Did you hear the joke about the bagpipes? Well, just a minute, my surname is Stewart and I’m genetically programmed to respond to the call of the pipes, so there will be no jokes about bagpipes here. As long as bagpipes are played half-decently, I’m in.
Snake Charmer, also known as Archy J, is a self-taught bagpiper from Delhi, India. In 2016, India Today called her India’s first female bagpiper, though they failed to name any male Indian bagpipers. In the article, Snake Charmer describes how difficult it was for her to learn to play the bagpipes in India in 2012, when there was a dearth of tutorials on YouTube. It took her two years of correspondence just to select a set of bagpipes to purchase. Here is Snake Charmer and two piper friends:
That, for Music Man readers who don’t follow post-Pogues Irish folk-rock crossover music, is a lively bag-pipe cover of The Dropkick Murphys’ metal-tinged track I’m Shipping Up To Boston. In the video, Snake Charmer is joined by Jane Espie (The Phantom Piper) from Inverkeithing, who has been playing with Big band Celtica-Pipes Rock since 2013, and Chelsea the Piper, now known as the Dame of Drones. For help identifying who is who in the video, Chelsea is the redhead.
Obviously the lasses recorded their contributions separately. The track was mastered by George Dum at Liquidfish Studios, Los Angeles. He also played the drums (the rest of the backing track music is by Harald Weinkum). George Weeman comments: “Her beauty is only outmatched by her badassery in playing those pipes! God, I love this!” Brams Commando quips: “This song makes me proud to be a Scotsman, even if I’m Polish.” The collaboration video has 34.7M YouTube views. Here’s more Snake Charmer!
That’s a vibrant mix of Celtic and Bhangra on a cover of the Irish tune Toss The Feathers. It’s sure to enliven any party. On her Bandcamp page, Snake Charmer describes her October 2022 single as a fun, danceable song with a message. She writes: “The vocal section of this song is something I wrote from my heart. We all have a vulnerable side and a part that feels weak and another side that still gets up, fights back, gives us strength and shows us hope. In the lyrics, the weaker side of me is talking to the stronger self of mine.”
The 2016 India Today article describes how, after waiting two years for her bagpipes, Snake Charmer found them too difficult to play. She enlisted the help of her virtual, internet friends for the beginning stages, before she took a trip to Scotland to learn from an actual live and present bagpiper.
Bagpipe players might be rare in India, but across the adjoining Middle East, in Palestine, they are common. On prominent feast days, marching bands including prominent bagpipe groups are usually heard playing Arabic and Palestinian traditional music. The Oxford History of Music features a sculpture of bagpipes found on a Hittite slab in the Middle East dating back to around 1000BC. Some academics even claim that the bagpipes were introduced to Europe from the Middle East by returning Crusaders. Of course that is hogwash. The rest of the world is welcome to take up the honourable art of piping, but bagpipes were invented and developed in Scotland and we’ll hear nothing more on the subject.
Here is The Dropkick Murphys’ original hard-hitting version of I’m Shipping Up To Boston from 2006, for your interest:
If that Dropkick Murphys song is a bit heavy for you, try this one. Enjoy: