TROMMELFLUIT Fifes and Drums
In the past centuries our region was a main field for war and conflict. If any good ever came out of this sad
fact we can only refer to the music that accompanied these historic armies to the battlefield. From the sixteenth
century onwards right up to the heyday of Napoleon their music was played on drums and small shrill-sounding
traversal flutes called fifes. After all, when it came to volume, they had to rival with the considerable fracas
About ten years ago members of the folkgroup "Kadril" took the initiative to revive the tradition of drums and fifes
to enhance the Cat Pageant in Ypres. The necessary musicians were sought and found at the annual traditional folkmusic
sessions in Gooik, organized by the V.Z.W. De Volksmuziekgilde (Non profit folkmusic guild).
Trommelfluit was born. A group of musicians limited to the use of fifes and drums. Several times a year they can be
seen and heard blowing and drumming back to life their wonderful melodies. Naturally their preference goes to historic
or traditional events : The Saint Jacob Pegeant in Brussels, the "Ros Beiaard Pageant" (a legendary gigantic horse ridden
by four heroic children in Dendermonde), the traditional hop festivities in Faversham (England), ...A sight that is
anachronistic to our day and age but makes the spectators and listeners feel : yes, this is the music of the old, sumptuous
pageants, parades, pomp and circumstance, proper to our region. This is the music, that as no other, fits in perfectly with
the variety of styles that we discover in our Flemish monuments, buildings and market squares.
The music played by Trommelfluit was discovered in old handwritten sheetmusic dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth
century. The titles of the melodies and marches refer to the rulers, men of arms or guilds from this era : De March der
Gezworenen uit Brussel (The March of The Men of Oath from Brussels), De March van den Prins van Luyck (The March of the
Prince of Luyck), Den Conincxvogel van Sint-Barbara uit Diest (The King’s Bird of St. Barbara from Diest), De March van de
gilde "Vrede Best" uit St.-Niklaas (the March of the guild "Peace is Best" from St. Niklaas, ... are all on the programme.
The drumming to these marches was rather a problem as we have no real drumtradition left in our region. It was lost due
to the infiltration of American styled drumbands. Fortunately the Walloon region managed to keep its drumtradition alive
so that their drummers could help us out.
1670 is the year in which the first uniforms came into use in the French army. Before, everybody dressed according to personal
whim and taste, or according to what the nobility, who owned the regiments, ordered them to wear. The first uniforms are very
similar to what the average civilian wore : a coat, called a "justaucorps", a pair of kneelenght breeches and a broadrimmed hat.
The costume of Trommelfluit is a copy of the Swiss Regiment De Salis. It was with this regiment that the French King, Louis the
XIVth. entered Ypres after a ten day siege. A few days before he’d had a close shave being almost killed when a civilian from
Ypres - Nicolaas Hoedt - shot a cannonball from the city under siege into the King’s sleeping quarters. The king escaped without
injury but eighteen of his personal guards lost their lives. Every three years this historic event is commemorated in the Ypres
Cat Pageant which shows the giant Nicolaas the Cannoneer, accompanied by Trommelfluit.
Research in the military museum allowed us to copy the uniform of the Swiss De Salis regiment as authentically as possible. For
the Swiss serving in the French army, the "justaucorps" had a typical red colour. These troops were famous or rather notorious
and during battle there opponents compared them to a sturdy red brick wall impossible to crack... The different regimental
companies could be distinguished by the amount of buttons on sleeves and pockets and by their colour. Those of the De Salis
regiment were silver and metallic. On the upturned sleeves there were three buttons and on the pockets five.
The large widerimmed hats came from a "sombreria" or Spanish habberdasher from Santiago de Compostela. The ostrich feathers
were brought directly from South Africa by the group Kadril after a concert tour there.
Weapons consisted of a sabre and musket. Out of safety precautions Trommelfluit chose not to include these... The gunpowder
for the muskets was kept in twelve wooden flasks attached to a bandolier about four inches wide worn crosswise over the
shoulders : the bandoulière. Due to their amount the flasks were sometimes called "the twelve apostles". To the
"bandoulières" the group also attached exact replicas of the bullet bags.
Apart from the headgear all parts of the uniform were homemade by the members of the group : the thirty "justaucorps"
and kneelength breeches, the thirty leather bandoliers with their bullet bags and more than two hundred powder flasks!
The banner of the De Salis Regiment was also reconstructed. Like all French flags in those days it bore the typical white
cross. White being the colour for France as Orange was characteristic for Holland. In the four quarter parts of the flag
one sees 4 wavy flames alternately in yellow and black. Thus the banner is nothing more than a historic copy of the original
and has no up-to-date or ideological meaning. Trommelfluit has done this intentionally because in the past so many who
followed a "banner" were later on bitterly deceived in what they had once believed in. Unfortunately this still applies
to our own day and age.
When those who are curious and try to find some hidden meaning in our banner keep asking us : "Where are you from ?", we
have to leave the question more or less unanswered. We’re from everywhere and every era. Our unity is forged by music
of traditional origin and our feeling of togetherness.
Tr. Michel Vereecke
TROMMELFLUIT Fifes and Drums