I was among the 10,000 crowd watching the first performance of the Brunei Darussalam International Tattoo 2006. Last night was an all invitation only and it was a record attendance. For the record, it is worthwhile watching though 3 1/2 hours was a tad too long and very discomforting. My wife and I were seated about 2 rows behind the royals, so we had to sit and bear the 4 hours that we sat in those seats.
I actually found our own forces' performance to be more entertaining that everyone else's. The most conservative (read boring) was the British. Even the Jordanians and the Pakistanis were entertaining. By 11 plus, my eyes refused to open and my wife had to nudge me several times to keep me awake. After watching umpteenth drum majors twirl their whatever it is you call it, it gets kinda repetitive after a while. Watching the heart shapes being performed again and again was another downer. I just realised heart shapes must be the easiest shape for military bands to do. I was hoping for more precision drills but only the Filipinos did it.
I remembered a couple of months back, someone asked me to write about the tattoo and how it originated. I actually did a little bit of research on it - basically visiting the Edinburgh Military Tattoo website and other related websites and found several interesting things. It was easy connecting Edinburgh to tattoos. When I was in Edinburgh four years ago, the biggest thing there was the Edinburgh Castle and the major tattoo performance that they have there.
So where and how does tattoo originate? It appears that the term Military Tattoo dated from the seventeenth and eighteenth century when the British Army were fighting in the Belgium and Holland. Drummers from the British garrison were sent out into the nearby towns at about half past nine each evening to tell the soldiers that it was time to return to barracks. The drummers would shout "Doe den tap toe" which is to encourage all the inn keepers to "turn off the taps" - stop serving beer - and send the soldiers home for the night. The drummers continued to play until the curfew at ten in the evening.
What most people don't know is what does 'doe den tap toe' means. For those interested the word 'tap toe' - it comes from the Dutch taptoe or tap-shut (closing time for taverns). So the word tattoo means tap, spigot, tap (from Middle Dutch tappe) + toe, shut (from Middle Dutch) - hence shut the taps. The word has evolved today so that 'tattoo' is now taken to mean (1) A signal sounded on a drum or bugle to summon soldiers or sailors to their quarters at night (2) A display of military exercises offered as evening entertainment (3) A continuous, even drumming or rapping.
How did the evolution come? This came from the evolving process of the tattoo. By the late 19th century, the calling out to innkeepers became more of a show. Bands and displays were included and shows were often conducted by floodlight or searchlight. Tattoos were commonplace in the late 1800’s with most military and garrison towns putting on some kind of show or entertainment during the summer months. Between the First World War and the Second World War elaborate tattoos were held in many towns in England.
According to the program book that came with last night's performance, this tattoo is the fifth that has been performed in Brunei Darussalam. The first was held in August 1965 in Seria performed by the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment (RBMR)and the QE Gurkha Rifles. The second was held in May 1970 to celebrate RBMR's 9th anniversary - why celebrate 9th with a tattoo and not 10th - I don't know. The third was held in October 1977 at Tutong wehere this was to in celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. And the fourth one was held in October 1992 for His Majesty's Silver Jubilee Acccession to the Throne.
So if you have purchase the tickets, go and enjoy and at least now you know what to say to the guy sitting next to you and show off your new found knowledge of tattoos.. By the way, come really early as the parking will be full by the time you get there late.