Paradoxically, the advent of a music designed for Goa parties coincided with the collapse of the scene at which it was aimed. Actually, according to some, the mere idea of a specific music in Goa is nonsense. Says DJ Steve Psyko : "The English have decided that Goa trance is just one kind of music, [but] in the beginning, the feeling from Goa music is anything goes". As a matter of fact, this music appeared along a scene which was different from the Hippie scene of Goa. At the end of the day, the expression "Goa Trance" has never been very appropriate. As we will see it, the term " Psychedelic Trance " soon took over.


The pioneers : 1988 - 1993

In the early 90's, acidfreaks came back to Europe, Japan or Australia, willing to produce a music specifically made for the Goa parties. They would come back the next season, with their bags full of DATs, and see the effect of their music on the crowd. Raja Ram, a key figure of the scene, remembers : "At that time, you could go into a record shop, and it was impossible to buy any of this music. It didn't exist. So the following year [1989], I went back to Goa, as I did for the next eight years. But the next year I went back, I started meeting a lot of the musicians in Goa and it started getting a lot more serious, because one started plugging in with the scene, and meeting people at studios, and discussing ideas, and when I got back after that season, we started getting into the music really full time, working on it more or less everyday. And we ended up making I think 60 tracks or something like that with The Infinity Project, with Graham."

Of course, nobody agrees on which track was the first Goa anthem. The question is probably of little relevance. Strangely enough, it is not a track intentionally meant for the Goa parties which is often looked upon as the first proto-Goa trance tune. It is The KLF - What Time is Love, judiciously labelled "Pure Trance version", released in October 1988. Nevertheless, there is a strong link between the KLF and Goa Trance : in the 80's, three key protagonists of the forthcoming Psy scene were at the sides of Jimmy Cauty, 50% of The KLF, in the group Brilliant.
First of all Martin Glover, a.k.a. Youth, bassist of Killing Joke before participating in the project The Orb, and who founded the first Goa label, Dragonfly Records, to spread this music to a wider audience than the DATs happy-few, after he enthusiastically came back from the Goa beaches.
Ben Watkins follows, founder of Juno Reactor (*), great electronic music experimenter since the mid-80's. Associated with Johann Bley, he was the author of the first Goa Trance hit in the UK charts in 1992 : "Jungle High". He also participated with Stephane Holweck, also a member of Brilliant and future member of Total Eclipse (*), in numerous ambient projects, like Electrotete. What a nice family photo…


To this picture, we could add Ronald Rothfield, alias Raja Ram. Member of the Jazz Rock band Quintessence in the 60's, he discovered Goa parties in 1988, as he was almost 50 years old. Back to England, with his friend Graham Wood, he wrote a couple of tracks under the name The Infinity Project ("Kicking with Boris", "I Love my Baby", end 1989), being inspired by the sounds he had heard in Disco Valley. Followed the creation of an homonymous label, TIP. The British commercial take-off of Goa Trance was at hand…

Last but not least, another backpacker who had spent some time in India : Joie Hinton. The latter participated in the formation of Ozric Tentacles in 1982. Their music was a subtle mix of futuristic sounds and roaring guitars, making use of all sorts of samples that Joie had brought back from India. In 1989, Joie Hinton and Merv Pepler created Eat Static, the 100% electronic side of Ozric so to speak. First producing conventional Acid House tracks, they quickly found their style (appearing on their EP "Almost Human" in 1992) which had, and still has, a considerable impact on Goa Trance artists.


August 1993 : the first Goa Trance compilation is released, on Youth's label : Project II Trance. It contained tracks by artists which would become key figures of the scene : Simon Posford (Hallucinogen (*)), Stephane Holweck (Total Eclipse (*)), Martin Freeland (Man With No Name (*))…
The same year, the first organized structure for Goa Trance parties came to life, once again in London, thanks to Chris Deckker, an Australian percussionist who had found inspiration on the shores of Goa : Return to the Source. He'd be soon joined in his enterprise by a famous DJ, Mark Allen, organizer of the Pagan Parties.

Worldwide spreading : 1994-1998

The expression "Goa Trance" appeared around 1994, before it was replaced in 1996 by " Psychedelic Trance ", the reference to Goa becoming a bit dowdy. We'll see why in a minute.

During this period, it was a genuine turmoil : the first album of Juno Reactor, "Transmissions", seen as the Goa Trance manifesto, was released in January 1994. Following the path of Youth with Dragonfly Records, new labels appeared : as already mentioned, TIP by Raja Ram and Graham Wood - dead then brought back to life as TIP World in 1999 -, but also Platipus by Simon Berry - who, after the success of " Children " by Robert Miles, in 1995, moved on to more commercial stuff - Matsuri by Tsuyoshi Suzuki and John Perloff - label which sought in 1999 following the disinterest of his father Tsuyoshi - Flying Rhino under the guidance of Sally Welch - sought in 2002 following financial difficulties - Blue Room Released, led by Simon Ghahary - disappeared in 2002 following the financial withdrawal of the Blue Room group - Phantasm… Thus, thanks to its independent music network, well-established since the Beatles era, England led the way.

Yet, Great Britain was not completely alone. The party scene had been restricted on the island by the Criminal Justice Bill passed in 1994. Outdoor parties, which are an elementary requirement of a proper Trance experience, were thus not possible. Meanwhile, Germany's liberal laws and the newly reunified East sparked a party paradise, which had a strong effect on the musical development and success of Goa Trance in Germany.
The first Goa Trance festival took place near Hamburg, in 1992 : the Voov Experience, today the first European festival, which gathered 12.000 people in 2002. Two years later, it was a well-known label which was created in the same region : Spirit Zone. In France, the Gaïa festival took place for the first time in 1992 - 6.000 trancers in 2001 -, and Distance, a commercial label, showed some interest in the Goa sound in 1994, gaining substantial profits from it.
Indeed, the "Distance to Goa" series represents the biggest regular sell of the scene, with 25.000 copies sold for every compilation. But the first sells were far from these figures. A catalyst was required so as to get more people in touch with this new underground music.

In the mid-90's, Paul Oakenfold was a very popular English DJ, with his own label, Perfecto. Along with Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Johnny Walker, he had introduced the British crowd to the new dance music sound coming from Ibiza, at the end of the 80's. Ollie Olsen, pioneer of electronic music at the end of the 70's and of Goa Trance with the second album of his project Third Eye ("Ancient Future", released on his label Psy-Harmonics in July 1993) made Paul discover Psy Trance. On December, 18th 1994, Paul Oakenfold was the guest DJ of the famous BBC Radio 1 broadcast "Essential Mix". Between 2pm and 4pm, he played the first Goa mix [5] to reach a whole country. He also arranged to have some of the small label Goa recordings reissued on his influential dance label, Perfecto, creating a sublabel, Perfecto Fluoro, dedicated to Goa Trance, on which appeared Man With No Name (*) for instance. The fact that this music was then available on Perfecto legitimated it for other big-name DJs in England.

Between 1996 and 1997, the Goa movement reached its peak : the media had become aware of the phenomenon [6], star-DJs appeared. But the hype was soon gone : sales suddenly dropped, and the scandal resulting in the collapse of the English leading distribution network Flying left a great void, dragging down some UK labels, artists and party organizations. Techno magazines, especially in France, decided that the Goa style couldn't offer anything new anymore, and focused on other genres. The death of Goa Trance, or at least of its more commercial side, was symbolically marked by the compilation "Let it RIP", released by Matsuri in October 1997.

Israel : the second home of Goa Trance

The development of the Goa sound in Israel was somewhat different from what it was in Europe or Japan. India was closed for Israeli until 1988. As soon as the borders were opened, Goa shores were assaulted by groups of young Israeli, whose military service was over, and who were seeking a cheap and peaceful place to rest. When they came back, they brought back electronic music and drugs in their bags. The first psychedelic parties, called "Full Moon Gatherings", began in 1990 on the Nizanim beaches. In 1993, the police began to crack down on the parties, looked upon as drug havens. DJs were arrested, gears confiscated.

The music brought back from Goa or that you could hear in clubs like "the Penguin" gave ideas to the Israeli youth. This is where the most well-known Psy act would appear : Astral Projection (*). After a few Indus and Techno productions, Astral Projection, at the time SFX, wrote their first Trance tracks around 1992, like "Allah Acbar". The same year, the first Israeli hit, composed by Erez Jino (today Analog Pussy (*)), appeared on a local compilation, Trance Mix 1. In 1995, the first Israeli Goa Trance album was out : "Progressive Trance", by Indoor (*).

As for the parties, a police intervention was always in the air. Long building sets were thus inappropriate. Moreover, Trancers needed a powerful and fast music, to forget their gloomy everyday life and freak out to the max. This particular context led to the development of Nitzhonot, standing for "Victorious Trance", with a high rhythm (above 150 bpm), simple structure and cheesy melodies. One of the first compilation with this kind of music, out end 1997, was "Over the Sunrise", with the Nitzhonot guru, Holly Shwartz, Holy Men. This simplistic music wasn't the cup of tea of Goa purists though, who then avoided those parties.

Around 1998, travels to Europe became cheaper. A few Israeli trancers decided to go and have a listen to what Goa Trance had become beyond their borders…

Musical changes : 1998-2002

In Europe, the evolution of Goa Trance had followed the opposite path to Nitzhonot. After 5 years of melodic music with a short hype, a sudden change occurred. Psy Trance became darker and more repetitive, getting rid of the multi-layered melodies, and concentrating on rhythm and groove. An obvious influence from the Techno sound can be felt here, even if the tracks remain very hypnotic and psychedelic. This trend, becoming the main orientation, was nothing new though. You could already hear this style, especially in Germany, in albums like "Wellenbad" by Der Dritte Raum, released in 1996.

The milestone album in the field was released in 1998 : X-Dream (*) - Radio. Subsequently, a trend called Minimal or Techtrance developed, with key figures like S-Range or Son Kite.
Scandinavians also got involved in this change. One of the first Vikings to go down this way was Tomasz Balicki, better known as Atmos. People started talking about the "Scando sound", featuring dark atmosphere and very hard sounds. We can mention Battle of the Future Buddhas or Ka-Sol for instance. In 2002, melodic tunes became popular again, yet they have got rid of the musical fuss of the 94-96 years. The production was clearer as well. We are talking about Full-on.