From the piccolo player to the drummer, from Schnitzelbank (satirical verse) performers to "Guggenmusik" bands: there are different ways to participate in Fasnacht.
Over 300 cliques, wagon cliques, carriages and Gugge music bands register for the official procession each year. In addition, more than 200 lanterns are painted by hand for Carnival. And in Basel's streets and alleys, over 100 Schnitzelbank performers plus countless individual figures and groups, who don't participate in the procession, are on the move.
The first cliques were created around the middle of the 19th century from a number of Basel associations and societies. The first societies whose sole purpose was to participate in Carnival were set up around 1870. These often hailed from specific districts or suburbs, as reflected in some clique names such as Stainlemer, Spale or Glaibasler. During the "three best days", they march through the city centre with drums and piccolos and enhance the Carnival activity with both traditional marches and more modern music.
Brass instruments already began to be heard as of the mid-19th century, and in the early part of the 20th century accordions and mandolin groups also took part in Carnival. Gugge music subsequently developed from the brass contingent. Around 70 groups of this type with over 2,000 active participants take part in the procession and give concerts, mainly on Tuesday evening. These are held in large squares but also in overcrowded pubs in the city centre.
The wagen cliques are a prominent feature of the two big "Cortège" parades. They present and act out themes on their elaborate and artistic vehicles. Masked figures distribute flowers, oranges and other edible or potable treats from the wagon, always coupled with a generous shower of confetti.
Schnitzelbank performers focus on topical events. Each verse deals with a different theme: events from the fields of politics, sport, economics and society that made the headlines during the past year. The verses are cleverly rhymed, humorous, and cutting or satirical. They hold the listeners' attention right through to the laughter triggered by the punchline. The verse is usually accompanied by a musical instrument. The melodies are sometimes those of balladeers that have been handed down over generations, alternated with well-known folk tunes and modified versions of popular hits. The Schnitzelbank performers can be found mainly in pubs, restaurants and clique cellars.