In March 2021 the manifestation “Sacha Taki- Voices and Songs of the Forest: Biocultural Landscape of the Kawsak Sacha People has been registered in the National System of Cultural Heritage of Ecuador. Soon, the Kawsak Sacha People will decide whether to apply for the nomination of the Sacha Taki manifestation in the official list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ecuador, which will allow them to subsequently apply for a nomination in one of the UNESCO Heritage categories.

General Meeting in Kawsak Sacha Comunal house

Natural landscapes, cultural landscapes and soundscapes: a unity.

The millennial presence of indigenous peoples and cultures in the forests and their co-evolution with the tropical ecosystems of the Amazon has created diverse forms of sound expression that associate and connect culture and nature. Sacha Taki – Song of the Forest” seeks to overcome the division between culture and nature by linking the natural, the cultural and the acoustic, thus relating the sound manifestations that are produced from biodiversity and those that are expressed from culture. From a “techno-scientific” viewpoint, a soundscape is the combination of all the sounds that are emitted in a given space and time, and they are classified into three components: biophony or sounds produced by living organisms from biodiversity, geophony or sounds produced as a result of geological processes, and anthrophony or sounds produced by humans and their creations (Schafer, 1994).

It is through these songs that we communicate with the forest and its guardian spirits, to call the animals of the forest or the fish of the river, to invoke or propitiate the fertility of the gardens, to cure illnesses and diseases, to bring tranquility to families, to remember and transmit the teachings left by our ancestors, to live well together. They are like pathways and bridges that reconnect us with our history and our origins.  The living beings of the jungle also have their own way of expressing the life that manifests itself through them. Their songs and ours celebrate life. The ensemble of songs that can be heard in is a symphony which took thousands of years to write. It is a unique and priceless creation, which we cannot let be destroyed or disappear“. (SWF)

Kichwa ceramic from Pastaza representing a vision of culture-nature

The soundscape of biodiversity is the result of thousands of years of co-evolution between species, in which each species developed in a particular way, morphologically or behaviourally, so that it can be heard within the “great orchestra” of that ecosystem (Krause, 1987). The song within the forest represents a trace of the forest itself and demonstrates the processes of co-evolution that have occurred over time. Furthermore, this song reveals the processes and dynamics that occur in an ecosystem. For example, it is possible to learn about the health and diversity of an ecosystem by measuring different properties of sound, such as the diversity of frequency ranges and the variability of intensities (Krause and Farina, 2016, Krause et al., 2011, Pijanowski and Farina, 2011); or the recognition of indicator or threatened species (Gan et al., 2020, LeBien et al., 2020).

The soundscape of culture is also the result of thousands of years of co-evolution of humans with biodiversity. It is expressed through sound manifestations that relate culture to nature. It is through sound that this intimate link that communities maintain with nature is revealed and the inseparability that exists between humans and their ecosystem is shown.

Today new archeological excavations are revealing human presence in the Amazon up to 30-40,000 years ago, thus questioning the Beringian theory of the settlement of the American continent 15,000 years ago.

Many beings and plants were created by the original breath. It is with the power of the breath that the forest, the river and the territory are cleaned and healed to restore balance and tranquillity. It is through the sound and the dreams that the communication with the spirits of the earth, the forest and the river is established. The women sing to Nungulli – Goddess of the Earth- to give her paju, the power to cultivate her chacra (garden). The hunter invokes the spirit of Amazanga, master of the forest, to hand over to him the preys that he will take home. The world of water is in the custody of Amarun – the anaconda – mother and guardian of all creatures of water – rivers and lakes – whom he calls upon and respects“. (FSW)

Traditional medicine is expressed through the taki, the songs (also known as ícaros) of the yachac -shaman- and the pajuyoc -healer- and midwives, delivered by spirits of the forest and the river. The People of Kawsak Sacha value their territory due to their long and complex relationship with the landscape. It expresses its unity with the natural and spiritual environment. It embodies their traditional knowledge of spirit places, land uses and ecology. Culture connects with nature through dreams, which are shared and interpreted by drinking guayusa (Ilex guayusa) in the early morning. The kichwa woman expresses her nostalgia or sadness by invoking the spirit of the hatun malta sikuanga – the “great young tucan” – to carry her voice to the man she loves or misses. The song of the forest is the language through which every living being from the biological and cultural diversity expresses itself and communicates, with forms and purposes specific to each species.

Anciana Kichwa during guayusa morning ritual