The multifaceted Basel Tattoo
16 July 2023
The 16th edition of Basel Tattoo brings formations from five continents (North and South America, Africa, Oceania and Europe) to the Arena at the Kasernenhof until 22 July and organised the annual Parade on 15 July.
The Basel Tattoo is much more than a Tattoo. Its origins are also linked to the Basel Fasnacht (UNESCO World Heritage), a centuries-old tradition. The Fasnacht has created several musical top formations. One of these groups has enjoyed world fame for several years, the Top Secret Drum Corps, founded in 1991 by talented and enthusiastic drummers.
Some members of this formation subsequently created the Basel Tattoo, based partly on inspiration from other Tattoos, mainly in Edinburgh. However, the Basel Tattoo is not a copy of other similar events but has developed its style and characteristics. The Basel Tattoo is now one of the largest in the world.
The involvement of military formations is evident. Otherwise, it would no longer be a Tattoo. Apart from that, however, there are original, creative and perhaps even ‘typically Swiss’ aspects. It is not the excellent organisation, planning and a subdued and convivial atmosphere. It is the programme.
At which Tattoo do farmers and their cows present themselves to the public, does the historical and cultural context have a prominent place, and is so much time and effort devoted to showcasing not only formations from other continents and countries but also from other cantons?
The historical links between Scotland and Canada were reflected in a trilogy of the Scottish emigration (about half a million people) to Canada. A musical performance with singing addressed successively the ‘Verelendung’ in Scotland, the (harsh) journey overseas and the arduous task of building a new life in a foreign country. Scottish culture, however, has always been preserved. The formations of Pipers and Drums, the Scottish Act and the dancers of the Canadiana Celtic Highland Dancers testify to the special relationship.
This relationship was also evident in the carrying of the Canadian flag by Canadian Mounties, the unfurling by the dancers and the contribution of Scottish and Canadian Pipers and Drums. A similar ceremony for the Scottish flag took place later that evening.
English and Scottish pipers and drums commemorated another event: the heroic resistance of a Scottish division in the dark days during and after the evacuation of British (and French) troops in Dunkirk in late May and early June 1940. The bagpiper on one of the barracks’ towers was the conclusion to this tribute.
The formation of the brave army from Ukraine turned their contribution into an original show and commemorated the current tragedy in their country with an emotional musical piece.
The colourful, choreographed and musical performances by the formations from the Sultanate of Oman and Mexico were other highlights with their touches and style.
The New Zealand ‘Kiwis’ made it a swinging pop performance, concluding with the traditional Haka dance.
However, the Basel Tattoo is not only international in scope but also focuses on its roots: Basel, the cantons and Switzerland. The opening ceremony already symbolised the relationship with the country. Under the watchful eye of their commander-in-chief, Army recruits of the Swiss army (Die Rekruten des Schweizer Militärmusik) displayed their talents, and the canton and the city of Lucerne were also present. The Basel Tattoo choir and the (unique) Tattoo guard were the input from Basel.
The musical direction was (again) in the hands of Christoph Walter, who also conducted the Tattoo ballad. The closing ceremony, with about a thousand performers, was as impressive as the sum of the individual formations.
However, this closing ceremony is always followed up by the annual Parade in the city, a kilometre-long musical festivity. Other cantons and foreign regions were represented, including Geneva, Freiburg, Basel-Landschaft, the Innerschweiz, Tessin, Jura and Valais and Baden from Germany. The Parade did not lack some representations from the Fasnacht.
In short, the Basel Tattoo has its character and style and is an intercontinental, international, European, national, regional, inter cantonal and local event.
In terms of content, it is also a ‘typically Swiss’ event. Open, cosmopolitan and multicultural outwardly while inwardly preserving and respecting identity, culture and history.
(Further information: Basel Tattoo.)
Impressions of the Basel Tattoo Parade
The Basel Tattoo Garde
The (milice) army is highly respected in Switzerland
The recruits of the Swiss army (Die Rekruten des Schweizer Militärmusik)
The Johann Peter Hebel Society from Hausen (Germany)
The Basel Tattoo Choir