d Fasnachtzunft Ryburg. Foto/Photo: TES.

The Charivari of the Basler Fasnacht

This year’s Basler Fasnacht begins at 4 a.m. on 7 March. Before this annual event, various events take place in theatres. Several happenings will be briefly discussed until March. The aim is to put the centuries-old Fasnacht tradition into perspective.

The Basler Fasnacht (see also www.fasnacht.ch and www.fasnachts-comite.ch) has its origins in the annual parade of the city’s civic militia. The first reports date back to the fourteenth century. The marches throughout the city were accompanied by piccolos and drums, and marching music. The parades are still without singing. They are rather processions with beautifully dressed ‘cliques’. The costumes surpass those of  ‘Venice’.

The Fasnacht has little in common with the carnaval as it is known in other countries. The Basler Fasnacht is art and culture with a mild satirical and ironic political sauce.

The Charivari, the Vorfasnacht of Kleinbasel (Glaibasel), is a performance in the Volkshaus. The Charivari ensemble consists of two professional and three amateur actors. Three hundred volunteers are involved, the Swiss Milizsystem/ Système de Milice, par excellence.

Charivari is derived from a (late) medieval custom. Young people in cities manifested themselves in the streets during the days preceding Lent by producing loud music to criticise the city government and draw attention to their interests.

The Charivari is a show of theatre plays, cabaret (the Schnitzelbängg), readings (in Baslertütsch), songs (in Oberrheinalemannisch) and musical performances by cliques (associations), with the piccolos and drummers predominating.

A characteristic of Fasnacht (and Switzerland) is the enormous innovative and creative adaptability to other times and circumstances while maintaining the typical features and principles of the event.

The fantastic performances and costumes of the drum group d Drummelgrube Top Secret (based on the James Bond classic Moonraker(1979), the piccolo group d Schäärede, the cabaret group d Gwääg, the cliques Seibi 1933 Basel, Schotte Clique 1947 Basel, d hunne Basel or d Fasnachtzunft Ryburg are some of the highlights of this performance.

(Further information: Willkommen (charivari.ch).