Whether you’re a whirling dervish or sweaty raver, when the music gets going, nothing else can get in. That’s the hold that music can have.
“What does Devotion mean to you?” The question went through my head. I closed my eyes for a few seconds… DE-VO-TION… The word echoed round my head, bouncing back and forth, and I could see each letter being highlighted, one by one, as though in a PowerPoint presentation, until they dissolved and transformed into two different visual stories. I saw dervishes in their long jackets turning round and round in an ecstatic dance and I also saw ravers losing themselves to the booming beat of the music inside a dark club, their eyes closed and their hands up in the air. Dervishes and ravers are two completely different crowds and yet in my mind they were two sides of one coin, both completely devoted to music and dance.
For dervishes, music and dance play a crucial role in their physically active meditation practice. Dervishes, the members of Sufi orders, implement physical exertions in order to attain an ecstatic trance-like state and reach God (the source of all perfection). Their religious rituals, known as Sema (which translates as “listening”), include singing, playing instruments and dancing. They seek to abandon their egos and personal desires by listening to the music, focusing on God and spinning their body in repetitive circles that have been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the solar system orbiting the sun.
How about ravers? What gods do they worship? What sources of all perfection do they see in their vivid visions? (A big yellow smiley goes in here.) What altered states of mind do they achieve? Those of us who have ever been to a rave can surely answer this in their own words. But how and where was the good old rave born?
The rave movement first appeared during the UK acid house movement of the late 1980s, in London and Manchester to begin with, before spreading to other places and countries. House, acid house and techno music were played at rave parties, which were usually held in warehouses and underground venues. It was something completely new, a sort of liberation movement, as ravers didn’t actually care what they were wearing. There wasn’t a dress code, as with previous subcultural movements such as hippies in 1960s and later, punks and skinheads.
While scouring the internet for information on ravers, I stumbled upon the photography book Raving ’89 by Gavin and Neville Watson. Published in 2009, it documented the rave movement in the UK. Its pictures of kids sweating, rocking their bodies and wearing shades caught my attention, as well as the images of dark, hazy spaces and blurry lights, happy faces and big eyes. But there is more to the movement than that. The early raves were an explosion, a revolution and liberation from everything that came before it.
Three decades have passed since the first rave parties, and guess what? The rave parties are still around and for one good reason: the music has a tremendous power over our bodies and minds. It can heal wounds, it can take us elsewhere and it can make us smile…
Berlin is one of the major cities where music has played – and still plays – a crucial role in city life. We who live here are all music devotees – maybe some of us are even music slaves, but we all go raving, dancing, vogueing or jazzing. Music is our devotion.
Words by Veronika Dorosheva
#1-3 & 5-12 by Gavin Watson “RAVING 89 book”
#13-17 by Tilman Bremb “Zeitmashine”
#4 Whirling Dervish Ceremony – Image sourced online