If there’s one thing the western Indian state of Goa has taught us over the last year, it’s that the rave never stops. Even when we’re in the midst of a literal pandemic.
For most tourists, Goa is synonymous with being shitfaced for three days straight, losing money (and their cool) at tacky casinos, and taking that unoriginal cocktail-featuring boomerang at the beach. But there’s a reason why Goa raves on, no matter what the circumstances; it’s inked in the story of the state’s first few decades of independence.
Before Goa became known for its commercial clubs and overcrowded beaches, it was a hippie haven that exuded an energy of inclusivity and freedom. As the counterculture hippie movement saw a steady growth amid the Cold War-torn Europe and America in the 60s, vagabonds from these countries began slowly making their way to South Asia, often by foot, attracted to the spiritual nature of the subcontinent. A certain “Eight Finger” Eddie—an American vagabond who’s also the inspiration behind a new-ish craft beer brand which is quite good, if we may add—stumbled upon the sleepy fishing towns of Goa in the 1960s.
The country’s smallest state, which was annexed by independent India in 1961, was formerly a Portuguese colony and had a European influence that was more welcoming to foreigners than many other parts of the country. So once word got out that a small state in India had an inclusive culture, sense of peace, golden sands, a relative lack of authority, and lotsss of drugs, hippies from around the world began streaming in.
While the first settlers in Goa came to Colva, a beach in the southern part of the state, it was the northern village of Anjuna that sprang into psychedelic action. Local legend has it that since Anjuna did not have a police station at the time, its pristine beach and quiet culture made it the breeding grounds of a booming psychedelic scene. Drugs like LSD and MDMA, which were legal in the U.S. until 1968 and 1985 respectively, were easy to procure out here. Many foreigners were also fascinated by charas— a derivative of cannabis made from the flower’s resin that was indigenous to India—which enjoyed a social and religious acceptance at the time, and was only outlawed in 1985.
A Goan local named Joe “Banana” Almeida also set up a cafe in Anjuna, and helped incoming tourists familiarise themselves with the local scene, bridging the gap between Konkani-speaking Goans and visitors from the Western world. As more people poured into the state, it became the centre point of legendary all-night raves called Full Moon parties, as well as New Year’s Eve celebrations that would often last for a week.
Over the decades, Goa’s music scene also grew from guitar-strumming psychedelic rock, to becoming the first Indian state to have an electronic music scene. Locals say that the first electronic track ever played in Goa was a disco number by Kraftwerk, a German band that specialised in synth-pop, in 1970, after a visitor carried their songs to India’s shores on a tape.
After that, the state saw a steady shift into electronic music, though apparently, acid trippers were initially resistant to this change and preferred to stick with acoustic tunes in nature settings.
By the mid-80s, the love and peace motives of the hippie movement began slowly fading away, as the scene gave way to psychedelic trance DJs like Laurent, Fred Disko and Goa Gil. And as we descended into the 90s, Goa’s psychedelic raves went from an underground scene to worldwide recognition.
Today, even the “underground” parties in Goa are heavily commercialised, often looked upon as crowded spaces filled with drugged-out revellers dancing amid trippy lights—sometimes even unsafe. But Goa’s psychedelic raves were always a search for inclusion, freedom and an ability to live life like it ends every full moon. To preserve this intangible feeling that Goa grew up with, a Facebook page called “I Love Goa” has collected pictures from some of the wildest moments of psychedelic-era Goa.
“Many of the people who were in these pictures of Goa in the 70s and 80s had lost contact with their friends, and were able to re-connect through my page” the anonymous admin of the Facebook page told VICE, explaining why they decided to collect moments from Goa’s psychedelic raves.
“These pictures depict a story that details how back in the 70s and 80s, an era called the hippie era, people enjoyed themselves simply by dancing with their friends in the middle of nature, unlike today's generation where people just want to go to fancy restaurants.”