Goa Trance, Psychedelic Trance, Minimal, Techtrance, Scando sound, Full-on: quite a long list (though not complete...) to name a musical genre. All these terms mirror the evolution of the Psy sound throughout the past decade. Actually, according to the Wikipedia Encyclopaedia, the whole Trance style is "the most ambiguous genre in the realm of electronic dance music. [It"> could be described as a melodic, more-or-less freeform style of music derived from techno or house." Ambiguous, free-form: no wonder then that the Psy production is so diverse and hard to put specific features on.
As we've already seen it, the music played in Goa was made of the most mind-blowing and hypnotic pieces of sound you could find on the planet. In 1987, DJ Rey "brought the Hindu God Shiva to the dance floor" by playing the first Acid House cassettes brought over from England. It was a cultural shock, which would be reflected in the forthcoming Goa Trance style: "the movement embraced the somewhat contradictory ideals of New Age ascetism and drug hedonism" (New York Times). Hippies and LSD meeting Ravers and Ecstasy, an association labelled "Zippies" by Fraser Clark. Incidentally, this combination was promoted by Mark Harrison and his Spiral Tribe in England at the same period: "As a legend would have it, said Harrison, there's a musical note that will free people, there are rhythms that can induce trances and take you nearer to the spirit world." Sounds like a Goa Gil sentence, doesn't it? There is little doubt that some followers of the Spiral Tribe eventually ended up on the shores of Goa, promoting this philosophy.
So, the first Goa Trance tracks appeared from a mix between the first Acid House tracks, the weirdest musics found in the world, especially borrowed from the Industrial sound, and of course classical Indian music, notably in the tonal and melodic devices. To this connection, it is worth noticing that, contrary to what is sometimes said, Goa Trance is not a direct offspring of the Trance genre, even if mutual influences are obvious.
The Musical Situation
1. Towards a genre fusion?
Do we really have to say it once again? Goa Trance was born through a musical melting pot in the mid-80's. This state of mind is still vivid today: "You can be influenced by Hungary, just like by Indian music, or Arabic music, combined with a strong kickbass!", said for instance Stephane Holweck (Total Eclipse). Actually, the simplistic definition given in the previous chapter was never strictly applied, except in the 95-97 hype tunes. We know where this led this part of the movement...
Historically, we can find many elements from other musical genres, electronic or not, in the works of lots of artists, straight from the beginning: Eat Static, the true pioneers, mixing Funk, World music, Trance and Techno, then Metal Spark, who introduced the first Jungle elements as a concept in their album "Corrosive", or Electric Universe using many Electro elements in their early productions.
At the end of 1997, the biggest part of the artists stopped searching for inspiration in India and started looking West towards Detroit and its Techno sound. House came next, with the pioneer album "Headcleaner", by Atmos, in 2000. The influence of what is known today as "Club Trance" can also be heard in more and more tracks ("Electric Roundabout" by Human Blue for example).
2. Towards a Club culture?
The latter influence may come as a surprise. Indeed, as the Raw 42 Music Guide puts it, "the Goa Trance scene differs from so many other scenes of music because of its purely party environment. Whereas styles such as House and Techno were more confined to clubs and other enclosed, almost secretive locations, Goa thrived on its purity, its connection with nature, its focus on the essence, not the surroundings." Until recently, Psy Trance only truly made sense during large open air gatherings, and absolutely not in hyped clubs.
The point is that the political context forced this evolution: throughout the world, more and more festivals are cancelled by authorities, similarly to what happened in Goa in the mid-90s. People have no choice then: they have to go to indoor parties. As a matter of fact, it's not really the same kind of tracks which can suit those parties best.
Being played in the same locations as Club Trance, Psy Trance ends up by being influenced by it, especially regarding the quality production. For the best or the worst : the initial psychedelic imaginative chaos slowly vanished behind a very clean production, more danceable, though maybe less innovative musically speaking. Another sign of mutation lies in the fact that DJs have become the main trend starters, whereas this was initially the role of labels (TIP used to pride itself of changing the sound of the entire scene with each new compilation).
At the end of the day, the scene is splitting in at least two: on one hand, producers of music intended to parties, roughly equated with the Full-on and Progressive subgenres ; on the other hand, insatiable searchers of new psychedelic territories, not necessarily on a 4/4-beat basis, like Psy Ambient (e.g. the Shpongle project by Simon Posford and Raja Ram).
The Commercial Situation
1. Sales falling: why?
As already mentioned, CD sales are freefalling worldwide: -2,8% in 2001, -8,8% in 2002. This decline is particularly visible in the Psy Trance scene, whose sale figures were never brilliant. Indeed, a typical album sold around 2.000 copies, and a big success is considered to be above… 5.000 copies. Psy Trance artists whose CD sales regularly rise beyond 20.000 copies can be counted on the fingers of one hand: ex-Transwave, Infected Mushroom, Astral Projection or Hallucinogen, whose album Twisted was the biggest sale of the movement, with 85.000 copies. You got the picture: what we're dealing with here is a micro economic market.
There are several factors explaining the current state of this market:
- Overproduction in comparison with the market capacities: at the beginning of the movement, the commercial structures were adjusted to the scale of the audience. You had one distribution network, 5 labels and around 20 known artists. Today, you have 10 distribution networks, more than 50 labels and innumerable produced artists, while the audience didn't expand that much.
- Music pirates: in a way, the number of Psy Trance listeners increased thanks to the Internet files sharing programs. Yet, these WWW newcomers don't necessarily have the desire or possibility (they are mainly students with little money income) to go beyond their mp3-files collecting habits.
- Lack of publicity: in many locations, since the 1997 flop, it proves impossible to find Psy Trance CDs at the regular record stores. Let alone the complete lack of commercial promotion on the main media.
- Poor-quality tracks production: despite the lack of a solid market, labels don't hesitate to produce more and more artists, inciting them to release an album as early as possible, often before they are mature enough for such a task.
Here we stand: on one hand, too much music produced, with poor quality, unfit to the size of the potential market. On the other hand, a young audience with very little money income, yet perfectly knowing how to illegally download the music they can't find in local shops.
2. Back to the original spirit?
A bleak outlook, isn't? And here comes the question: how do psy artists manage to survive? Not thanks to album sells, that's for sure, but thanks to live sets and DJing.
It is worth noticing that Goa heads don't hesitate to spend their money for this kind of events. Psy festivals throughout the world are numerous: we already mentioned the Voov Experience in Germany or Gaia in France, but there are also the Portuguese Boom Festival, the Greek Samothraki Dance Festival, the Swiss Zoom Festival, the Celebra Brasil and South Africa Festivals organized by Etnica.net… All these events easily gathered thousands of people, especially in Japan: no less than 5 festivals every year over there (Solstice, Vision Quest…)! Thousands of Trance freaks ready to pay 100 euros without problem…
On thinking it over, we realize that the gist of this Electronic Dance Music lies in this kind of events: quoting Russ from Mind Games, "the home experience is simply a distant shadow cast in the mind by experiences on the dance floor".
From then on, we could look at the scene from a totally different point of view: CDs becoming mere promotion tools for the bands performing at the parties, and consequently, labels turning themselves into booking agencies. Some renowned artists already went down this way.
For others, unfortunately, it remains easier to sell a few CDs than to get booked to major venues. The economic side of things doesn't only concern CD sales, but also party organization. And sometimes, the risk of financial losses prevents the organizers from taking artistic risks… Even if the parties have regained the prominent role they should have never lost, like on the beaches of Goa in the heydays, the complete disappearing of the commercial side of the movement is not planned for tomorrow. A return to the source within the reasonable limits of the market...
Some sources of little details may be missing, but the main articles are all listed:
- Jeff's Website
- Goa trance in Goa: globalization, musical practice and the politics of place, by Arun Saldanha
- What is Goa? by Gav & Anoebis
- Goa Trance: A Psykotropic Trip Through Tribedelic Transcapes, by Fred Cole & Michael Hannan
- Music-Bodies-Politics: Geographies of psychedelic rave culture in Goa, by Arun Saldanha
- Goa Gil Interview, by Michael Gosney
- Sampling Paradise The Technofreak Legacy of Golden Goa, by Erik Davis
- Mushroom Magazine Article, by Kai Mathesdorf
- Raja Ram Interview, by Michael Gosney
- Ray Castle Interview, by Solar World
- Music(ology) needs a context - Reinterpreting Goa Trance, by Yellow Peril & Sebastian Chan
- Tourism in Goa: Shall we Trance? by Frederick Noronha
- Trance, by The IsraTrance Team
- Trancenational Alienation, Moral panics, Trance music culture and transnational identity in Israel by Bryan Meadan
- Goa, by Mafka Productions
- Goa Goa Gone? by ??
- Raving in Goa, by Karl Taro Greenfeld
- Trance Casts a Spell Over the Youth of a Worried Israel, New York Times, 24/10/99
- Altered State, Matthew Collin, 1997.
- Internet forums for various information: psynews, trance-goa, Isratrance.
Yeah very well written, gives such a clear pictures and brings out important facts.
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good observation of the author!
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hi shivaan .......this is rhyno from india ...........ca u tell me where is the party's r going?
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i jus love th outer space.. i visualized it thro th holy sacrament acid..i glory th founder..om namaha..live n let live.. let peace be on planet earth..
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get some real hippie cult back and lets explode the real shiva power....boom shiva