Raves: Unity through eccentricity

todaySeptember 8, 2023 28 1

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By Natalia Velazquez

Music Journalist


Peace, love, unity and respect. These are just a couple of words that sum up the passion behind raves and their attendees. Starting as secretive underground shows, rave music and its culture have become mainstream within American media, being depicted in TV shows and movies, but primarily its impact in generating a massive EDM following.

DJ on stage at Kai Wachi rave, there are bright neon lights and a crowd
DJ at Kai Wachi rave. | Natalia Velazquez

Although rave music has such a large following within the United States, the genre’s beginnings can be traced back to the 1980s in England. Some may attribute the early stages of rave music to the death of disco, leaving the lovers of discotheques to search for a new outlet to dance to loud music and dress in bright fashions. However, many who yearned for a more adventurous clubbing experience began to explore a new, secretive, acid house-inspired subgenre of EDM: rave music. These underground locations primarily consisted of abandoned warehouses, having only obtained the address by word of mouth or discreet flyers. Secret shows allowed for fewer restrictions, allowing attendees to partake in the flashing neon lights and blaring music to their fullest enjoyment. Here, is where it became common for rave-goers to intake certain substances to enhance their experience, commonly MDMA (ecstasy or molly).

In the 90s, the evolution of technology allowed for rave popularity to skyrocket. Europe soon became the focal point of rave culture, spreading outside of England and making marks in Germany and France. Raver attendees began to find a sense of community at these events, having created an outlet for uniting people based on a love for music. It is during this time that the act of “trading kandi” became very popular. “Kandi” is simply handmade beaded bracelets that you could trade by completing a handshake with whom you’d like to trade with. To do so, just mirror the hand signs associated with “peace, love, unity and respect”. It was also then, that we began to see mainstream rave artists such as The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk.

Today, rave culture has evolved massively as a genre, creating several subgenres within itself. The subgenres include:

  • Techno
  • House
  • Breakbeat
  • Trance
  • Jungle

Oftentimes, these genres crossover within themselves, allowing for a diverse set of sounds within EDM.

One major shift within modern rave culture is the raves themselves. Once hidden away, week-long music festivals are held in celebration of the music. Every year dozens of EDM festivals are held in the United States, one of the largest being Electronic Dance Carnival (EDC) held in Las Vegas. The largest international rave festival, Tomorrowland, is held in Belgium and had over 600,000 attendees in 2022.

As celebrated as raves can be, there are also negative associations with the events, as they have a history of promoting illegal drug use and have been known to get violent. Despite this, modern ravers are trying to change this narrative, stating that EDM enjoyers don’t need to take these drugs to enjoy their time, it is at their discretion.

For those interested in starting their journey into EDM, here are a couple great songs from popular artists in the genre!

  • Marshmello – Take It Back
  • Don Diablo – Sunglasses at Night
  • Barely Alive – Wompum VIP
  • Dizzee Rascal – Bonkers
  • Steve Aoki – Neon Future III (intro)
  • Banana Planet – Midnight Tyrannosaurus

Honorable mention:

  • Riton, Kah-Lo, GEE LEE – Fake ID (Coke and Rum Remix)

The mark rave music has left on pop culture and its impact on other genres is indescribable. At its core, rave began as a genre to bring people together, creating a sense of community between strangers and spreading positive ideals.


Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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