Considered as a contemporary phenomena, the Medicine Music Movement could be said to have started when these songs left the forest and began their journey around the world, through gatherings, retreats, festivals, and through the global internet audience. What is needed now is for Medicine Music to be recognised as an authentic musical genre, so that both the traditional musical forms and the new manifestations of it can be effectively marketed, promoted and shared, and these urgent messages of healing can receive the widest audience.

What makes a Medicine Musician?

The emergence of the Medicine Music movement has happened at a time when both indigenous musicians and Western musicians have been recording and sharing their medicine songs, so it is a very diverse array of individuals and groups that are making this music today.

One feature of this genre is that very often the songs are considered to have been received or channeled directly from spirit, often during plant medicine ceremonies.
The lyrics of the songs do not express the personal feelings or experiences of the author, rather that person is functioning as a kind of channel or antennae to transmit the healing message or guidance contained in the song.

It’s difficult to say too much about where these teachings and messages come from, whether it be astral realms, spirits of nature, divine beings or the collective unconscious, because each person is entitled to their own understanding, but they represent a kind of healing message that arrives on the energetic current of the medicine ceremony.

Some of the songs have ancestral roots and others are part of an ongoing wave of new music being born in medicine communities around the world.

In my own case, I was already a trained classical composer working for many years writing music for dance and theatre productions when I was introduced into the world of medicine music. I found the music very simple and charming but also with a compelling power, and with the ability to speak very intimately to my closed heart, and to touch me as well as inspire and uplift me.

I find the Medicine music is very emotionally intelligent. It knows that most of the healing we need lies in the heart, and it knows how to stir the heart, how to encourage it to open for healing, and how to unify the hearts of the listeners in ways that emphasise the tribal or communal nature of the experience whilst still giving precise directions and insights for each individual’s own healing path.

From early on in my experience with these traditions I experienced an intuitive trust in the songs that seem to speak to us from the wisdom of the forest as well as from the highest spiritual insights and cosmic perceptions.

I first encountered the Ayahuasca and the hinários (medicine hymn books) in 1995. Soon after that I moved to Brazil and became very deeply immersed in the study of this music. Before long I was hearing fragments of new songs inside my head during ceremonies, and gradually these crystallised into the first songs of my medicine songbook. Over the past 25 years I have received now over 160 songs. Simple songs in rhyming couplets with simple guitar chord progressions and simple rhythms. Not the kind of music I ever would before have thought to play or compose. The lyrics come sometimes in English, sometimes in Brazilian Portuguese, sometimes incorporating Buddhist chants and Indian mantras.

I don’t think my own experience of being a medicine musician is typical, but each person on this path has their own way of relating to their own transformational growth through the healing power of medicine music.

How did you find this path?

Which lineages did you learn from?

What is your message in the world through music?

What have you got coming up?

I lived eight years in Kyoto, Japan, immersed in Buddhist meditation and studying the Zen shakuhachi flute. Later I lived several years in Brazil where I became deeply engaged with the sacred music rituals of the Amazon Forest and medicine plant traditions. Arising from my spiritual and musical journey of the past thirty years I have released 10 albums of shakuhachi music and received a collection of more than 160 original medicine songs and chants.

When I first came across the sound of the Zen shakuhachi flute back in the 1980s in London, I felt an instant affinity with the instrument. Back then there were very limited opportunities for learning this instrument outside of Japan, so I somehow organised myself to go to live there, not knowing any Japanese people or speaking a word of the language, and not knowing how long I might be able to stay. I was fortunate to find myself in Kyoto, the ancient capital, where I became absorbed in shakuhachi studies with a great teacher – the legendary Master Yokoyama Katsuya, and I ended up staying there for eight magical years.

Playing the shakuhachi is very much a solitary activity. Long hours of sitting quietly playing long notes over and again, going deeper into the sound of the bamboo, and to what lies beyond the sound … the Ma – the great silence from which all sounds rise and fall.

While living in Kyoto immersed in this contemplative practice, I met one day some Brazilian musicians and singers that came from a spiritual community deep within the Amazon Rainforest. They invited me to take part in the plant spirit ceremonies they had come to host in Japan, and this encounter opened up a new musical dimension for me – the simple and sacred music of healing forest rituals with teacher plants.

I decided to leave Japan and go to live in Brazil, where I entered onto a personal path of healing, taking part in forest rituals where music and song plays a central role.

Over the past 25 years since then, I have developed deep connections with many communities in Brazil, I have taken part in many ceremonies, and I have myself been initiated into the role of a medicine musician, as I started to ‘receive’ medicine songs in communion with the teacher plants, and I began to understand how to open myself as a channel for this healing wisdom to manifest in the form of songs to be sung in ceremony  for the purposes of individual and collective healing.

I completed my first set of 108 medicine songs in 2009, Song Of The Eternal Heart, and my second song collection, Lotus Rising, currently contains 67 songs.  I am now engaged in a project with Nixi Music label to record and release a series of albums of my medicine songs, collaborating with many musicians and singers around the world, including Deva Premal. Ayla Schafer, Chandra Lacombe, Lua Maria, Txai Fernando and others.

The first album from this series, One Thousand Petals, will be released in Autumn 2023.

My life in music with all its contrasting musical forms, has been an ongoing, unfolding journey of discovery and healing in which music is the guiding light, music is the flow, and music is the beating heart and soul. Alongside this musical journey, there has always been a spiritual quest – aside from concerts and recording studios I have always had an interest in the world of meditation, sacred ritual, devotional practice, and healing modalities.

I believe that music can help bring us to a place where we can realign and reconnect with the deeper rhythms of nature and the cosmos, and with deeper understandings about the interdependent nature of all things in the visible and invisible universe, as well as our healthy role living here on this sacred planet Earth.

The message of my music has evolved as my own learning and my own healing journey has evolved. In a general sense you could say it’s a message for our times. What seems to be needed is an opening of the heart, an awareness of the subtle vibrations of the heart, and of the simple wisdom that lies deep within. From this place comes a sound that heals, that brings peace and tranquility, that purifies and uplifts … it is a Zen heart medicine Music, and that is what I have to offer.