Karahana – The Story of the First Psychedelic Trance Festival – 1997
Read the amazing story of the huge Israeli psytrance festival that was endorsed by the police and was called, believe it or not, Drugless Festival. And watch the movie too, of course. Goosebumps guaranteed!
Some might call it, paraphrasing the Sex Pistols movie, The Great Trance Swindle.
Karahana is an Israeli trance culture slang word, meaning a state of total madness on the dancefloor. It is also the name of one of the first (if not The first) documentary film ever made about psytrance. It tells the story of “Drugless Festival”, better remembered in Israel as “Huga Festival” that took place in Ganey Huga, a water park in the North of Israel, for 3 days, back in the summer of 1997, and was basically the first psytrance festival in the world, with Boom’s first edition happening few months later, and VuuV and Antaris still smaller events. Around 15,000-20,000 people (most of them arriving on the second day, as no one believed it would actually happen) gathered to dance in total freedom with an international line up of the leading musicians of the time.
The cover of the VHS video of Karahana
Back in the mid 90’s the psytrance scene in Israel was truly underground. The parties were small and intimate, and most of the psytrance community knew each other by name. Somewhere between 50-250 people attended these events, and there were no fences or security, bar or stage – just a table with a mixer, DAT tapes and/or Mini Discs and only later also CDJs, and a sound system (usually not the best one…). Directions were passed from mouth to ear and later through recorded voice-mails, in order to keep confidentiality, and more specifically, to avoid being shut down by the police.
Around 15,000-20,000 people (most of them arriving on the second day, as no one believed it would actually happen) gathered to dance in total freedom
In those years, especially in 95-98 the parties and the trance culture in general were heavily persecuted by the authorities and the police. Parties were shut down whenever they were discovered, sometimes with brutality and the culture that became bigger and stronger and wanted to evolve and grow found itself choked and abused. It was very hard for many to accept the reactions of the establishment to something people felt was so positive and constructive and caused no damage to others (in contrast to many other activities that were tolerated, even when they were not legal).
Asher Haviv, the visionary behind the festival.
Into that reality came a dreamer named Asher Haviv, a family man running his own established business, not your usual trance enthusiast. Asher fell in love with the music and the culture and decided to make a festival, he joined forces with some partners, and they decided to call it “Drugless Festival” and get the sponsorship of an Anti Drug government supported NGO and and support from the Police by inviting people to celebrate without drugs and thus stopping the authorities from closing the events by labelling them as event made only in order to consume drugs. It worked. Somehow it worked. Some might call it, paraphrasing the Sex Pistols movie, The Great Trance Swindle.
they decided to call it “Drugless Festival” and get the sponsorship of an Anti Drug government supported NGO and and support from the Police
It started with a convoy of cars driving from the South of Israel to the North, blasting music wherever it went with Police escort paving the way and reaching Gany Huga to find there only 2500 people. But the event was happening and soon people were standing in lines to the public phones (no cellular phones then) to call their friends. The next morning the place was packed and 15,000 tickets were sold. Many more people went in without tickets.
Watch a short trailer of Karahana with translation we made for you:
The line up was mind-boggling. Most of the biggest artists of that time were there: DJ Tsuyoshi Suzuki (Japan), Deedrah (France), MFG (Israel), Juan Muses Rapt (Spain), Youth (UK), X-Dream (Germany), California Sunshine (Israel), Tandu (Israel), Lenny Ibizzare(Danmark), ManMadeMan (UK) and many others were part of it.
All and all, “Drugless Festival” was a euphoric event, that brought thousands of people to believe that the different reality that the trance culture offered, one that people experienced on the beaches of Goa and Koh Pangan and in small underground gatherings in Israel, can exist in everyday life Israel. Everyone who was there and experienced the amazing energies of the event became an ambassador to trance culture. Israelis travelling overseas were talking about it. There was a feeling, and not for the last time, that things are changing.
The original festival flyer
The reality, however, was different, and soon enough the Israeli authorities went back to fight the scene with extra vigour, while labelling it as drugs-based scene.
Most of the biggest artists of that time were there: DJ Tsuyoshi Suzuki (Japan), Deedrah (France), MFG (Israel), Juan Muses Rapt (Spain), Youth (UK), X-Dream (Germany), California Sunshine (Israel), Tandu (Israel), Lenny Ibizzare(Danmark), ManMadeMan (UK)
Nevertheless, the festival was a defining moment for the Israeli trance culture and for the world trance culture too. The energies created when so many people gather to dance together and expand their consciousness echoed far in time and space. It was real Karahana!
Watch the full movie: