BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A style of partying created by young Argentines has been drawing crowds with an innovative idea: fun that doesn’t involve drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
Instead, the excitement comes from a “cocktail” of yoga, meditation, dance, electronic music and juices made from fruits and vegetables.
The four-hour party begins in silence, with yoga and meditation. Next, the crowd moves to the beat of the So What Project!, a band formed by Rodrigo Bustos (vocals, guitar, percussion and electronics) and Nicolas Pucci (vocals, guitar, keyboard and electronics).
“What’s happening at the parties is enormous,” said Bustos, 29. “But we’re not proposing anything new: We just want people to be natural.”
The idea is even more revolutionary given Argentina is Latin America’s leading consumer of drugs, according to the Bloomberg study “Most Prone to Vice: Countries.”
Argentines between the ages of 15 and 65 smoke an average of 1,042 cigarettes per year – the highest in the region – and drink an average of 9.3 liters of alcohol, behind Brazil, with an average of 10 liters, and Ecuador, with an average of 9.4 liters.
Argentina leads the study’s ranking of marijuana consumption in the region and is ranked 11th in the world, with 7.2% of the population using the drug.
The situation is even worse with respect to cocaine: Argentina is one of three countries – alongside Spain and Great Britain – that lead the ranking for cocaine consumption, i.e., 2.6% of the population.
Getting high without drugs
The first Yoga Raves were organized in Buenos Aires in 2007 by Bustos and Pucci, who are friends and neighbors. The event’s success led them to seek out The Art of Living, an international NGO headed by humanitarian leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, which promotes a society free of violence and stress.
With an endorsement from the foundation, the So What Project! has brought this experience to countries such as Brazil, Chile, India, Norway and the United States.
In September 2012, the group played for 120,000 people at an outdoor event – the closing ceremony for a visit by Ravi Shankar – in Buenos Aires. In 2011, it shook Berlin’s Olympic Stadium during a show for 50,000 fans.
This year, the schedule includes about 25 parties – five in Buenos Aires, 10 in other parts of Argentina and 10 abroad – in stadiums, nightclubs and outdoor venues.
The event usually starts at 8 p.m. so families with children can participate.
Yoga Rave participants say that the experience is overwhelming.
“What you feel at the party is pure love,” said graphic designer Debora Grossoni, 29.
Yoga Rave is free of narcotics, alcohol and cigarettes, so people can experience genuine feelings without intoxicating their bodies, Bustos said.
“It may sound strange that you can have this type of deep and intimate connection with yourself and with an environment without the use of an artificial substance,” Grossoni said. “But that’s what happens.”
Journalist Javier Cerezuela, 30, said his life changed after his first Yoga Rave.
“I used to drink a lot of alcohol and had been smoking since I was 13 years old. I thought I needed to drink to be happy. At these raves, I feel happy without consuming anything except water or juice,” said Cerezuela, who now teaches anti-stress breathing and meditation courses.
People go to the event curious about what they’ll find.
“In an environment where they’re used to drinking and taking drugs, they see people of all ages drinking juice and they have no idea what’s going to happen,” Cerezuela said. “But when the event is over, they have ear-to-ear smiles and that doesn’t happen at normal nightclubs.”
Bustos said Yoga Rave helps people connect with the genuine happiness they have within themselves.
“We all naturally have this desire to have fun and dance,” he said. “It’s a natural enthusiasm that we have when we’re children and lose as we become adults. We become hardened and stressed out.”
A diverse audience
Bustos said Yoga Rave is a spectacle for all audiences.
“The most beautiful thing is seeing people dancing with their children in their arms,” he said. “Each person can find their space. If you want to dance and jump like crazy, that’s fine. Otherwise, you can simply relax. ”
Bartenders sell energy drinks made with fruits and vegetables.
“The energy drinks keep people physically active so that they can dance for three or four hours,” he said.
Bustos said these types of events will draw increasingly large crowds and will not be restricted to leisure venues.
In 2011, for example, the So What Project! held a Yoga Rave for inmates at Unit 47 of the San Martín Penitentiary in Buenos Aires.
“We brought this experience to about 200 inmates, both men and women,” Bustos said. “We showed them that it’s possible to live in a natural way and be aware of what we do for others and the planet.”