The True Story of Goa Trance

Goa Trance 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.

In the year of 1510, Portuguese colonists arrived to Goa. They made a great influence in this Indian province, which can be seen in numerous catholic churches and monasteries that were built during that time.

But, the Portuguese were not the only European nation that controlled Goa in the history. The British colonists occupied the region two times. The first period was from 1797. to 1798. and again from 1802. – 1813. During 1961. Indian army seized control over Goa, and integrated it into the sovereign country of India. Multi-cultural history of Goa has its place in history of Goa Trance genre, especially when we point out the very first parties that were organized on the beaches of Goa during the 60’s.

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.

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”.

DJs of the late 80’s had often used DATs for their DJ sets, but the preparations for the show were hard and time-consuming. According to Steve Psyko (he was also one of the first Goa DJs), the DJs would often cut-out the parts of the songs mixing them with other tracks, in order to create a mega-mix which would be played at the parties later on.

The use of vinyl records was not practiced because of the risk that the vinyl could actually melt due to high temperatures. Ray Castle recalls one time when DJ Sven Vath came to Goa with all his records, in order to become “Techno pope of India”. However, that didn’t work out well, because you just have to be used to DATs on such high temperatures.

Paul Chambers (British Goa trance DJ) recalls his trips to Goa and the very first electronic music parties that were held there. There were no more than 200 people on those events. The decorations were really colourful but not numerous and there were a few black-light lamps around. The first police raids occurred during the 1990. but the situation became better in 1991. and 1992. It was during these years, that the first hype and rush to Goa had started.

The number of people on parties noticeably increased, and the numbers were from 500 to 1500 visitors. More and more people were coming to Goa, especially from Israel and Japan. With the increasing number of tourists that arrived to Goa to dance, consume drugs and live a free life, the whole underground feeling started to fade, and the music itself started to become more and more popular.

This was even more supported by numerous English and other European DJs and publishers, which resulted in first releases in the 1993.
The release which was probably the most influential for Goa trance uprising was the Project II Trance, released by Dragonfly Records. This release featured artists like Gumbo, Genetic, The Infinity Project, Total Eclipse, Mandra Gora and others.

Except for Goa trance in India, parties started to occur in other parts of the world, and the most known ones were in Byron Bay (Australia), where many hippies found their new place for Goa trance, since more and more tourists were visiting Goa and the scene was booming. In England, the first Goa trance parties were organized in London and Manchester. It was interesting that almost the very same DJs performed in Goa and in England, and the visitors were mostly the same in the both areas. It was just a matter of season where the caravan will be settled.

The music in that period (1993-1999) was characterized as psychedelic trance-dance.

That term was mentioned even earlier and it was often used as a title for parties. The tracks became longer than earlier, so the average track was around 8.30 minutes, and the tempo was around 145 BPM (beats per minute). Generally, the BPM range can vary from 120 to 160. The structure of tracks mostly had the same pattern, so almost every track had an atmospheric intro, 4/4 rhythm which was followed by oriental and eastern melodies, acid sounds (the legendary TB303) and vocal samples (mostly taken from SF movies.

The climax of the track would usually emerge around 5th minute, although some tracks didn’t follow that pattern. Iconography on parties, CD covers and T-shirts was mostly related to Hindu and Buddhist motifs.

There were also science-fiction motives (mostly aliens, UFOs and other characters), colourful psychedelic fractals and drawings.

The end of Goa trance music occurred in the period between 1998./1999 with the newly formed psy trance sound which was rather minimalistic comparing to Goa trance, containing less melodies, shorter bass lines and sharper kicks with emphasis on psychedelic sound effects. Many Goa trance projects started to fade, while others formed within the psytrance genre.

Although, some other projects kept their former names while they adjusted their production to the present trend.

One of such examples is a legendary Goa trance project – Etnica. Many publishers also followed the change, and one of the biggest trance labels, TIP records was renamed to TIP World. TIP Records used to publish Goa trance (The Infinity Project, Doof, Psychopod…) while TIP World started to publish new projects like GMS, Logic Bomb, 1200 Mics, and others.