Counterculture celebrated at hippie summit
By Emilio Rappold Sep 23, 2010, 13:37 GMT
Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal - Forty-one years after the legendary Woodstock festival, hippies are a subgroup that rarely makes the headlines anymore.
But the counterculture followers still exist. They recently were among the attendees of a festival far removed from the public, featuring the psychedelic music they famously adore.
The Beira region in east-central Portugal is commonly referred to as a wasteland.
'It's the end of the world. No jobs, no people, nothing,' said a not-so-sober retiree in a the pub on the otherwise deserted main plaza of the town of Idanha-a-Nova. In search of prosperity, young people typically flee the town for Lisbon and other more alluring places, leaving mostly elderly people behind.
But every two years when the moon is full in August, thousands of exotically clothed people arrive in the town of 10,000 residents for the Boom Festival, the top trance music festival event in Europe. It is also a summit for today's hippies from all over the world.
'Boom is the highlight of the festival calendar and my spiritual home. People are constantly smiling,' said Shane Gobi, a South African DJ living in London, after his performance at the festival, which started in 1997. The attendees are equally as happy about the festival.
'Boom is a playground in which you can unleash your inner child,' said a woman from India. A 22-year-old German man struggled over a question about the fascination with the event. 'I would put it this way: The entrance fee is 150 euros. That's a lot of money for a student like myself. But I would pay 1,500.'
The festival was born as a psychedelic-trance event, but over the years it has opened itself not only to other underground music, but also to many other types of art.
The palette ranges from painting and graffiti to theatre, video, cinema, sculpture and landscape architecture. There are workshops, conferences, exhibits, support centres and healing areas with yoga, massage, meditation and much more.
'This is alternative culture,' explained co-organizer and spokesman Artur Mendes. More than 400 artists participated in the event this year and that's not all - the intercultural, transgenerational and multidisciplinary biennale is recognized as one of the most ecological music festivals in the world.
'The entertainment is not just about having fun, it's also about finding solutions for people,' Mendes said.
In the months ahead of the festival a city is cobbled together 280 kilometres north-east of Lisbon on the border with Spain. A psychedelic village considered an autonomous zone is constructed from materials that have been recycled from earlier Boom Festivals and other mainstream shows.
There are ultra-modern organic compost toilets from Sweden. Plastic items are taboo, and wind and solar energy are becoming more and more prominent at the festival. This year biotechnology was introduced as a means to cleanse drinking water using aquatic plants. Brazilian experts brought their knowledge in the area of permaculture, guiding the way living quarters were arranged.
Near the festival's four dance areas were restaurants, bars and child care facilities. There was no sign of the otherwise-ubiquitous logos of mobile phone service providers, fast food chains or soft drinks.
'Independence, yes. Marketing, no,' is the motto of the organization. Ticket and food sales bring in enough money to cover costs and make a profit. Good Mood, the company that organizes the event, has 101 'ambassadors' in 45 countries and it doesn't need to advertise.
'We don't want to become an overcrowded mainstream event,' said Mendes. The number of participants at the Boom Festival and a sister event in neighbouring Sao Giao is limited to 26,000. Police, however, confirmed that this year 50,000 people attended. Among the crowd were hippies over the age of 60 or even 70 and many families with little children.
Visitors and artists from more than 60 countries walked around in the dry, dusty and brutally hot Beira wearing Birkenstock sandals, although some were barefoot. Some wore Rastafarian hairstyles, Aladdin pants, batik T-shirts and occasionally colourful body art.
The ultraconservative residents of Idanha-a-Nova, including the many dressed in widow's black, had to get used to the group.
'At first it was alien to me,' said a 75-year-old widow. A bartender said the visitors are accepted because they have a lot of money.
Idanha-a-Nova's vice mayor Armindo Jacinto said the economic effects are very important. 'The connection between the most progressive measures in terms of environmental sustainability, the multicultural presentation and economic factors make the Boom Festival a unique opportunity for us,' he said.
Town officials have discussed teaming up with Good Mood to build a hotel out of environmentally-friendly materials such as straw.
'In addition to trance freaks, such festivals also attract modern hippies,' said DJ Jahbo, whose parents are children of Woodstock. It's important to be different in today's world.
'I'm afraid of normal,' said the 29-year-old Dane.