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The Local Scenes and Global Culture of Psytrance

Graham St John ed.  (Routledge 2010)

Cover Image - Ozora Festival 2009, Hungary. Photo by Alex Canazei _
The Local Scenes & Global Culture of Psytrance: Welcome

This lively textual symposium offers a rich harvest of formative research on the culture of global psytrance (psychedelic trance). As the first book to address the diverse transnationalism of this contemporary electronic dance music phenomenon, the collection hosts interdisciplinary research attending to psytrance as a product of intersecting local and global trajectories. With coverage of scenes in Goa, the UK, Israel, Japan, Italy, the US, Portugal, The Czech Republic and Australia, the collection features a dozen chapters from scholars researching psytrance in worldwide locations, employing various methods, within multiple disciplines. With chapters offering significant contributions to our understanding of globalization and music cultures, scene demise and transformation, ephemeral and cosmopolitan assemblages, counterculture and paradox, psychedelicization and genre, virtual tribes and the Internet, the carnivalesque and the aesthetics of nonsense, festivals and the logics of sacrifice, and other topics, Psytrance will strike interest across anthropology, sociology and studies in popular music, culture, media, history and religion.

Rooted in Full Moon parties held on the beaches of Goa, India, since the 1960s and incubated within Goa trance scenes flourishing around the world in the mid-1990s, psytrance culture has mushroomed globally over the past decade. Indebted to 1960s psychedelia, sharing music production technologies and DJ techniques with electronic dance music scenes, and harnessing the communication capabilities of the Internet, psytrance would develop distinctive sonic and visual aesthetics, organizations and events, discourse and practice. This cultural proliferation would depend upon the growth of exotic sites of travel, exchange and performance (e.g. Goa, Thailand and Bahia, Brazil), and scene formation in cosmopolitan capitals world-wide. With events attracting enthusiasts from dozens of nations, by 2000 psytrance festivals had become what were likely the most culturally diverse music and dance events on the planet. By 2010, psytrance music, style and textile fashions are evident in scenes the world over. Exploring psytrance from its 1960s roots and emergence in Goa to its subsequent proliferation and translation among transnational populations the book opens the way for the study of psytrance.


Psytrance: An Introduction. Graham St John

I Goa Trance

1. Goa is a State of Mind: On the Ephemerality of Psychedelic Social Emplacements. Luther Elliott
2. The Decline of Electronic Dance Scenes: The Case of Psytrance in Goa. Anthony D’Andrea
3. The Ghost of Goa Trance: A Retrospective. Arun Saldanha

II Global Psytrance

4. Infinite Noise Spirals: Psytrance as Cosmopolitan Emotion. Hillegonda Rietveld
5. Psychedelic Trance Music Making in the UK: Rhizomatic Craftsmanship and the Global Market Place. Charles de Ledesma
6. Re-evaluating Musical Genre in UK Psytrance. Robin Lindop
7. (En)Countering the Beat: Paradox in Israeli Psytrance. Joshua I. Schmidt

III Liminal Culture

8. DemenCZe: Psychedelic Madhouse in the Czech Republic. Botond Vitos
9. Dionysus Returns: Tuscan Trancers and Euripides’ The Bacchae. Chiara Baldini
10. Weaving the Underground Web: Neotribalism and Psytrance on Jenny Ryan
11. Narratives in Noise: Reflexivity, Migration and Liminality in the Australian Psytrance Scene. Alex Lambert
12. Liminal Culture and Global Movement: The Transitional World of Psytrance. Graham St John


“Psytrance is an intriguing transnational phenomenon for anyone interested in popular music, subcultures, and alternative spiritualities and lifestyles. Although still relatively unexplored, it is an increasingly significant area of study in Sociology, Cultural Studies, Popular Music Studies and Religious Studies. A dynamic feature of a multi-faceted, global, psychedelic occulture, psytrance presents the scholar with a fascinating, if bewildering array of musicological, cultural, and spiritual confluences. Edited by Graham St John, the foremost EDMC theorist, this stimulating collection of essays by some of the key researchers in the field provides a genuinely insightful and engaging contribution to the study of psytrance, which students, tutors, and researchers will be turning to for many years to come. I warmly and enthusiastically welcome it.” --Christopher Partridge, Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, Lancaster University, UK

The Local Scenes and Global Culture of Psytrance is a rich collection, full of pieces that combine the results of detailed fieldwork with up-to-date theorizing. I particularly like the way this volume goes beyond the longstanding preoccupation of popular music scholars with subcultural expression, and into a whole set of other, interdisciplinary issues. This book is very much about music, but it also tackles such phenomena as the global “festivalization” of culture, emerging forms of music-based religiosity, transformations in the nature of cultural labour, and shifts in the social meaning of travel. Psytrance comes across here as much more than just one more interesting musical niche. Interweaving technologies and bodies, the archaic and the contemporary, the local and the cosmopolitan, psytrance condenses within itself many of the key cultural dynamics of our time. The articles gathered here delve into those dynamics with skill and commitment, and the result is a book that should interest any scholar of present-day cultural expression.” --Will Straw, Professor, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University, Canada

“Graham St John has assembled a thought-provoking and rewarding collection of essays that explores the rarely considered musical and cultural practices that make up psytrance. Dedicated to its local variants and its global tendrils, this collection frames psytrance through scenes, subcultures, neo-tribes, political economies, cultural politics, and aesthetics, as well as movement and mobility, giving us an engaging contribution to the nascent study of electronic dance music cultures.” -- Geoff Stahl, Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa - New Zealand

More reviews

Rupert Till in Dancecult

Susan Luckman in Cultural Studies Review

The Local Scenes & Global Culture of Psytrance: Text
The Local Scenes & Global Culture of Psytrance: Pro Gallery
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