Top Secret Drum Corps - Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2015
Acclaimed as one of the world’s most sensational assembly of percussionists, the Top Secret Drum Corps was formed in 1991 by seven talented drummers from the Swiss city of Basel. With 25 drummers and colorguard members, the corps became famous for its demanding six-minute routine performed at the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2003. With its invitation to Edinburgh, Top Secret became one of the first non-military, non-British Commonwealth acts to perform on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.
Since its success in 2003, Top Secret has returned to Edinburgh many times and under the leadership of Erik Julliard, the band is also responsible for the founding of the Basel Tattoo, a military tattoo show similar to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, now held annually in Basel.
Top Secret has its roots in the rich drumming traditions of the band's home city, Basel, Switzerland, which is known for its annual carnival called Fasnacht. The city is said to have over 3,000 active drummers at any one time. These drummers perform at traditional events such as Fasnacht, the Vogel Gryff, Charivari, and various parades associated with the city's guilds. A Trommelkönig (Drummer King) competition is also held every year by the city's Fasnacht Committee.
Basel drumming style is militaristic, derived from the military drumming drills of Swiss soldiers dating back to the Middle Ages. Top Secret in many ways adheres to the military nature of Basel drumming, but differs in many respects. Its drummers play at a much faster rate. Also, while traditional Basel drumming is somber and favours traditional marching tunes (accompanied by fifes during the Fasnacht), Top Secret's drumming style is upbeat and playful. Over the years, the corps adopted many elements from Drum Corps International (DCI), Scottish, and American rudimental drumming. Segments of their routines feature a "rhumba", a drummer's duel (where a number, if not all, of the drummers will fight one another, using their sticks as one-handed swords or fencing foils; at Gymotion 2014, the drummers fought the colour guard, who used their flags as double-blades), drumstick juggling (seen at every show, where the drummers and sometimes the colour guard throw their sticks and flags, respectively, to one another (the colour guard always throw the flags over the bass drummers' heads)), flagpoles and bass drums which produce sparks and other crowd-pleasing details, such as removable bass drums (first seen at Gymotion 2014) and fire-sticks (usually the last act of their show, where the drummers produce two special sticks, light the ends and perform a very fast drumbeat, after which the fire is extinguished). Their 2012 routine at the Edinburgh Tattoo included strobe lights within their drums that appeared to be activated by the drummer's beats; there were also similar lights at either end of their flags.
Perhaps because of their 18th Century uniforms and precision work, the Corps is often referred to as a military band or a part of the Swiss Army, but it is not affiliated with any military unit.
Members: Top Secret's members are highly dedicated college students to drummers with diverse day jobs—bankers, civil servants, factory workers, etc. They give up their free time to practice nearly every day of the year. Due to the demanding nature of the work, its membership is frequently changing.