Tuesday, 4 November 2014


We have a regional radio station that’s called Radio Charivari and plays a mix of German pop from the 1950s and Schlager songs, the standards that usually accompany Volksfest. 
I thought the name was one of those German redoublings, like Schickimicki or Stylo-Milo—which indicate something posh or extra-fancy, but charivari actually is a French-derived term for rough-music, encompassing a whole hatful of customs and traditions whereby community members serenade newlyweds and to signal their displeasure if the union strayed too far from social norms. These impromptu gatherings, banging pots and pans and making a general ruckus to celebrate an act that was too long in coming, could also be a form of censuring if the nuptials came prematurely or age-discrepancies too great, shaming would-be couples into respecting accepted standards.  This mob-mentality, happily, disbanded and communal harassment was by turns outlawed as something cruel and infringement on the real moral authorities—a similar form of vigilante justice turned even more extreme was called ran-tanning or tin-kettling in Britain and conversely gives us the term for the containment tactics of crowd-control. It’s a bit of a strange choice for a station’s call-sign but I don’t think there’s an element of roughness or re-education, social coercion to be found in it. There are a lot of impenetrable customs associated with weddings and I think certain, maybe less judgmental aspects of charivari survive and are indulged and kept sacred.