Yagé* (/jɑːˈheɪ/ or /jæˈheɪ/) has always been part of a deeper, darker and still foreign culture within my very own Colombian one. And although I had always heard of it, I knew such plant was nothing you just did or chose to do – the medicine always called you and not the other way around.
Living in Europe, especially in a Northern country like The Netherlands (where reason is king and everyone walks around thinking as Kant and acting as Spinoza) ain’t an easy task for a passionate being like me. In a place increasingly dominated by ratio, it is not surprising that I had lost connection with some sort of essence, with nature, with a kind of spiritual awareness and that people all around me were all binging on yoga, mushrooms and meditation.
A shitty 2015 made me book a flight and go back to my roots as the need to connect with myself, with who I was as a person and as an artist was stronger than ever. Indeed, the plant was calling me and before I knew it, I was chucking my battered bag in the back of a bus, going alone on a trip to a shaman a few hours away from civilization –– it was a trip to the first day of the rest of my life.
As the miles under my wheels increased, time was suddenly measured more by thoughts rather than minutes. I knew that things could go terribly wrong, but the mere fear of not knowing what was about to happen avowed the step that I was about to take.
Once I got off the bus, I ventured into the forest. It was pitch black, but the moonlight seemed to give me enough light to spot a vast unknown something – something that seemed to suggest I was cradled in the palm of some mysterious, immense spiritual wonder. The lush, humid, yet cold air was so dense it felt as if it were combing through my thick red hair. Under the guise of nightfall, the vast cold forest of the Colombian altiplano seemed untouched by the prying eyes of tourists. And at that moment I swear I was in an undiscovered ocean of foliage, of lights and colours that was neither East nor West –– a gem.
I sat, I meditated, I was present. I received a cup of the muddy, bordeaux-looking liquid and settled back into my spot. The taita (shaman) and his children and helpers all started playing traditional stringed and wind instruments – marimbas, tamboras, caracoles, flautas – while chanting amazonian melodies...
I was present...
I was expecting that some sort of spiritual door would open to personal insights through optic hallucinations, yet it wasn't as if I was gone tripping like I had read somewhere. Again, I sat, I meditated, I was present. I was scared pandora's box would appear and pop open. I think it did, in a sense, but I was okay with what I was going through. Eventually, I felt a sense of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. I breathed a certain air that cleansed so much than my air passages.
The marimbas, tamboras and flutes kept playing and at some point I felt the light – an auditory personal delirium (bear with me, it was that intense). I found a place in sounds and rhythms that I could finally call home. A place in imagery and writing where I could put the love that was once rejected by some. From that point on, I was determined to reuse that love and put it somewhere else, in a place touched by nature.
Right, hold on. Before I continure, a disclaimer: The trip is intense. There's an incredible level of puking and shitting. Specially during the first hours, it is physically gruelling. The experience will most probably challenge and frighten your psyche in addition to all that vomit and diarrhoea. Yet it all comes down to preparation and the right setting: you need to have this experience with a trustworthy shaman and hopefully in nature and not in a yoga centre in Brooklyn, on a mat and with a take-out-style container for vomiting. You also need to be able to let go, to loose control. And last but certainly not least, you must feel comfortable with your shames in front of others - we're all humans and are here on our very own personal trip, that's the most important thing, the rest doesn't matter.
So, there I was, looking like a Norwegian viking, speaking flawless Colombian Spanish and feeling as though every single chord, chant and cadence that was made at that point during the ceremony was exactly who made me as a person. I didn’t need a passport or a credential or a curriculum vitae to validate who I was. I belonged to music and to it all. I was a collection of songs and pictures and texts and that sufficed!
Morning light fell upon me and from then on I felt as if a lens had been dropped over my vision. As William S. Burroughs wrote to Allen Ginsberg in the Yagé Letters: "...it felt as if it was giving me a heightened feeling of serene wisdom so that I was quite content to sit there indefinitely.”
From that moment on, I understood that it was through music, through imagery and through writing that I was able to explore and share my very own "sense of identity". The sounds that I heard back then during that ceremony became, as it were, the backbone my very own sound. You can listen to my exploration of sound and identity here:
*Yagé (/jɑːˈheɪ/ or /jæˈheɪ/) also commonly called Ayahuasca (UK /ˌaɪjəˈwæskə/; US /ˌaɪjəˈwɑːskə/), is an entheogenic brew used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the Indigenous peoples of the Amazone, many of whom say that they received the instructions in its use directly from the plants and plant spirits themselves.