Guggemusik originates in the Swiss carnival but has become more and more popular in the South West of Germany, too. There are quite a number of these funny bands in the weirdest costumes in many parades.
Originally these bands used self-made instruments built from stove pipes, anything that can be beaten rythmically, bags and trash. Nowadays they have become more professional and use real instruments. Authentic „trash“ bands are a rarity.
Most bands consist of brass and drums. Often the instruments look as battered and beaten as they sound. In some places tradition includes a ceremonial washing of the musical instruments in the icy water of the town fountain at the beginning of the season.
The rules how to play Guggemusik are easy:
1. The majority of the band plays the same song.
2. Start together and finish together. No one cares what happens in between.
3. Make as much noise as you can.
4. It does not matter at all whether you hit the right notes or not.
5. It's the listeners' problem whether or not they recognize the piece you're playing, not yours.
6. Have fun.
A good Guggemusik will torture the ears of any 'serious' musician... but it's just wonderful!!!
There are even Guggemusik festivals and competitions: The noisiest band wins!
A typical conductor
Big head masks, usually with oversized mouths that allow blowing a brass instrument, are often part of the band's costumes. When doing a concert, the heads are taken off after the first piece for the players' comfort. Other bands paint their faces with utmost imagination. The conductor usually has the biggest head of them all and a special costume.
"Überdruck" at the Schwäbisch Gmünd festival
Hardcore fans of Guggemusik will love the Guggemusik festival in Schwäbisch Gmünd. It takes place several weeks before the High Days, usually on a weekend in mid or late January. Bands from the region as well as from several other countries, carefully selected for the quality of their performance, play on three stages in town.
A major centre of Guggemusik is and remains Basel, with the "Monschterkonzert" on Tuesday evening as the biggest musical event. But bands will be out and about any time during the three days of Basler Fasnacht (except during Morgestraich) – and I mean any time. Having a band marching up and down the street in front of your hotel room at 3 a.m. will test the limits of tolerance even in the biggest fans - speaking from personal experience.
"Ohregribler" from Basel in the parade in Freiburg
… but now there has been enough theory. Let’s start looking at some hotspots of Fastnacht happenings!