Since the 14th century thousands of Tamboure [drummers] and Pfyffer [pipers] have opened the Basel "Fasnacht" [carnival] on the stroke of 4 o'clock on Monday morning. For three days and nights, the population of Basel don their Laarven [masks]. Over 20.000 people of all ages take part in this collective musical tradition. The strict rhythms of the marches intermingle like waves and Cliquen [groups of drummers and pipers] appear and disappear again into the crooked, narrow streets of the old town.
A brief history: The origin of the Tamboure and Pfyffer of Basel is based in the military history - alike any other European custom of drumming music, too. The typical drum style of Basel has been cultivated through a mixture of the drumming by the Swiss confederated troops and the French influences that Basel had been exposed to back in the times of Helvetica when Basel had been a French garrison town.The most important innovation appeared in the second half of the 19th century when the unemployed Swiss and Alsatian Tambourmaîtres [masters of drums] found a breeding ground for their art in the frontiertown of Basel. Nowadays a Stammclique [group of drummers and pipers] marches with twenty up to fifty pipers and ten up to thirty drummers, three or four in a row. The piping and drumming of Basel impresses especially on the astonishing high quantity of the repertoire: More than two hundred compositions exist, of which one hundred are commonly known, about twenty of them by an average Tambour.
The carnival of Basel - a celebration of colours and fantasy. An intimate town festival which strangers will never quite understand, where openness and closeness, hope and resignation, melancholy and zest, discipline and anarchy exist side by side. In a haunted and ritual way the Basel "Fasnacht" reflects the protestant sobriety and the alemanian seriousness of life and death - backwards.
Rä Dä Bäng [three stokes of the drummers: Rä, Dä and Bäng] is the third of the Audio Films released by Winter & Winter. As done on Venezia La Festa and ¡Tango Vivo!, Noches de Buenos Aires the music of Rä Dä Bäng has been recorded digitally live to two track, leaving the sound in his natural surroundings. Plain and pure the drummers and pipers approach, escorting us from the Morgestraich [morning blow] that opens the carnival on Monday morning through the three days the carnival takes place until the early Thursday morning, when the last of the pipers is lonely moving homeward.
What remains is the distant sound of the drums and pipes, the fading impressions of the mysterious magic of light at the morning stroke, remembrance of the masked faces with their staring, sometimes weird and hollow eyes, of the old and modern costumes, born out of fantasy, uniting to create a unique celebration ... and the longing for the next carnival.
What the Fasnachts-Comité [carnival committee] recommends: [taken from the official program of the carnival 1997]:
Dress warm, rather sports dress than elegant. Be there in time. After 4 o'clock it might be difficult to get through. Be prepared to find a huge crowd. Do not wear contact lenses, if possible.
One might laugh and have fun. Don't let yourself be catched by the tedious mood of the Basel people. Do not throw picked-up confetti on the masked. Don't throw back oranges or any other objects or at random into the audience.
In the evening:
Avoid drunkenness. Do not bawl or sway. Do not walk off with a "souvenirs". This is not a peccadillo.