The Dystopian Utopia of Supernova

By: Uri Kruger  |  October 24, 2023

By Uri Kruger, Arts and Cultures Editor

This year’s Supernova festival in Israel took place in a beautiful, yet top-secret location. The event went over two days, on October 6 and 7, to coincide with the end of the Sukkot holiday. This year’s festival was going to be epic beyond imagination… According to their website, “ ‘Supernova’ refers to the explosion of a massive star, causing an immense burst of light in galactic terms. What can one imagine when these concepts manifest themselves  during the upcoming Sukkot holiday? We assume that you can already imagine the result… (Or perhaps not?)” No one could foresee what evil was to come. What was planned to be the most joyous and largest electronic music festival of the Nova Tribe, turned into a scene of unspeakable tragedy, the massacre of 260 attendees with countless injured, murdered and kidnapped and taken to Gaza. This was the scene of the initial assault by Hamas into Israel on October 7. In one savage swoop, the utopian ideals the festival was hoping to facilitate were brought to a gruesome end. But what is Supernova and the psytrance community? What message was the music festival trying to convey?

Supernova, produced by the Israel-based Nova Tribe, is a music festival unlike any other. Often situated in a beautiful and serene landscape, it is a celebration of nature, peace, and unity with various musical genres including electronic, reggae, and hip-hop, which evoke the spirit of Brazil’s renowned Universo Paralello festival. Roughly translated to “Parallel Universe,” the festival is the heart and soul of the Brazilian psytrance community, which lasts for nine full days of continuous music, art, and an overall feast for the senses. It’s also heralded as one of the largest alternative culture festivals in all of South America. This year, the Israeli edition of this event, Supernova, attracted thousands of festival-goers, and was situated in the heart of the Western Negev desert near Kibbutz Re’im

The psytrance community is a global-reaching alternative subculture that revolves around the music genre known as psychedelic trance, or psytrance. Its roots date back to the 1980s and 1990s electronic music era, particularly those originating from the Goa trance movement in Goa, India. Today, psytrance has grown to attract thousands of music enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds all over the world

There are psytrance festivals held in various parts of the world: The Boom Festival in Portugal, Ozora Festival in Hungary, and Supernova in Israel, to name a few. Psytrance devotees criss-cross the globe to congregate at these festivals in order to share a love for psychedelic music, art, and culture. The multi-faceted diverse crowd is composed of music fans, adventure seekers, and much like the hippie culture of the 1960s, bohemians from around the world. What they ultimately foster is a community that celebrates unity, love, and peace even among its seemingly divergent population.

Music is the main attraction for the festival-seekers. Various musical genres meld together and can be felt and experienced in the vibrational beats of electronic music, the smooth reggae rhythms and to the lyrical verses of hip-hop. This amalgam of sounds and beats seem to foster a mystical journey that elevates the senses.  

Adding yet another layer to the psytrance experience – a visual feast for the eyes as well. Artists with their psychedelic paintings, sculptural renditions, and digital projections displayed on various surfaces around the festival contribute to the completely immersive atmosphere of the event. Visuals are an integral part of the vibe, enhancing the overall multi-sensory experience.

Lastly, superimposed on the visual and auditory odyssey, many psytrance festival-goers embrace spiritual and consciousness-altering practices. Dance, meditation, yoga, and alternative healing modalities and substances are often explored. Escapism, mind-expansion and psytrance go hand-in-hand allowing individuals a chance to detach themselves from everyday stress and life. Influenced by the Goa trance origins, there is a sense of seeking higher states of awareness and connection. 

The most meaningful outcome of these festivals is that the psytrance community is known for its inclusivity and acceptance. Individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life come together and bond through their common love of psychedelic music. This sense of unity creates a safe, non-judgemental space where people are free to express and lose themselves to the music and art. Sadly, this seemingly beautiful utopian paradise which was meant to celebrate life, freedom and unity was unexpectedly violently shattered beyond recognition by those who do not uphold the ideals of what this gathering was seeking to achieve.

May the memory of those who succumbed to the tragic events that occurred there forever remain in our hearts. Let us also hope for the swift and safe return of those who were captured so they may rejoin their loved ones.