Among the Wana people of Morowali, Central Sulawesi, music serves as a connection between the human world and the hidden world of spirits and emotion. For this reason, music has a central role during the momago, the main Wana healing ritual, and the kayori, Wana funeral. Music makes it possible to shift from the profane time of suffering into the mythical time of healing. During these rituals, music serves as a ritual marker and, with its relation with the hidden world, calls the spirits, transforms ordinary time into mythical/ritual time and helps shamans to get into trance. Moreover, it contributes to the playful atmosphere that characterises Wana rituals and that allows the healing of the patient and the community through emotional catharsis.

By examining the ritual music of the momagu and kayori, Giorgio Scalici will clarify the role and the importance of the music in the healing process of the Wana, both of the main patient and the entire community. He intends to describe and analyze how music is used by the Wana to control emotions, indicating when express them, reinforce the sense of community, singing together, and mark the cultural death of the community member.

In the end, music transforms a negative event in a playful moment that will heal the community and assure its future, leading the living and the dead through the emotional crisis generated by the illness or death of a member. During these rituals, music, with its ability to unite the visible with the hidden world, it transforms the profane time into the mythical time and it allows the regeneation of the entire community. Music also contributes to the playful atmosphere that characterizes Wana rituals, and that permits the healing of the patient and the community through an emotional catharsis. Indeed, the wellbeing of the first is strictly related to the wellbeing of the latter, and vice versa.

Momago (Shamanic ritual)

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Kayori (funeral)

Molawo (shamanic ritual)


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You can find more about the research of Giorgio Scalici here.

Scalici, Giorgio
2022 – Pain, Play and Music: Death and Healing Rites Among the Wana, London: Bloomsbury.
2020 (in press) – Who framed Tetebua?, in Patterns of Change in the Traditional Music of Southeast Asia, Giovanni Giuriati (Ed.), Udine: Nota.
2020 – Marginalized center: Wana people and the geography of power, in joint special issue of the Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions (JISASR) and Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (JBASR).
2019 – Music and the invisible world: music as a bridge between different realms, in Approaches, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 150-165.