Greetings my psychedelic friends, plant lovers, and music fans. I’m Shylah Ray Sunshine, a singer-songwriter, musician, mother, and professional vocal coach. Originally from Canada, I stand proudly as a First Nations woman living in California and have been blessed to share my music all over the world. My songs are rooted in radical emotional transparency, spiritual healing, empowerment, Indigenous representation, equality, cultural and political change, community connection, and environmental respect. I am a student on this path and, in all honesty, I don’t know shit—but I do speak the language of sound and music. I spend a lot of time simply listening: It’s the first layer to understanding, it builds the foundation for our lives. I’ve spent years studying music of all kinds. I’ve also had my fair share of experiences on cannabis, mushrooms, ayahuasca, and peyote, and the best part about it for me has been the music I’ve discovered, learned and experienced in my journeys. The oneness. The great awakening. Music is a journey in and of itself. I hope you enjoy learning and listening through what’s here the way I have.
Best Psychedelic Songs of All Time
There’s many different kinds of “psychedelic” music and “psychedelic songs.” Of course, Indigenous communities have been creating music, textiles, and other forms of art, inspired by their entheogenic experiences, for thousands of years. We’ll get into that more below, but, first, here are some classics from the first psychedelic renaissance. These picks supported self realization, mind expansion and, ultimately, created a revolution for an entire generation.
1. Breathe (In the Air) by Pink Floyd
This song is LEGENDARY. If you don’t know this entire album, you’ve been living under a rock. It’s from “The Dark Side of the Moon,” the most recognizable Pink Floyd album, firstly for its artwork and, secondly, because of how vastly different each song is, ranging from song tempo, layered vocal ranges, and almost distracting samples of clocks, cash registers and, most importantly, a sexy use of saxophone, synths, and mind-altering guitar slides. This one hits deep—literally asking us to pause—and take a breath. It’s like the feeling of floating on a late night cruise through space and timelessness. Even if you’ve heard it many times before, I recommend listening to it again with the help of plant allies and your full attention.
2. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
I love this song because of the distinct description of what it’s like to trip. I feel high just listening to it. No pill needed. This one brings me pleasant, animated yet surreal visuals—just like a hallucination. This classic was somewhat hard to follow as a young one, but as an adult it just hits differently. Grace Slick’s voice is haunting and strong. Her delivery is enough to bring on the chills.
3. Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles
Cue the classical Indian tanpura, hypnotic drum rhythms, and weird, bird-like sounds. Embedded within the soundscape is the message “TURN OFF YOUR MIND. RELAX. AND FLOAT DOWNSTREAM.” The Beatles just fucking KNEW and they proved to the world that music and psychedelics can create magic and masterpieces. This song feels like being on a musical river raft of inner knowing. A surrender to the void. Seeing that the meaning of within is being. That LOVE is everything. And, most importantly, that the end is only the beginning. This song reminds us of the simple truth that tomorrow is never promised. Ain’t that the Truth.
Read: Shrooming at the Symphony: How Does Music Affect the Psychedelic Experience?
Best Ayahuasca Songs
I never heard, or could conceive of, music channeled through the life of a plant until I was introduced to Ayahuasca. This one plant has channeled through countless human beings to give us the gift of song. Indigenous communities in the Amazon say that the ayahuasca plant teaches each person their own unique songs, called icaros, when they do a “dieta,” where they go into isolation and just consume plants, often as training for holding ceremonies.
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There are too many incredible ayahuasca songs to name and I cannot possibly claim to know the best ones.There is no such thing and there is no other plant which has brought this kind of music to the world. Ayahuasca is a living being with an enormous spirit. She makes that very clear through these medicine songs. The ones listed here are composed by unknown or different sources, some of which provide their own versions. I hope you find the ones you love and sing them with great honor.
1. Ayahuasca Sunarai
This is one of the most beautiful medicine songs I’ve ever heard. A song for the plant spirits. The way this song is used as an opening prayer for ceremony is like a soft caress from La Madre. This song is an invitation—a welcoming song to all of the plants, the allies, the teachers. Naming all of the Indigenous medicines and even animals, this song gives us an introduction to what is being firstly honored before commencing ceremony. Sunarai can be learned easily and is very memorable. It felt familiar the first time I heard it and it created a powerful opening. The original version is gorgeous and remains a popular invocation to share with deep reverence to Aya herself.
2. Oso Blanco (White Bear)
A well-loved medicine song in Spanish, this popular prayer tells a beautiful story of animals and their spirits. It carries a message of hope and intention. It plants seeds of beauty and magic along the way, acknowledging the way of the traditional South American four directions and its many beloved animal totems. Sang in many different ways and with multiple versions, it’s generally played with acoustic guitar, featuring rattles, percussion, and sometimes a flute or whistles. Oso Blanco has plenty of lyrics (at first difficult to follow until repeated enough), it paints an image of peace in the jungle, in the sky and beyond.
3. Agua de Estrellas (Water of Stars)
When I first heard this song, I knew it was special. The way it begins slowly, softly, speaking to the waters and the stars. It feels like a sacred lullaby. This prayer song illuminates the beauty of the Mother, the Earth, the Heart. The lyrics encourage us to calm, cleanse, and heal. It is devotional to the feminine. The verses repeat as the song builds, gently praising the healing waters of the planet and our purpose to love all that is. Traditionally sung in Spanish, acapella or on guitar, it is difficult not to sing along with this one when in ceremony. It welcomes participation, percussion, and heavenly harmonies—and soothes the soul into Mother Ayahuasca’s warm embrace.
Read: Watch the Vibrations of Ayahuasca Songs Projected on Water
Best Shroom Music
Mushroom music is divine. It ebbs and flows, gives us food for thought; that mushy mellow mood or those energizing bursts of bubbly joy. I was unfamiliar with mushroom-inspired music until I started attending festivals. I heard heaps of EDM, watching projector screens with trippy fractals—and it started to grow on me. I was so used to tripping on shrooms alone or with close friends and then, all of a sudden, it felt like the entire world knew about psilocybin and its healing abilities. The genres grew and so did the spores.
1. Mark Farina
Known as the guy who invented the “mushroom jazz” genre, I am relatively new to some of Mark Farina’s discography but have enjoyed discovering what inspired his style. I love his old school sounds. His 2008 “Mush Jazz” album is DOPE. His early albums include high energy dance tracks, a blend of repetitive EDM/house/hip hop beats, lots of space for all the feelings, trippy samples, and a multitude of guest artists. Mellow to high frequency BPMs with just enough to get you into the body, out of the mind, and into a higher state of elevation, I can listen on shuffle while working, walking, dancing, tripping or straight chillin. I recommend going back for a deep dive here. Enjoy.
Yaima’s Pepper Proud has one of the most soothing, angelic voices ever. This duo’s albums are like ethereal sounds from the heavens, landing on Earth to bless our hearts and minds with a message of love. This music, with or without entheogens, is medicine. Even better with mushrooms, it penetrates deeply into the consciousness. You can feel their devotion to the music and to Mother Earth. A spiritual reset to the nervous system, it’s easy to resonate and relate to their collaborative production and performance. Using multiple world instruments such as didgeridoo, flutes, harp, mandolin, handpans, kalimbas, and unique percussion sounds and drum patterns, these heart songs will allow you to drop IN.
3. East Forest
Three words: RAM DASS ALBUM. This album contains the words of love and mind-blowing wisdom. I would describe this as monumental music for the soul. East Forest’s tracks are incredibly soothing and thought provoking, in the most gentle way possible. It’s as if God is playing the piano and the Earth on backups with harps, harmonium, strings, and nature sounds such as frogs and crickets. I find myself enjoying each song differently, including the instrumentals and Indian-inspired drone ambiance. This genre is suited perfectly for a psilocybin love cruise with musical landscapes.
Read: Trip Tunes: A Conversation with Producer Jon Hopkins About Making Music for Ketamine
Best Acid Music
LSD is a new thing for me. I had never tried acid up until this year. 2022. (yes, I know.)
After countless stories, I think I felt scared to try it, fearing the deep psyche or being too high for longer than I could stand. That said, I did grow up listening to the far out sounds of the 60s and 70s and got to know these decades by the evolution of some of these artists. Sometimes I think I did need the drugs. This music is straight up intense, weird, chaotic, comical, fun, dark, and beautiful.
1. The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead is the most legendary psychedelic-era, jam band known to man. I was introduced to the Dead when I was a teen wearing tie dye, having zero clue that this music pioneered a movement in drugs and days when all people wanted was peace and love. This band has left an imprint on a whole generation of devoted fans and followers. “Eyes of the World” is my personal favorite while “Friend of the Devil” and “Althea & Ripple” are a couple of their most streamed tracks. “Truckin,” “Sugar Magnolia,” and “Dark Star” are all gems, too, but if you’re a true Deadhead, you’ll love it all.
2. The Doors
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the titles of some of The Doors’ tracks: “Hello, I love you.” “People are Strange.” “Waiting for the Sun.” “The Crystal Ship.” “Love Street.” “Touch me.” “Light my Fire.” “Love her Madly.” “Break on Through.” “My Wild Love.” “Indian Summer.” “Peace Frog.” “The Unknown Soldier.” “Riders on the Storm.” “When the Music’s Over.” “The End.”
The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison was a poetic genius. He represented the dark, even dangerous, side of when madness meets music. His words and stage presence combined with a stellar Rhodes keyboardist created a sound no one else could replicate. Once these Doors have opened…they are hard to close.
3. Pink Floyd
It really depends which albums we’re talking about here, but I think we can all agree that Pink Floyd’s classic “The Dark Side of the Moon” is by far the most recognizable of them all. All of the albums contain strange sounds and voices with periodic, dark and trippy, chord progressions. You can tell they were deep into it. Some favorites like “Money” and “Time & Breathe” have a recurring theme and more generic verse/chorus structure than the late 60s stuff. Many full instrumental segments and experimental albums without words, lets me know they took A LOT of drugs. You can feel it. “Wish You Were Here,” a beautiful piece I once thought was a love song, and “Comfortably Numb,” the softest song on their album “The Wall,” tells us the truth of what it is to want to escape pain, but to be in acceptance of it as well. Songs like this can be important and healing, especially in the midst of a psychedelic trip.
Best Psychedelic Rock Songs
These were hard to select because there are SO MANY popular classics we all love. Dominated by multiple electrifying guitars, stellar solos, crashing cymbals, heavy basslines, and intense screams, these send us to rock heaven and back.
1. Purple Haze/ Bold as Love by Jimi Hendrix
Just look at the album covers. You almost know what to expect. And then you hear that electric guitar slaying on Every. Fucking. Song. It was hard to pick just one by Jimi because he channels God through that instrument and it’s undeniable to any listener. The way he plays transports me to another level of understanding music. Straight up fire. Powerful and even sexy. Like TAKE ME. Wherever you’re going with that, I’m going with you.
2. White Room by Cream
This song hit the airwaves in 1968, a time that was all about drugs. A lot of these songs were most likely induced by acid and heroin, with some weed, booze, and cocaine on the side. This song is about just that. It talks about our relationship with substances, the metaphor of a white room is used to describe the on/off switch between the self and your lover (aka drug of choice). The intro is wildly exciting and almost haunting, with many words making it somewhat hard to follow. A distinct guitar solo brings it to a close. Heavy on the rock, light on the cream.
3. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
I had to include this one. Even if it’s not technically categorized as “psychedelic,” it just is. It’s a fucking masterpiece and will live on as one of the most legendary songs of all time, period. The opening guitar and flute gently prepare us, the verses tell an almost celtic, folklore fantasy tale of a woman who is searching for something she may never attain. Guitars overlapping and slowly building up to a climax, Jimmy and Robert set the stage for a peak performance. I find it highly emotional and incredibly beautiful, from start to finish. The God-like guitar solo, pounding drum rolls, and falsetto screams of “when we are all One and One is all” are enough to bring us to our knees. I wonder now if the woman they sing of ever made it there—wherever “there” is.
Best Psychedelic Pop Songs
Sometimes musicophiles dismiss “pop” as an uninspired genre, because we live in an era where many of the top pop songs come out of a song mill of sorts. That said, “pop” really just stands for “popular music”—which, of course, has changed with each decade. The reason why it’s often popular is because it’s easy on the ears, inspires dancing and joy, and contains messages that are universal to the human experience. Here are some of my psychedelic favorites.
1. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles
A classic, memorable, and popular psy-pop song known to almost everyone, this track takes us on a visually colorful and vivid journey. Picture yourself on that boat, with The Beatles, cruising, accompanied by trance-like ambient sounds and weird synths. A girl like Lucy is not for everyone but she’s got that shine in her eyes whether you drop the L or not.
2. Time of the Season by the Zombies
This song always reminds me of something you’d hear in a dingy bar or the garage of a middle-aged “who’s your daddy” working on his motorcycle, drinking beers, on a Friday night with his buddies. I remember hearing it as a kid and always loving those claps, breathy ahhs, and 3-part chorus harmonies, which impress me, even to this day. Long, bluesy keyboard solos in between each verse remind us it’s always the season for loving.
3. Runaway Houses City Clouds by Tame Impala
Now this is a trippy song…Most of Tame Impala’s tracks are. This track takes us on a journey, from rock to pop rock into a long, drawn out midsection of synthy kaleidoscopic laidback buildups and breakdowns until it finally releases twinkly starry sky sounds on repeat. I love the lyric “it’s true that some things have to change,” speaking to the inevitable shifts on our paths or, simply, our evolution as humans. The spacey and cosmic instrumental part with that beautiful repeat guitar line is golden and I could bask in it endlessly. It’s a longer track for that reason, and feels like an ascension into psyche pop wonderland.
Best Trippy Rap Songs
“Trippy” isn’t necessarily the first descriptor that comes to mind when I think of psychedelics. I had to listen to a bunch of rap songs to determine what makes a rap song feel like a good translational trip or something I would enjoy listening to while high. Considering I generally do not gravitate to rap music while under the influence of any psychedelics (but every other time, I do), these tracks were selected based on not just the popularity of each artist but their quality and lyrical content.
1. L$D by A$AP ROCKY
This song is not something I expected from A$AP ROCKY when I first heard it. But I adored it then—and I still do. It’s raw, seriously sexy, unusually cosmic sounding and something you want to listen to with your lover when you’re both high. At least I always fantasized about that. Dramatic and super hot with statements like “girl, I really f*ck you on love, sex, dreams.” I warn you before listening to this: it makes you want LSD. Or sex. Or both. Choose wisely.
2. Highest in the Room by Travis Scott
What starts like an old creepy movie soundtrack flips quickly into a hard and hypnotic beat. This is a Travis-original rap style; it’s hard to make out what he’s saying but it doesn’t matter because it sounds so fucking good. I see a smoke-filled room with him floating at the top, colored lights and occasionally glancing in a mirror, eyes changing, ego shifting, dark images surfacing. Somehow amidst the eeriness, it also gives me a feeling of safety because I know I’m just high and that the fear is not real.
3. Self Care by Mac Miller
Brilliant piece of work. Mac did an incredible thing with the album “Swimming.” This song stands out as the most psychedelic track. It’s about checking in with yourself, time travel, seeing with your eyes closed, and being ok even when shit gets trippy, ungrounded, and uncomfortable—talk about a description of psychedelic journeying. When this song switches its beat and tempo entirely, it’s like a breath of fresh air, representative of when we realize the oblivion we call life will not last forever. RIP MAC.