Editor's note: This article was written and submitted to GoKunming by first-time writer Elad Remer, who has been living in Kunming for the past two years.
At the beginning of April in a forest outside of Kunming, Spirit Tribe, a festival of Trance music and art, took place. It combined the experience of pristine nature, psychedelic art and alternative culture, all providing an outdoor Trance music party.
Spirit Tribe was three days long and took place in the village of Taiping (太平), a half-hour ride from Kunming. The festival area is massive and covers 250,000 square meters of forested mountains and lakeside meadow. Goats are frequently herded in the area and were nicknamed "psy goats" by visitors.
This was the third time the festival took place, but because the Trance scene in China is just taking its first steps, the event attracted only 350 people. This fact didn't stop the producers from providing a festival up to European standards. The festival had two stages, a main stage playing different genres of Trance music, and a second, smaller stage featuring more chilled-out music performed by local artists.
A significant part of the festival was also dedicated to art. The entire area was dotted with exhibits and an artist market sold a variety of products, jewelry and clothes, all dedicated to the psychedelia. Another area included a movie room screening films in line with the vibe of the festival, a bar providing Western and Chinese food and drinks, and a workshop zone offering different activities such as yoga, string art, belly dancing instruction and lectures.
The main dance floor played different styles of Trance — progressive, full-on and psytrance during the day, and heavier forest and dark Trance at night. The smaller stage played more happy music during the daytime, including house, glitch, and tekno. Although the crowds were relatively small, neither dance floor ever felt empty, as most of the ravers were enthusiastic music fans full of energy. Olivier, a 31 year-old French teacher said, "For me, a memorable moment of the festival was resting and enjoying the breeze after a long night of dancing."
The festival, organized by the Kunming-based Goa Productions, hosted local Chinese and foreign DJs. On the top of the list was world famous British artist Dick Trevor, also known as 'Dickster'. It was Dickster's first time playing in China, and he played for free in a show of support for a Kunming scene that is just starting. "I enjoyed playing the festival a lot. I love small festivals where the atmosphere is more personal and special," Trevor said.
Among many Trance scene fans there is a consensus that it is actually the small and less famous events that are the best. Spirit Tribe confirmed that by providing ravers with a magical and private experience. The limited number of people created a family atmosphere. Bumping into the same faces encouraged new friendships, and strangers helped each other by setting up tents, sharing food, drinks, cigarettes and everything they had to offer. People played frisbee in a circle, and the number of participants grew larger and larger. Others practiced juggling together, teaching each other tricks and sharing techniques.
The overall feeling was that everybody was equal, and even the DJs, who often distance themselves from the crowd, were in direct contact with everyone else, dancing, talking and handing out free CDs. "It was a party about love and giving. I made many new friends and danced with them all day and night. It was an incredible and unforgettable experience full of magical energy", said Ying Zi, a Chinese student from Kunming.
The variety of people attending the festival was vast. The number of Chinese people was about equal to the number of foreigners, and others came from all over Asia. Besides the people from Kunming, there were those from Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xiamen, Hong Kong and cities in Yunnan province. People also came from Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand. The majority of participants were in there 20s, and although many come from an art background, the festival also attracted business owners, students, teachers and travelers.
China is known as a country that for years valued collectivism over individualism, but at Spirit Tribe, one could find many young Chinese with tattoos, long hair and colorful clothes, proof of the change the country continues to go through. "It was amazing to see all these beautiful hippie people coming from all over China just to share the joy of dancing together, making arts and crafts and telling stories. The collective energy was really high," said Olga, a Russian teacher working as a teacher in Kunming.
One of the most refreshing sights at Spirit Tribe was a Chinese couple and their two daughters. They mingled with partygoers, took part in the activities and generally enjoyed themselves. For the ten year-old girls, it was an opportunity to learn juggling, participate in the different workshops and practice speaking English. The parents curiously watched the colorful crowd, and it seemed that the sight of the Chinese hippies caught their attention more than any of the foreigners.
China, despite its quick development, is still a country where Trance culture and festivals are not common. This is why it was so fascinating to experience such a festival in Yunnan, to dance together with alternative Chinese people, see psychedelic Chinese art, and to experience a scene and a culture in its infancy. The Spirit Tribe festival in April successfully reflected its own motto, "connect, experience, share, learn".
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