Araweté, Amazonia, Linguistic anthropology, Anthropology of music


This article examines the capture of forest spirits through music in the Anĩ pihi speech-songs of the Araweté, a small Amerindian society in Eastern Amazonia, Brazil. The Anĩ pihi are unique in their combination of spoken and sung forms, in which spirits and divinities are voiced by a ritual specialist. I explore how particular sounds index the presence of different kinds of others (gods and spirits), and how these sounds are, in turn, related to the use of reported speech – in other words, how others talk about other others in sung form. As such, the Anĩ pihi are a useful context in which to discuss recent approaches in the anthropology of Lowland South America such as “perspectivism” (Viveiros de Castro 1998; Lima 1999) and “animism” (Descola 2014), especially where these approaches have changed the way in which we think about language and music (Cesarino 2011; Déléage 2009; Kohn 2013). This article argues that we should combine linguistic and musicological approaches in order to fully understand the “perspectival soundscape” of Amerindian songs, and that such a combined musical-linguistic approach could give us a better understanding of the ways in which humans and non-humans act as people in Amazonia.