Flying Away: Electronic Dance Music, Dance Culture, Psytrance, and New Sounds in Portugal

Flying Away: Electronic Dance Music, Dance Culture, Psytrance, and New Sounds in Portugal

Paula Guerra (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8665-6.ch013


The EDM has been growing since the 1980s with a set of features that work simultaneously as distinctive features, but also as the basis from which the genre obtains its legitimacy, from within the contemporary music production field. Starting from this approach, our main goal is to highlight an important proposition of post-subcultural studies: although electronic dance music, club culture and psytrance are globalized, there is no doubt that local appropriations are of the utmost importance. So our focus in this chapter will be to analyze the emergence and dynamics of psytrance at a global level and at the Portuguese level, based on the inputs from post-subcultural studies. By addressing psytrance, we propose to discuss these theories taking into consideration their potential heuristic nature in view of the interpretation of these contemporary musical and cultural manifestations, characterized by being complex, global, and local in nature.
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Start Flying Away: Introduction

The EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has been growing since the 1980s based on a set of distinctive markers, and on features based on which the genre obtains its legitimacy from within the contemporary music production field. EDM demands a sense of belonging and allowing oneself to get lost in the music, whether through a sound system or sound effects that populates some experimental electronic music. It is precisely due to this that the drug aspect is so central in the electronic imagination, explaining as well the existence of a certain form of metaphysical language (Reynolds, 1997). The huge potential of the technical crossovers consent that, in the interaction aspect of the EDM, a continuous push towards change exists, resulting in a ‘what trends are coming’ feeling. One aspect that characterizes (sub)cultures associated with electronic music is precisely the connection between music and the place where it is heard: we have to go to clubs to experience dance culture, or else the music is taken out of context and sense. Mixture/ mix is a good word to define dance culture, and it can assume multiple meanings: social mixture, as we can find in clubs a variety of people in terms of gender, race, social background; the belief in hybridity and in overcoming stylistic barriers; sonic, social, cultural and ideological blend (Guerra, 2013a; 2010). Starting from this approach is it important to mention the changes that electronic music operated, in the 90s, in the framework of urban popular music in Portugal.

Trance arrived in Portugal in the beginning of the 90’s and the first parties and raves took place in 1994. It was a time when house and techno was thriving, with dozens of events organized in big warehouses in Lisbon and Porto, much in the line of British club culture. Overtime, trance started appearing outdoors in secluded places; its greatest stimuli ends up being Boom Festival in 1997. The increase in festival offer, the appearance of various DJs and producers interested in psychedelic trance, as well as the progressive increase in public adherence suggest that the global phenomenon has implemented in Portuguese territory ever since. Much like happened with house and techno (the three of them having arrived in Portugal at the same time), trance has been slowly explored in nightclubs and urban places, becoming further known and recognized by young people as a night time leisure activity. This ‘mediatization’ of trance has not, however, led to a greater acceptance by the media of these activities. Parties appear related to social interdicts, such as drug use, and are the object of moral panics. Victor Silva (2005) considers the participants of contemporary trance parties are a specific elite of university students, despite considering there is a ‘real’ trance movement, consisting of a melting pot of more countercultural juvenile factions. These parties bring together the psychedelic freak looking for spiritual epiphanies, the self-assumed anarchist which rejects the capitalist regime, or the travellers, coming from the movements of new age and neo-hippies. However, in Portugal what we have observed is that both the elite participants and the “real” ones belong to higher social classes, due to it being the standard in what concerns consumptions and leisure in Portugal. Above all, psytrance is a fragmented reality, still very much unknown in Portugal due to its successive mythical creations.

Our main goal is therefore to approach the proposition of post-subcultural studies in the study of psytrance: regardless of the fact that electronic dance music, club culture and psytrance are globalized, there is no doubt that local appropriations are of the utmost importance, given the loyalty and involvement in the scene. We seek to prove that there is always a municipal, regional and national aspect in these forms (Thornton, 1996). Our methodology will consist of an analysis of 20 interviews to electronic music DJs, producers and musicians1, and the collection and systematic processing of information of the Psypartys website. We will then reflect on the genre and (sub)cultural features of its emergence and dynamics, and its appropriation to a Portuguese scale.

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