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Goa Festival Burned By Noise Monitors ::

Reported by Ben Stroud on January 6, 2009

Indian police briefly shut down Goa’s Sunburn festival last weekend after measuring sound levels at 83 decibels, almost 30 higher than the permitted level of 55db. Organisers subsequently managed to re-open their 3 day event by paying a small surety after lobbying by Calangute council chief Agnelo Fernandes.

“I was fighting to get permissions for Sunburn. Because of this, 48 more shacks have got permission to play music,” Mr Fernandes told the Times Of India.

“If you don't have such parties and music for Christmas, then what is the fun of being in Goa? For the sake of tourism, people need to bear some music that anyway stops by 10pm. Everyone in Calangute and Candolim is happy except people who complain perennially,” he added.

The noise dispute was the latest blow for Sunburn which had already been forced to implement stringent additional security measures following the Mumbai terrorist attacks.  Headliner Eddie Halliwell also pulled out at the last minute, citing  ‘unavoidable circumstances’ and was replaced by Gareth Emery, who was already on tour in India.

The noise issue, however, ended up Sunburn’s greatest concern, specifically the extremely low decibel limit of 55db. According to the UK Noise Association noise levels in typical clubs is between 95-110 decibels with rock concerts measuring 100-120 decibels. The organization also points out on its website that ‘in the UK, more than 50% of the population is exposed to traffic noise over 55 decibels’ while numerous other sources place conversation levels at between 55 and 60db.

Speaking about the issue in 1996, Australian hearing expert Dr. Jeremy Tatum, University of Victoria criticised arbitrary decibel level measures in general pointing out that listening to a Mozart piano sonata at 58 dB would be considerably less annoying than hearing ‘someone scraping fingernails on a blackboard at 55 dB?’

“Sixty decibels is sometimes described as being about the level of conversation. Well, we all know people who do talk that loud,” said Dr Tatum “I would describe 60 dB as more like shouting; 55 dB is more like civilized discourse.”

Judge Jules also chatted about Global Gathering’s council imposed decibel restrictions, in his online diary in August admitting some ambivalence about their impact.

“As with many festivals, the sound level on the dance floor could have been much higher. Lots of clubbers were screaming ‘turn it up’, but the master volume is independently controlled from a separate faraway mixing desk by an engineer with a decibel meter,” said Jules.

 Festival licences are dependent on keeping noise levels within strictly defined limits. With Global taking place in a very wealthy area with strong resident power, it was all the more significant. Nevertheless, the atmosphere for my parting set of the night was excellent, and I’ve had lots of positive email feedback,” he added. (The Physics, Physiology, and Psychology of Noise, by Dr. Jeremy Tatum). (Decibel level information: ‘A mosquito's buzz is often rated with a decibel rating of 40 dB. Normal conversation is often rated at 60 dB . . .’)

Jonty Skrufff (