is an intriguing transnational phenomenon. It may be interpreted just as a superficial trend or with a complex idea of spirituality, depending on the level of consciousness.
Tor anyone interested in popular music, subcultures, and alternative spiritualities and lifestyles, the phenomenon is very intersting.
The way to use music as a ritual to improve consciousness and higher states of mind began with the psychedelic age, we may say at UFO club in London.
Although still relatively unexplored, it is an increasingly significant area of study in sociology, anthropology of popular music and religious studies. A dynamic feature of a multi-faceted, global, psychedelic oc-culture, psytrance presents with a fascinating, if bewildering array of musicological, cultural, and spiritual confluences.
The beginning may be found in 1961, when the Portuguese colony of Goa was forcibly annexed by India and soon afterwards, hippies and various other people from Europe and North America, were called there by the echo of spirituality (winter rituals with music on the beaches, combining Christmas rituals of the Portugese Catholic heritage with Hindu ceremonies until sunrise), a strange mix with low prices and free hashish. One of the first Hippies to have set foot over there in the mid-60’s was Eight-Finger Eddie. He and his friends launched the first “Goa parties” : campfire on the beach, acoustic guitars, and dancing under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. Then it was mainly psychedelic rock of various sorts, especially Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and Soft Machine and Gong, Led Zeppelin, the Who – both groups came to Goa – the Doors, Neil Young, the Eagle, Bob Marley, Parliament and so on.
In the early ’80s, electronic body music and German industrial music were being introduced, with a more impersonal (and economic) style. Some songs by Kraftwerk were launched during the parties. In 1983 that two French DJs, Laurent and Fred Disko, soon followed by Goa Gil, organizer of the “Full Moon Parties” alternating live groups and DJs, grew tired of the “rock/fusion/reggae” tunes they used to spin and began to play the electrobeat music coming from Europe : Cabaret Voltaire, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Frontline Assembly, the Residents, New Order, Blanc Mange.
Electronic music (with important experiences as in the case of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene) was indicating a new run. As a lead-band (Infected Mushrooms) of the psy-style states : “Than I was thinking of the same about that keyboard and about some pieces of the music. I know Jean-Michel Jarre from their early years, my big brother had all the vinyls, and I listened to their music a lot. I loved it, same as Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk. They influenced the nowadays `psy´music as well. (…) Mike Oldfield had an even bigger influence on at least my music… Love Jarre though, Equinox is like Tubular Bells on another planet!”
During the 1980-90s, many Goa hippies were becoming increasingly fascinated with early electronic music such as Kraftwerk. Gil and his friends (DJ Laurent, Peter Zeigelmeiar, and others) soon gathered some equipment and started playing live music all night long on the Goa beaches.
By the early 1990s, a local genre had developed, and the scene had become even more international, involving many Japanese and Israelis, in addition to the Europeans, Australians, and Americans that had been there before.
In 1990, the police finally intervened, and the parties were systematically shut down. But in 1991, the pressure from the authorities decreased. Meanwhile, the Israeli or Japanese youth had heard of Goa. Among other triggering factors, DJs like Fred Disko or Ray Castle had made Goa Trance Parties around the world.
A special place in this story is due to Goa Gil (Gilbert Levey), an American-born that witnessed the birth of the hippie movement and acid rock, involved with the freak collectives Family Dog and Sons of Champlin. He took off in 1969, going first to Amsterdam and then to India, settling in Goa, were he created himself as musician, DJ, remixer and party organizer.
The mix of outdoor electronic dance parties with Eastern mystical and spiritual overtones came to define the aesthetic of the psytrance movement. For Gil, dance is an active form of meditation and the use of trance music is a way to “redefine the ancient tribal ritual for the 21st century”.
Goa Gil himself was initiated as a sadhu, the wandering holy men living off the forest, covering themselves with ash, and drinking the “elixir of the gods.”
Among them, Gil took the name Baba Mangalanand, in the order of the Juna Akhara, under the Guru Mahant Nirmalanand Saraswati Ji Maharaj.
The spirituality of the movement is something out of discussion. We may dare some notes about the direction of this spirituality.
Despite playing this important role in the development of electronic music, particularly that played at “raves” across the United States, psytrance is relatively unknown outside of its fans. At the same time, it is a very international style of music, with important artists coming from all corners of the globe. Anyway, the main part of people seems to be “dazed and confused” without understanding of the complex level of meditation, being involved just in sex & drugs components.
This is something that have to be understood. Of course, the money has its part.
Maybe the future of Goa parties will consist in commercial venues, with the support of the authorities, like Goa2000, light-years away from the original Hippie spirit of the 60’s.
Nevertheless, if someone will be able to introduce open systems of initiation, things may be able to change and transform the movement in something really connect to the spiritual understanding, restarting the big dream of the psychedelic movement in peace, love and freedom for everyone, increasing awareness and consciousness in unity.
sources: wikipedia, youtube, heliconsoundmusic, infected mushrooms