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Silent disco makes itself heard
The air is still and silent, except for the sound of waves gently lapping against the shore. It's this that makes lazy but beautiful Palolem one of the best holiday spots in Goa. This quiet destination is also fast gaining a reputation as a party spot thanks to an unlikely new nightclubbing experience: a silent disco.
In Goa, noise pollution laws require all open-air venues to shut down by 10 pm. But Neptune Point in Palolem - located on a rocky peninsula on the left side of the beach - plays host to thousands of party revellers every Saturday night well into the wee hours. How you may ask.
The answer is Silent Noise, India's own headphone party place where masses of heads bob and bodies sway to their own beat. It's the brainchild of British DJ and producer Justin Mason, who came to Goa to rediscover himself but fell in love with Palolem. "I've been living in Goa for a decade now and had seen the impact that the noise ban had on the nightlife. There was a decline in tourism because there was very little to do in Goa after 10 pm, " says Mason.
So Mason decided to do something about it. In January 2007, he and his friends threw the first headphone party at Silent Noise. "I took a chance but it proved to be a successful risk, " he shrugs.
Silent discos are simply discos in which party-goers don't get their audio fix from massive speakers. Instead they are given a pair of wireless over-headphones. At Silent Noise, people are handed over three-channel over-ear headphones as they walk in after paying Rs 500 at entry. The three different channels have a DJ each and a blue, red or green light to indicate which channel you're listening to. Blue light on the headphones means "jackin' house", the red channel streams electrotech, progressive and breaks while the green light channel plays "filthy funk and alternative sounds". You can choose the music that suits you and, strangely, dancing becomes even more fun than normal because it's silent.
What's more, it encourages conversation. Take the headphones off and you can actually speak to your friends without bellowing into their ears. The first silent disco in the UK was held at the Glastonbury Festival, but now they're starting to pop up in India too. Just last week, Mumbai hosted a silent disco at Mehboob studios.
The initial investment was heavy. Mason had to import customised equipment. And every week he has some headsets that are damaged or beyond repair. But he isn't deterred. "It's a beautiful sight to see thousands of people having a great time. "
Deepali Gupta, who prefers partying in South Goa over the more crowded and noisy North Goa, is hooked to the silence. "It's a surreal experience. When you reach the place, all you can see are heads bobbing, neon lights flashing and dancers. You just gesture to tell people which channel you're freaking out on. "
"The DJ can also see who is listening to which channel and there's a little naughty competition going on between them, " says Mason.
The authorities were bound to find out sooner than later but their reaction was just as unexpected. "It was quite funny, " Mason chuckles. "I must admit authorities did come around as they knew a party was on but they agreed that it was the perfect solution, especially for this area since there are a lot of families nearby. "
Mason has now played in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune but the concept hasn't caught on as quickly as one would hope. "It's simple. Silent parties work best when there is little else to do. There has to be no other alternative. It essentially comes down to a full sound PA system versus headphones and most people will opt for the sound system, " the 42-year-old reasons.
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