Frederick Noronha (FN)
2004-04-16 11:45:38 UTC
the world by storm in the late '80s and '90s. One of the reasons Goa still
gets crowded during the New Year's is because of the huge rave -- or Goa
Trance -- music parties in the Anjuna-Vagator belt.
The roots of Goa Trance
By Joseph Zuzarte
One of the things that Goa has always been famous for is music. Musicians
in the Hindi film music industry. Musicians in bands. Lata Mangeshkar,
Kishori Amonkar. But not many Goans have heard of a form of music called Goa
Trance which took the world by storm in the late '80s and '90s. One of the
reasons Goa still gets crowded during the New Year's is because of the huge
rave -- or Goa Trance -- music parties in the Anjuna-Vagator belt.
The parties in Anjuna-Vagator, of course, have been infamous in Goa for as
long as anybody can remember. In fact the hippies on the beach -- without
their clothes on -- were the earliest tourist attraction in Goa, and,
according to many still are a major attraction for the domestic tourists.
On the other hand, the rave parties have, over the years, become a global
magnet, without any need of government advertising, for a type of tourists
called variously, hippies, ravers, clubbers, trippers, etc.
How the full moon parties of the early hippies, who came to Goa in the late
'60s, became the raves of today, in the process spawning a nebulous form of
music called Goa Trance is actually quite a thrilling story by itself,
psychedelia and all.
The story is closely connected, linked inextricably, to the whole hippie
phenomenon which happened in the U.S. in the mid-'60s and was over by the
There was a great disenchantment in the U.S. amongst the youth with rampant
materialism (the type which we're now beginning to experience in Goa) and
the Vietnam war, which made them look for answers to the mystical traditions
of the East. The hippie phenomenon was also largely powered by L.S.D. and
bands playing music under the influence of L.S.D.
The event which sparked off the psychedelic revolution in the U.S., in music
and other art forms, was the so-called Acid Tests. Ken Kesey, author of One
Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (and flush with its royalties) had discovered
L.S.D., at that time not yet controversial or illegal, and was conducting
the Acid Tests, an experiment in free living, art and music.
As he put it in a 1960s interview, "It's a need to find a new way to look at
the world, an attempt to locate a better reality, now that the old reality
is riddled with radioactive poison. I think a lot of people are working in a
lot of different ways to locate this reality -- Ornette Coleman in jazz, Ann
Halprin in dance, the New Wave in movies, Lenny Bruce in comedy, Wally
Hendrix in art, Heller, Burroughs, Rechy and Gunter Grass in writing, and
those thousands of others whose names would be meaningless wither because
they haven't made it yet or aren't working in a medium that has an it to
make. But these people are trying to find out what is happening, why and
what can be done with it."
Music for the Acid Tests was provided by a bunch of musicians led by Jerry
Garcia and the Warlocks, which later became the Grateful Dead. Garcia had a
songwriting partner, Robert Hunter, who along with Ken Kesey and others had
volunteered to be a guinea pig in a series of experiments conducted to test
the effects of L.S.D.
The basic philosophy of the Acid Tests was that everything was permitted;
involvement was encouraged, which meant that people would mill about freely,
walk up to microphones and talk and sing if they felt like it.
"It was open, a tapestry, mandala," said Garcia later. "Anything was okay.
The Acid Tests were thousands of people, all hopelessly stoned, all finding
themselves in a roomful of other thousands of people, none of whom any of
them were afraid of."
Alarmed by all the rather excessive freedom that erupted, the U.S.
government soon declared L.S.D. illegal, cracked down on the hippies and,
well, drove the whole thing underground. But by then the Dead were the head
priests, the center of the flower power scene and the Summer of Love of
Musically the Dead were at the center of the free-form experimentation and
were amongst the earliest (along with Ornette Coleman) to discover the
Indian connection. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart had been a student at
the Ali Akbar College, an Indian music school in California run by sarod
master Ali Akbar Khan, and later put together an all-percussion group which
at one time included Ustad Zakir Husain.
It was the percussion work of Ustad Alla Rakha that helped push the Dead
into playing in irregular time signatures. As Garcia put it: "For Mickey,
what Indian music seems to have is the combination of tremendous discipline
and tremendous freedom. It was really impressive, so he started studying
with Alla Rakha. That influence got the rest of us starting to fool around
with musical ideas that were in certain lengths. The challenge for us was
'How do you take these lengths and make them translate to a western body of
The Grateful Dead, being the seminal psychedelic band, inspired an entire
Western generation to look Eastwards, to India. Which is how the first
hippies landed in India.
At the time, one of the intoxicants of choice of the hippies,
hashish/charas, was not yet illegal in India. The earliest hippies came to
study with Alla Rakha in Bombay, and would also go to places like Benares,
Rishikesh (remember Maharishi Mahesh Yogi?), and during their treks through
India, discovered the Catholic-influenced enclave of Goa.
For the American and other Western hippies-cum-students in India, Goa was a
convenient place to gather together during the Christmas vacations,
everybody converging here from different parts of India. The beach of
Calangute, with its tolerant people, was the chosen one for the earliest
Goan version of the Acid Tests and its resulting experiments in free living,
art and music. Everything went into the music, American rock, folk music,
Indian classical, both Hindustani and Carnatic, art, while the free living
bit, as almost all Goans from that era will recall, largely involved
free-sex and the shedding of all inhibitions.
From Calangute the action shifted northwards, to Anjuna, Vagator, Chaporaand later Arambol. By the mid-70s, word had spread to all parts of the
globe, wherever there was a person who had been exposed to psychedelic
music, that there was a place called Goa where something like the Acid Tests
was still going on.
So the Acid Tests became the Full Moon parties. However, by the early '80s,
the crowd in Goa had become almost fully European, because of the closer
distances and also because the music that was being played at the Goa
parties had made a significant switch to Euro-style electro and disco music,
so much so that the Goa Trance music of today has almost no traces of the
original American-style rock music that was the seed from which it has all
But in the early '80s, there were two types of hippies, those who liked the
old music and those who preferred the more dance friendly Euro-style
electronic music. Goa was also attracting the second and third generation of
the hippies, who were not quite in tune with the old order and sought to
make their own identity, within the framework of the original Acid Tests.
The new generation won, and soon word got back to Europe that there was
something very interesting happening in Goa, a form of music which was not
quite disco. It is generally acknowledged in European music circles that the
DJs who returned back from Goa in the late '80s, were the pioneers of the
House music which took Europe by storm and redefined dance music once and
House became Rave music by the early '90s. By now anybody with a cursory
interest in House and Rave music, discovered that there was a form of music
called Goa Trance, which was the original parent of both House and Rave.
Which is why you have thousands of Neo-Hippies, Ravers, Trippers, Clubbers,
etc., coming down to Goa every year, for the parties and raves in the
northern coastal belt, and the phenomenon, instead of dying down with the
end of the hippies, has grown ever bigger.
With psychedelic music itself still a fringe happening within the realms of
mainstream pop music, there are no big stars, though there are legendary
names like Goa Gill, but many of the top DJs of the world, like Paul
Oakenfold, have paid a visit to Goa to understand the music.
Within the Goan establishment, on the other hand, the parties or raves have
always been looked upon as a law and order problem, and have never been
looked at as a legitimate tourist attraction. On the contrary, the parties
are a source of easy money for the law enforcement agencies.
Contact the writer via email jzuzarte at rediffmail.com