This article explores the phenomenon of Goa trance, a form of electronic dance party music originating on the beaches of Goa, on the Indian subcontinent. The term "Goa trance" and the range of alternative terms for Goa trance are discussed. The history of the Goa scene is examined in a number of stages. The geographical area itself has had a fascinating history which is briefly summarised. Following that, the early history of the Goa beach scene in the 60s and 70s is described, before a more detailed examination of the heyday period in which the Goa trance style was developed. The decline of the Goa trance scene in Goa itself is also discussed. Since Goa trance was developed in the Goa area by an international community of DJs and recording artists from Europe, Australasia and other parts of Asia such as Japan, its dispersal back to these parts of the world is explored. The current commercialisation of the style is described and the main recording artists, DJs and record labels are identified.
The second part of this article is concerned with analysing some of the stylistic characteristics of Goa trance. The aesthetic of the idiom is touched on before a more detailed treatment of aspects of musical style and party practice. This is informed by analysis of some of the recent recorded repertoire, as well as observations made while attending Goa trance parties.
The data for the historical and much of the descriptive material for this article comes from two main sources. The first consists of interviews conducted by Fred Cole with a number of the important DJs and artists who worked in Goa during the main period. These include Ray Castle, Steve Psyko and Fred Disko. A second source of data is the World Wide Web. Many web sites are devoted to Goa Trance, including home pages of important DJs such as Goa Gil.
In the last decade of dance music there have been hundreds of terms coined to describe the main genres and the various sub-genres of musical production. Judging by its use in the dance music press and on the dozens of WWW pages devoted to the genre, the term Goa trance has achieved some level of currency. In his 1996 interview, Ray Castle (in Cole, 1996a) stated that "it 's only in the last two years we've started hearing these words 'Goa trance'....before that I used to call the parties 'Trance Dance'." Steve Psyko (in Cole 1996b) believes that the term was invented by the English, because they "always want to put a label on something like that". Further more, as with punk, "they have stereotyped Goa trance; they have decided that Goa trance is just one kind of music." As this article proceeds it will become clear that one of the striking characteristics of the music played in Goa since the early 1980s, is its stylistic diversity. None the less, the contemporary recorded music marketed under the label of Goa trance or some variant of it, may indeed have certain definable stylistic characteristics. This theory will be examined below under the heading 'Musical Style'.
The currency of terminology is also subject to waves of fashion. One UK party promoter on the Goa Trance mailing list (Barron, 1996), claimed in October 1996 that the 'G word' is now so unfashionable that "if you went into a record label over here (i.e. Dragonfly, TIP, Flying Rhino etc.) and called the music Goa Trance you would be laughed at"; and furthermore that, if you used the term on a party flyer, no-one would attend the party. He suggests "Psychedelic Trance" as a more appropriate term since most of the music is being made in the UK, Australia, Israel and the US, not in Goa. Curiously, though , the party advertised in his message refers to "Psychoactive Trance" . There is some support for the term "psychedelic trance" from other sources including the BooM! Records web page (1996), Hugh James Sharpe (1996a), and Ray Castle (in Cole 1996a), who also has a predilection for the term "psychotropic trance" (Castle, 1996b). Both Castle (1996b) and Sharpe (1996a) also use the elided form, "Psy-Trance". Other terms used by Castle include "fluro" (based on the use of fluorescent lights and images), "altered state", "Goa techno trance", "electronic trance" and "acid techno"(1996b, 1996b, 1996a, 1996c, and in Cole, 1996a). Sharpe (1996a) uses the term "Ambient Goa", and Derek Jordan (1996), "Ambient Goa trance"; although it is not clear whether they are referring to Goa Trance or to a [more] ambient variety of it. Mat Joyce (1996), a Goa Trance mailing list subscriber, has ventured a few other alternative genre names such as "Uplifting", "High Energy", and "Alien", but these suggestions were rejected by two other subscribers, including Hugh James Sharpe (1996b).
Added to the possible confusion created by this plethora of terms, is the frequent association with other established genres such as techno, acid trance, and acid house. Sharif (1996) suggests, for example, that "among many of its devotees, [Goa trance] is considered to be the purest form of acid house music."