Music amalgamates cultures. One such instance is that of organic trance bands in countries such as France finding influences from the orient.
The philosophy of natural or organic trance takes root in seeking a connection to the ancient primordial spirit in a plane of modern material existence. Ancient sounds that evoke the listeners in a state of trance juxtaposed in a futuristic context is the simplest way to describe natural or organic trance. “We are very close to nature. I believe that we are all born with an ancient knowledge and the task is to discover that in the modern age and finding balance is essential,” says Greg of Hilight Tribe, wherein he plays didgeridoo, sitar, and guitar, to name a few instruments. For Elodie, a teacher by profession but a musician, art lover, and frequenter of music festivals by passion, natural trance represents “the state of nature, without any artificial elements”, something which helps her reach “the centre” within. While majority of the sub genres of psy-trance require computer programmes to create loops and rhythms, natural trance attains the sound or high beats per minute (BPM) through the use of physical instruments, but modified to connect with modern age sensibilities and vibrations.
Bryan Vely, the drummer for Regal Trip, an organic trance band based in Reims, France, admits that while the sound achieved through computers may be perfect in its execution, “the fact that there come moments of breaks and mistakes in the making and playing of instruments by hand makes it a true connection in the higher sense that much like the human spirit in life cannot be like calculators, mathematically perfect, the organic nature of natural trance makes it quite close to an expression of the self.” Greg from Hilight Tribe states something similar, “The message from our music is simple; we are not machines; we like to be connected to our instruments; whether in the practice of the music or while playing for others.”
A melange of cultures
Most often understood as a subgenre of the psychedelic trance, the genre includes elements from Hinduism, Buddhism and Shaman beliefs among many other schools of spiritual thought as well as tribal beliefs when it comes to philosophy, sound and instruments. Though the genre remains largely underground, the community is strong.
While many who frequent organic trance gatherings practice yoga, meditation, reiki etc., there are also those who do not follow a spiritual path or practice in the common understanding of the term. “We do respect individual beliefs, but we express spirituality through music. It is the key to finding happiness and compassion that many may find through religion or practice,” says Greg. Léa, a student of English language, notes, “Natural trance is some kind of spiritual/internal journey, a way to discover yourself by freeing yourself.” Many in the growing scene of natural trance share Léa’s observations. According to Mathias, who plays the didgeridoo for Regal Trip, “The meditation is in trance,” adding, “I forget the count of my breath while playing the didgeridoo.”
The origins of the ‘traditional’ instruments used to make the music, such as the sitar, table, didgeridoo and djembe represent a feature; the unified diversity of the community. Greg adds, “Travel influences the sound greatly and the inspiration lies in discovering new cultures which are a mosaic of different smells, colours, languages… everything! There is an infinite amount of inspiration from diverse instruments.” Hilight Tribe, arguably the frontrunner in the organic trance scene, have had strong influences from India, with songs such as ‘Shankara’ in the past garnering a fair amount of success. In their most recent album, they included the gayatri mantra in the song ‘Gayatri’ to much delight of their Indian fans.
Unity through music
With the creation of songs like ‘Free Tibet’, Hilight Tribe clearly represents the common vision of the community. ‘Free Tibet’ came about after the band’s visit to Dharamsala and the Himalayan Mountains in northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Although ‘Free Tibet’ is the song Hilight Tribe is synonymous to, Greg is clear in pointing out, “We are not politically affiliated, but we stand for the values of peace, coexistence and understanding.”
However difficult these goals may seem, they are shared aspirations. As for uniting the world through love and understanding, the medium of music is certainly a good route to take.