Goa Trance

Goa Trance music gets its name from Goa, India - an area of land on the western southern tip of India. The music is a mix of western electronica dance music combined with eastern musical elements.

The article below has been written and is provided with permission by Alan Frostick (KERNEL Goa).

What is Goa Trance?

If you know nothing about Psychedelic Trance Music, or come from a country where such a thing as Psychedelic Trance Parties are unknown, then I hope this description helps you to understand them.

What for the hippies flower-power was, is for the techno generation 'Goa'. A term borrowed from the former portuguese colony in India where these parties originally began, and to some extent still continue. Nowadays the parties occur all over the world, with specific centres where they are more or less popular. In north Germany there is a large following, some 30 thousand or so, with the largest of the group around Hamburg. There are also smaller groups across the whole of Germany, the smallest of these in the South. Not many people are required to make party viable - wherever there are enough people to cover the costs of at least one DJ and the hire of sound equipment and venue. The size of parties varies enormously. From very small private/birthday events for 100 to annual 'happenings', 'gatherings' and 'festivals' of up to 20,000. It isn't possible to give figures on the size of attendances - reliable information is simply not obtainable. As a general guide in our party info it can be taken from the number of DJs in the lineup, especially when a larger number of professional DJs are included, that the party is of the larger variety.

Psy-Trance is an absorbing form of repetitive beat music to which certain melodic and accoustic sounds are blended or are performed live in addition. Some of these sounds stem from exotic instruments, such as sittahs, gongs, drums and didgereedoos. Unlike other forms of techno music there is little by way of verbal addition, although some samples are derived from the human mouth. There are no songs or anthems (as with House) or repetitive speech elements (such as with Rap). Trance music is designed to increase and decrease in the higher frequencies in waves which ebb and flow, leading the dancer to repeated ecstatic peaks. To some it is a form of meditation. To some merely a way to work off a bit of winter fat. The dancers are extremely social and gentle with one another. If anyone else is accidentally touched or trodden upon there follow hearty apologies, or sometimes just a gesture, the palms pressed together in a prayer position, the traditional Indian greeting. Many Osho/Bhagwan followers (sanyassins) go to the parties and contribute their particular sexual and philosophical thinking to it. Osho advised certain dances as a form of meditation, as did Gurdgieff with his spiritual and ritualistic dances, drawn from the traditions of the whirling dervishes.

Dancing to trance is a very personal and individual experience. No advice is given or to be expected and experiences vary according to the background and outlook of the individual 'trancer' him/herself. No common philosophy appears to exist amongst the dancers - most of the sayings, rituals and thinking at parties seems borrowed rather than adopted. Images of 'Shiva' or 'Krishna' may often be found in parties but most seem unaware as to what they actually are or what their significance is. These images are simply 'used' to lend flavour to the party and not hallowed as something sacred. As is the use of tippees, totem poles, pyramids and runes. They merely provide atmosphere and carry no further meaning. Certain similarities in social approach can be perceived amongst the people and these are the hallmark of trance parties - the gentleness and respect, the chance to dance unmolested (this is especially noted by the women), the smiles and feelings of joy.

I have often been asked to describe the difference between a 'rave' and a 'trance party'. Ravers dance to fast and furious beats until they are completely exhausted. Generally such parties are frequented by the younger set, teenage through early twenties, and are accompanied by a large consumption of chemicals which stimulate fast dancing such as 'speed'. Trancers, on the other hand, tend to be older on average, although a wide age range is common, from older teens to grandfathers. It's a question of outlook of the person. I know many 50-something trancers who dance as hard and as long as the younger ones, and bring a certain air of mysticism and experience to the party. Raves are generally organised by commercial undertakings and are advertised and reported on in the press and on TV and Radio. Trance parties are generally organised by ordinary people, a small group of DJs and helpers who expect little in remuneration and the parties are rarely advertised or reported upon in the press (some reports exhibit total surprise and call the scene 'neo-hippy' or 'techno' and attempt to compare it with things such as the Berlin 'Love Parade' or even 'Woodstock'). The Trance parties are therefore something special and wish to remain underground. They are a grass-roots welling-up of a new format for open air festivals. North Germans are indeed lucky to have so many such parties to choose from during their short but extremely colourful summer.

The elements of an open air trance party or festival in Germany (in no particular order)

1. Soundsystem with a surround (4 speaker) effect. Normally enlosed by circle of staves to determine the dance area proper. Sometimes this area is surrounded by a ring of tippees - which is popular.
2. Some kind of booth, stage or shack where the DJs can spin without being bumped by dancers.
3. A chillout area, offering carpeted areas under makeshift 'tent' material (normally using brightly coloured indian/asian printed hangings and not very waterproof) complete with someone offering chai (spiced tea with ginger) and light snacks.
4. An adequate carpark where the people can setup tents, barbecues or whatever they need to feel at a kind of home-from-home for the duration of the gathering.
5. An assortment of private traders selling everything from imported asian fabrics and clothing, jewelery, records, and CDs and the sort of stuff one finds in a headshop. Sometimes this is called the 'hippy market' area, and can spread around a large area.
6. A bar/tent (in Germany a lot of beer is drunk at any event, regardless of how spiritual the premises of the party). Sometimes there are alternative drinks available too such as 'smart drinks' and guarana mixes from private traders.
7. Trance-DJs, of course. Otherwise it wouldn't be a trance party.
8. Lots of colour - particularly neon which glows under ultra violet light, of which there is always a lot too! The 'deko' (decoration) of parties is often undertaken by struggling artists who paint large pictures on fabric specifically designed to be hung at a series of parties.
9. Flyers are distributed in parties, also magazines such as the Mushroom and the KERNEL Goa Infoblatt.
10. Of course there is also a lot of dancing too...


Other Resources:

San Francisco Dj's:
Cheb i Sabbah

last update: March 24, 2007