Let's admit it: psychedelic trance is not the coolest genre of electronic music to listen to in 2015. In fact, it's kind of like the weird uncle of the dance music family—misunderstood, ridiculed, but mostly just ignored. Arising out of the early 80s, psy-trance was the result of DJs like Goa Gil combining psychedelic rock with new beat, electro, and EBM. It peaked commercially in the 90s, when the sound spread far beyond the Goa beaches where it was born. Today, psy-trance is a fringe culture that not many people will cop to; you definitely won't find stages devoted to it at major festivals like EDC or Tomorrowland.
Which is why it is so rad that Psy-Sisters, a collective of female psy-trance DJs, actually exists. Psy-trance is a niche genre within trance, an already niche genre of electronic music. That makes the question of female visibility an even more pertinent one, not to mention the visibility of women of color.
Psy-Sisters has been growing steadily since it was founded in 2012 by the DJ/producer Psibindi (real name: Rena Biring). Based in London, Biring is of South Asian descent, and has been DJing psy-trance for eight years. "This is exactly what I'd been looking for in my musical career: something that we can develop, that's not big on a commercial level," she tells me.
Biring formed Psy-Sisters with a few female DJ friends, and they started a day festival that now happens once a year. The collective has always been a labor of love: "We invest money out of our own pockets into it. We don't have a sponsor. The money we make back from that event is put back into Psy-Sisters," Biring says. This year, they even held a competition to find a new female DJ to open the event. The winner was a young DJ named Molly Sparkle, whose performance kickstarted her career.
When I mention to Biring that people often laugh when I confess my love for psytrance, she's quick to defend the genre's legitimacy. "If those people who make those judgments listen to some really good quality psytrance, you'll find that the production is very advanced. You're using ways of producing music that you wouldn't necessarily use when you're making a commercial dance track, a minimal track, or a house track," she retorts.
She has a point—it seems what people are distancing themselves from is not necessarily the music, but the popular and somewhat accurate perception of the psy-trance scene: a white, dreadlocked, poi-obsessed community of wookies, à la this guy:
I ask Biring if Psy-Sisters have faced criticism from men within the psytrance community. "We have had some feedback from male artists saying we're sexist, and [demanding] why are we not supporting male artists as well. But they need to understand we need to boost the females," she replies. "There [are] hardly any women playing, so this is really just to help support the ladies."
Psy-Sisters' 2nd Edition party in London (Photo via Antonio Pagano/Facebook)
To that end, Psy-Sisters threw a psy-trance party this year at the nightclub Union in Vauxhall, London that featured 18 female DJs over one night. They also present profiles of select DJs to their 3,500 supporters on Facebook. That's how I discovered TripPy MjaumiX from Guatemala and Alixx from Brazil, two women of color who fucking slay in their mixes. "That just shows you how many female artists have been stepping up to the plate to get involved in DJing and production," Psibindi says. "I definitely feel the collective is having a positive influence on the scene."
Before they start planning their next event in 2016, Psy-Sisters are focusing on developing their SoundCloud, with the hope of incentivizing more women to make mixes of their own. During festival season, they concentrate on celebrating the female artists who've made it to the bigger festival lineups, which are notoriously male-dominated.
It's a massive relief that a genre that I'm supposed to feel embarrassed to love is led by women like Psibindi—who couldn't be any further from the image people associate with the genre. With Psy-Sisters, she is interested in elevating women to inspire younger generations, which is definitely the kind of psytrance community I can proudly get behind.
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