Switzerland is like a hidden jewel in the middle of Europe, a mountainous land with a highly secretive banking system and a tradition of remaining neutral during wars. The Swiss culture has given the world exquisite chocolates, precision watches, cuckoo clocks, the Swiss Army knife, and even the modern marvel of Velcro!
What an amazing place, Switzerland.
In my estimation, however, their finest gift to the world is the drum corps, which, traditionally, is a line of snare drums accompanied by a line of bass drums performing dazzling exhibitions of musical pageantry.
Because drums are percussion instruments (you have to hit them to make a sound), they are particularly suited for pageantry and dramatic displays of sharp rhythms and sound. You cannot imagine how a simple banging instrument could ever be so exciting.
The drum corps itself derives from military processions and marches, where its function was to keep the soldiers marching in unison by the beat of drums that the troops could hear even at a distance.
However, military drumming is slow and rhythmical, often accompanied by flutes (fifes) as we know from our American Revolutionary War depictions. What you will hear in the video link, however, is anything but slow and steady.
It’s more like a dramatic, high-speed chase on narrow roads through the Swiss Alps with sharp curves threatening to drop you over dangerous cliffs at every turn.
The performances in this post involve the premier Swiss drum corps, named Top Secret, from Basel, Switzerland. The drummers in this band of brothers are not professional musicians. They are college students and working men with day jobs, which makes their finely-tuned performance all the more astonishing.
The first video (duration 5:53 and worth every second) was recorded from the stands, so it lacks the polish of a professional presentation; however, it picks up the exuberant audience reactions, which are worth a thousand words. The second video (duration 6:31) features a more recent show, and it will astound you with even more pageantry.
You can either skip down to the “Things to look for” section before you watch the videos or jump right in and then read my analysis after that. Either way, you’re in for a treat.