Music of the Warao of Venezuela: Song People of the Rain Forest


Cultural tragedy often accompanies the death of biological species in the South American rain forests. As fragile as the ecosystem is, however, the culture of the Warao Native Americans (inhabitants of the lower Orinoco River delta in Venezuela) continues to thrive. In this lively blend of musicology, anthropology, and environmental awareness, Dale Olsen shows that music holds together much of their existence. For the Warao, who live in a rain forest habitat that remains relatively undisturbed by outside influences, nearly all aspects of life include music; it offers diversion, stability, protection, and power. Olsen divides their musical genres into three categories: music for pleasure, such as dancing; music for utility, including lullabies; and music for theurgy - the largest group, which includes all songs pertaining to cosmology or calling upon supernatural forces. These may include shamanistic songs for curing illnesses or for causing illness and death, as well as songs for love, dreaming, making rain, healing wounds, or for cutting down sacred trees to build large canoes. Olsen provides musical and textual transcriptions of many songs, which are translated, explained, analyzed, and included on an enclosed compact disk. He presents detailed information about Warao musical instruments, relating them to mythology, describing them (with numerous photographs), and placing them in their circum-Caribbean context.

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