The Bwiti people of Gabon are particularly known for their cultural ceremonial practices using the psychotropic rainforest shrub Iboga. A powerful style of medicine music has evolved out of this ancient relationship between people and the plant. Have a listen to this small playlist we have curated as an introduction.
“The Mungongo musical bow and Ngombi harp are the two main musical instruments of Bwiti ceremonies in Gabon. The musical bow, male element, symbolizes the voice of the ancestor and the father. The harp, female element, symbolizes the woman’s body and the mother-ancestor’s face.” (http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/)
The fast-paced 5 / 6 beats per second frequency of most Bwiti music lies within the range of what is known as the “shamanic frequency”. This frequency or rhythm is found in shamanic music of many distinct cultures from all around the world and it happens to coincide with the range of Theta Frequency ( 4 – 7 beats per second).
Theta frequency refers to the brain wave frequency observed in humans during REM sleep (the dreaming phase of sleep), in trance states, and in deep relaxation. Some people call this the shamanic brain-wave state because people have been known to access spiritual realms when they achieve Theta states through brain-wave entrainment. Entrainment is the term that describes the fact that our brain-wave frequency can be modified by sounds and will eventually sync with the frequency of the sound, or music, we are listening to.
Shamanic rhythm may be most familiar to you from First Nation North American medicine music. The characteristic drum sound is in this same 4 – 7 beats per second range (see our curated playlist of North American First Nation Medicine Music). Yet there are countless other indigenous cultures whose shamanic or ritualistic music adheres to this rhythm.
Another fascinating aspect of Bwiti music is the alternate rhythms that are used. Much of the music exhibits one bar of standard 5 / 6 beats per second followed by the second bar of a slightly different beat. There is a constant back and forth between the two bars which has the effect of leaving the listener in a constant state of anticipation: a means of opening the listener energetically if you will.
Bwiti music may be very high energy for some, yet it is worth exploring as you might find it to be a great tool for accessing flow states for work or for exercise. You may be shocked at the focus and clarity that this music can bring about.
There are more recordings of Bwiti music to be found on youtube such as this 1hr recording above.