TRANCE, GOA PSY TRANCE & GLOBAL DANCE MUSIC pt1
February 23, 2019
When I was doing my initial research into the modern hippie scene in Goa, prior to my first visit a few years back, I came across an interesting character called Goa Gil. I was very much into the retro 60’s hippie scene at the time, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix and all those wonderful artists and I still am.
Goa Gil was one of the original hippies from the summer of love, that incredible period of the mid to late 1960’s. But he foresaw the demise of that particular movement as heavy drugs and violent Hells Angels groups began to drown the hippies in a sea of heroin and violence.
As a result, Gil, known at the time by his real name Gilbert Levey, took himself off to India in search of something more spiritual. He traveled the continent far and wide and eventually became a Swami or holy man. His travels eventually led him to the beautiful beaches of Goa and the growing hippie scene happening there at the time.
I thought, wow this guy is really interesting, I must find out more about him. So. imagine my surprise when I read he had become a famous DJ in Goa and still was to this day, but not playing music by Hendrix and Janis Joplin; he was playing trance music.
At the time I thought the music was just soulless boring bang bang bang music and I could not connect with it at all; How wrong I was.
Well, off I went to Goa for the first time and was totally changed by my experience. The vibe was fantastic with a sort of neo-hippie scene going on. There are still places where you can hear the old style hippie music; the Saturday night market for instance but you cannot help but be drawn into the trance scene there.
I had downloaded some trance tracks by Goa Gil onto my I-POD (yes I’m old school) so I could see how I felt about the music on the beaches of Goa. As I sat there with a beer in my hand, the sun shinning and the sea inviting me in, I suddenly got it. The track I was listening to had all kinds of spiritual trippy sounds and Indian influences going on in the background, it was truly world music and it was exciting and the beat somehow gave me a feeling of elation; I wanted to hear more.
WHAT IS TRANCE MUSIC?
Trance Music defined
“Trance music is a form of electronic dance music (EDM) characterized by hypnotic rhythms and sounds, with the aim of helping you reach a heightened consciousness.
It is characterized by song tempo ranging generally between 128 and 142 beats per minute (BPM). It has a musical form that builds tension and sonic elements till it reaches its climax, peaks or drops. Generally, a typical trance track has 1 to 2 “drops”.
A characteristic feature of most trance music is a “breakdown” with only the melody and atmospheric or hypnotic elements, which builds up for a substantial period.
Let us listen to a track because it is better than describing it with a thousand words. Here is an example of a typical trance track.”
“Trance has developed into a genre of its own since the 90s. Since then, it has branched out into various equally mesmerising sub genres.
Here is a breakdown of the major sub genres of trance. For the sake of keeping this post more concise, please check out the aural examples for the sub genres below with our essential list here.
- Dream Trance – Very melodic, soothing piano riffs
- Electrotrance / Trouse – Electro house beats and bass patterns
- Progressive Trance – Focuses on the progressive buildup of the track
- Tech Trance – Fusion of techno and trance. Focuses on beats and percussions
- Uplifting Trance – Gives you the epic feeling, focus on the atmospheric elements.
- Vocal Trance – Involves a male or female singer
- Psychedelic Trance – Focuses on bassline and evolving hypnotic sounds. Thought to make you see the truth of life.
- Hard Trance – Aggressive sonic elements and tough beats.
- Balearic Trance – Melodic, mellow, influenced by the beach.
- Eurotrance – The cheesy and commercialised version of trance
- Chillout Trance – Primarily used as a sleeping / relaxation aid
- Big Room Trance – a fusion of commercial EDM and trance music
In this day and age, it is still one of the most popular underground dance music.”
History and the uprising of goa trance
- Purifier Of The Stars
“History and the uprising of goa trance
Goa Trance (often named as Goa or even 604) is a sub-genre of electronic dance music – EDM which had started to take its form back in 80’s. However, the very first instigators, ideologists and style formers can be found even further in the past, more accurately – during the period of psychedelic rock in the 60’s and 70’s. Considering the name of this style, it’s easy to relate it with the Indian province called Goa, which is located on the western bank of India. The historical and cultural heritage of Goa is known world-wide, for it was a colony that was fought over during many periods in the past. The first conflicts in that region were between Hindu and Muslim population. These conflicts can be tracked to as far as 10th century, and they had continued all the way to the 16th century.
According to Ray Castle (one of the first DJs in Goa) the first colonists were hippies which were coming to India seeking spirituality. The second important factor which mostly attracted Europeans (and Americans) to this region was that there was no legal limitation to the consuming of hashish. This was a fact until the mid-70’s when the US government pressed the issue on Indian authorities to ban this practice. Early history of the pioneers of Goa and their first parties was never documented, but according to some witnesses (who were hippies at that time), the first Goa parties were organized in 1968. thanks to eight-finger Eddie who was probably the first modern settler on the beaches of Goa. Together with his friends, he discovered beautiful beaches and got friendly with the local villagers, which gave them a feeling of absolute freedom and happiness, which they had expressed through consuming psychedelic drugs and dancing on the beach.
The music at that time did not have any relations to the style of Goa trance, or even with electronic music in general, but the philosophy which they were following is almost the same as the one that Goa trance followers are sharing today. The music that had to do with Goa parties back then was more related to bands like Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Eagles, and Pink Floyd. Fred Disko was one of the first DJs in Goa who started to promote electronic music as well. After all, that decision gave him his “Disko” pseudonym. Besides Fred Disko, there was earlier mentioned Ray Castle, and Goa Gil, who promoted rock/fusion during the 70’s. Later, in the 80’s, Goa Gil started to promote Goa influenced electronic music too, and he gave it a rather “simple” name: the first post-punk experimental electronic dance music coming from Europe, the neue deutsche welle, electronic body music.
Ray Castle explained that the very first form of Goa Trance sound could be recognized with bands/projects like Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Frontline Assembly. Fred Disko also mentioned the influence of classical-traditional Indian music which was easily recognized in Goa trance sound. The symbiosis of these rather different influences was inevitable. The reasons of that symbiosis become very clear, especially when you imagine 10 tablas, 6 sitars and an Indian female vocalist performing a song in the repetitive way, so that you can actually feel like flying. Fred Disko and Ray Cole said that the contemporary “scene” in Goa was formed from a handful of DJs who were mostly people from France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. The main goal was to exchange and collect the music which was brought from Europe. They were all trying to obtain hard-to-get rare music as much as they could. They also wanted to have rarities which sounded more psychedelic. These quests were labelled as “The quest for weird psychedelic music”. The great part of their inspiration was hidden within the consummation of LSD, the drug which became a symbol of Goa parties, especially because it was easy to get, and mostly free of charge. It was known as “free acid punch”.
At the end of my first visit I went to a trance party on Arambol beach with some people I had met at the Saturday night market. At this time I was still not sure if I was going to get on with a whole night of trance music but I was wrong. The world music influence, the loving vibe, the exciting beats, the Goa freaks in their colourful clothes; I was well and truly hooked.
When I got home to the UK I started looking into this Psy-trance scene and I began downloading lots of music. I also read up more on my new hero; Goa Gil:
“Last weekend, thousands let them themselves go to the music at the Ozora festival, in a 24 hours long ceremonial opening by Goa Gil. The man is an electronic music legend yet his story is mostly unknown. From San Fransisco to the Indian beaches, he wandered on a long troublesome but spiritually enriching path. The guy we nickname“music baba” is the founding father of a rave philosophy that is still spreading.
At 64 years old, Goa Gil is an historical figure: one the oldest DJs in the world but also one of the most effective. His speciality: hallucinating twenty four hours sets, on tape, using hi-tech, dark psy and all the craziest sounds in psytrance music. The last one was the Ozora opening performance on July 30th, this picture probably describes it better than any words.”
“The artist – who is also a sâdhu (a saint in sanskrit) – dedicated his life to “raise awareness through music”. It is in that quest, between the 70s and the 90s, that he and his companions shaped the spirit of the modern rave in the continuity of the hippy movements. Their model was an inspiration for many, like the Boom Festival, Burning Man and legions of other ravers around the world.”
My new love affair with trance music was brought to overload when I returned to a nightclub I had last gone to in 1989: Whirl-y-gig! This London night of all things neon, sparkly and global was not a disappointment after so many years. The feeling of love and togetherness was still there and the hippie chic and festival vibe made this world music event wonderful.
Monkey Pilot, the organiser and DJ played a lot of different world music sounds in his global disco but the standout tunes were the psy-trance tracks that saw us through till 6am in the morning; I wanted more, more, more. There was no going back for me now.
World music, trance and Goa psy-trance music is well and truly under my skin now; I love it.