Fused by Paradox > Shuki Shalev


"Since the early 1990s Psychedelic Electronic Dance Music Culture (PEDMC) gatherings – centered on the psychedelic trance music genre and its accompanying drug-fueled carnivalesque revelry – have significantly impacted upon Israeli culture in general and on its young generations in particular. In fact, Israel is arguably the only country in the world where psytrance is a prevalent form of popular music and one so widely exported that the global trance community recognizes Israel as a 'trance power'. Occurring on a regular basis, local PEDMC events are an increasingly common form of recreation among diverse segments of Israeli youth. Known as 'parties' or mesibot, Israeli PEDMC gatherings have a reputation of being "full-on" in their approach to music production and performance as well as to participants' open and often brazen use of illegal drugs. Yet, despite – or perhaps because of their popularity – estimates claim that these gatherings attract between fifty to one hundred thousand monthly participants – mesibot continue to be viewed negatively by the Israeli mainstream establishment (e.g. educators, media and law enforcement) who feel challenged by local PEDMC affiliates' seemingly countercultural stance.

The study upon which the film is based combines ethnographic research with linguistic analysis and exposes a pattern of contradictions, paradoxes and in some cases hypocrisy embedded within Israeli PEDMC attitudes, conduct and language. These paradoxes – detected both in Israeli PEDMC behavior and further found in its language – emerged in a series of cognitive/linguistic dichotomies such as "insider vs. outsider," "traditional vs. secular," "spiritual vs. material" "collective vs. individual" and "global vs. local." Additional inquiry revealed that, ironically, these paradoxes – and the socio-linguistic factors which motivate them – actually stem from Israeli mainstream culture. This is unexpected since PEDMC events are commonly perceived both by the general Israeli public and by the participants themselves as purposefully dissenting and notably oppositional to conventional patterns of sociality. Yet, as my research reveals, Israeli PEDMC transcends standard diametric social divisions since it both replicates and subverts dominant values and conduct thereby rendering inadequate any simplified or cursory reading of it. At the same time, since Israeli PEDMC affiliates duplicate what they often profess to refute, it is understandable that they appear ambivalent towards their actions and hence behave in a paradoxical fashion. "Fused by Paradox" presents these ideas by offering a revealing glimpse into the contradictory world of underground Israeli psytrance music culture."

-Shuki Shalev

Shuki Shalev is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the Department of Behavioral Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. His main fields of interest include popular music, youth and leisure culture. Shuki's short documentary, "Fused by Paradox," (the second of two) is based on many years of participant/observation at Israeli psytrance parties. The film serves as a visual illustration of Shuki's academic study of the clandestine world of Israeli secular trance-dance parties. The footage was primarily shot at events held in Israel's Negev desert and the soundtrack is compiled from a number of recent Israeli trance tracks.