Psytrance and Spirituality: From the life and music of Ananda Shanti Das

To describe the phenomenon of psytrance, one would be too short-sighted to look only at the music. After all, it is composed, mixed, mastered and played live or on CD (or sometimes even on vinyl) by humans. Not to forget the decorative artists, the dancers and the other lovely people who turn such a party into a psychedelic and extraordinary music event.

Even a scene as colorful as the psytrance scene brings out its stereotypes. For example, is there any sampled text passage that could add anything new to the topic of drug use? So the message of Ananda Shanti Das as a Psytrance producer stands out, because he promotes to practice Bhakti Yoga and Mantra meditation instead of taking drugs to achieve a higher level of consciousness. I welcome this attitude deeply, because in my eyes the use of LSD, MDMA, Ketamin, Psylocybin, Meskalin, Ayahuasca a.o. is too much hyped just by the use of always new sampled text passages in the tracks (Have a look at https://www.psydb.net).

Ananda is a middle-aged guy from Berlin, Germany and belongs to the first generation that grew up with computers und whose sturm-und-drang-time took place at the same period as the development of house and techno music. Instead of spending the entire time playing computer games, the creative mind uses such a device as a musical instrument. This was also the case with fourteen-year-old Ananda, who began to produce his first pieces of music with the tracker programs available at that time. While many musicians have developed a real addiction for hardware equipment (at the moment analog, vintage and modular gear is incredibly popular again), Ananda still limits himself only to his computer/laptop, corresponding software and a few monitor boxes in order to be able to travel between the Canary Islands and Germany with as little luggage as possible.

Funnily enough, Ananda and I were infected with the psychedelic virus at about the same time, around 1995 (One track from that time I remember really well is Sugar Rush from Man With No Name). Shortly afterwards Ananda, who had already been spiritually influenced by his aunt, who was herself president of a Buddhist temple, met his spiritual teacher, with whom he went into teaching. Thus Ananda became a devotee of Krishna in search of attaining a higher consciousness and lived five years in Vaishnava hindu-temples around the world. After this experience he became again a worldly to produce Psytrance, make his living as an independent software developer and help with the construction a temple in Gran Canaria.

Ananda is a constant creator. There are four official EP releases with 3 or 4 tracks each from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 on GOA respectively Ovnimoon Records. What has remained from the previos years is the deep connection with Krishna, which is already evident in a lot of the tracktitles („Krishna Es El Supremo“, „Krishna is black“, „Krishan is the orginal source“, „Have you ever thought about Krishna“). Other Hinduism terminology like Kundalini, Hanuman u.o. or expressions dealing with consciousness somehow can be found. One hears here as one would expect no quotes from drug reports but rather sentences of a purely spiritual nature such as „Krishna is your friend“ or passages about the meaning of the third eye.

Ananda’s tracks almost all have the same basic speed of 140 bpm. He doesn’t even stop at more recent developments like triplets, strong swing, constant stops and starts or especially pronounced drops to produce a hands-in-the-height entertainment psytrance, but here music is produced for a higher purpose, namely to put the dancer into a trance state. When asked about his musical ideals, he offered a list of psytrance producers who can be clearly assigned to progressive psytrance like One Function, Symbolic, Cambium, Faders, Vertical Mode, Circuit Breakers, E-Clip or Outsiders.

Ananda’s music is based on it, but he likes to condense or enrich his music with additional elements e.g an often used rhythmically accentuated und modulated fm lead melody, which reminds of the good old Roland TB-303 here and there and brought him already the comment on Facebook „keep up the good old acid sound“ :). This gets things moving and pushes the whole thing a little further in the direction of Full-On. But that’s enough words now, because it’s time to enjoy some of the fine sound from Ananda Shanti Das, whom I would like to thank at this point for the time he took for an interview from which this text came. Good luck for your further musical and spiritual way!