Beyond the Ramparts

Drumbeat of Edinburgh’s International Festival

Beyond the Ramparts

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was conceived and first performed in 1950 as the Army in Scotland’s contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival.

Today, with its unique blend of music, ceremony, entertainment, and theatre set against the amazing backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, it is without question one of the world’s greatest shows.

The word ‘tattoo’ derives from the cry of innkeepers in the Low Countries in the 17th and 18th centuries. At closing time, the fifes and drums of the local regiment would march through the streets, their music signalling a return to quarters, and the shout would go up – ‘Doe den tap toe’ (‘turn off the taps’).

Doe den tap toe

From this beginning, a ‘tattoo’ became a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands and the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo is the leading example of the modern development of the early Tattoo events held in Britain.

Nowadays, the range of music presented at the Tattoo is as diverse as the countries represented.  From pomp and circumstance to showbiz razzmatazz – with just about everything in between – the audience can now expect to hear, for example, New Orleans jazz, modern pop, and folk music.

Over the years, it has presented a whole host of international performers - military and civilian - from 48 countries. Dancers, steel bands, flag-wavers, drill teams, Zulus, camels, elephants, cavalry, motorcyclists, and police dogs have joined bands of all sizes and descriptions, for example. 

The result is an unforgettable annual spectacle that is rightly renowned worldwide - and one, which has taken its place as the very drumbeat of the Edinburgh International Festival.  

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