A courtesan playing the bagpipe and luring the young prince in medieval India. Sounds strange right? Archy Jay pulled off an ineffable act in the video of her first original song ‘Nageena’. The video paints a landscape of mysticism and enchanting storytelling. The song was released under her artist name ‘The Snake Charmer,’ a moniker she adopted to jeer at the western world.
Archy is one of the few bagpipe players in India. By fusing Dubstep and Electronica with the Scottish instrument, Archy has created a sound of her own. Her musical odyssey began in 2010, with the formation of her band, Rogue Saints, an Indie-Rock band. After the band split she pursued her goal of playing the bagpipe. From covering the Game of Thrones and Avengers theme, creating Punjabi fusions to rock music, Archy’s music is multi-faceted.
Despite her fan base now, her journey has not been the one fairy tales are made of. The rather unknown instrument did not find many takers. Though eager to learn, she could not find tutorials on the net to watch and imbibe.
“I had to learn everything from scratch with the help of some books, luckily, I could read music. It was then that I realized I needed someone to show me how to do it. So, I decided to go to Scotland.”
It was an e-mail interaction with Sean Folsom, who she now regards as a mentor, provided her with the required information about the bagpipe. However, e-mail interactions, reading books and trying to play the instrument just wasn’t sufficient. Archy had already dedicated two years to learning the instrument herself with the help of some books herself until she decided to go to Scotland and learn the nuances of playing the bagpiper. In Scotland, she undertook a week-long intensive course on playing the bagpipe which helped her hone her skill.
Beginning of Archy’s bagpipe journey
Her parents, though supportive of a musical career, found her drawing towards the bagpipe “confusing.” One cannot blame them for their thoughts as the instrument is relatively unknown in our country. The Scottish instrument’s popularity was boosted by large numbers of pipers trained for military service during the World Wars by the British government. The mere mention of the instrument portrays a picture of a Scottish man, wearing a kilt, playing the instrument in the hills. Though not widely known, the bagpipe is also played in the Indian army.
“I wanted to learn to play the Bagpipe after I watched a video on YouTube by the band Eluveitie, a Swiss band, and then on, it became my calling. I knew that it was what I wanted and would go to any length to learn and do it to the best of my potential,” recalled Archy.
A female bagpiper fusing electronic music is as rare as the instrument itself in India. Now, after the release of her first video, Archy is in vogue on the internet. But this has not yielded an end to her struggles. The herd mentality, that is prevalent, results in the masses opting to lend an ear majorly to the popular instruments. Though accepted and appreciated by a dedicated fan base, she still longs to be credited for what is her due.
“I would not accept any appreciation if it does not originate from my work. Sometimes it disappoints me when people tell me that I have made a mark not because of what I do but because I am a woman. My work should be the only reason that I get appreciated for,” asserted Archy.
Unstigmatised by the opinions of people for her craft, Archy has collected a number of awards and accolades, amongst which the one she regards as the most special, was receiving the honour of being ‘India’s First Professional Female Bagpiper’ from the President of India in 2018.
“Receiving the First Women Achievers Award was very prestigious. I was awarded along with 111 other women including Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Mary Kom and P.V Sindhu to name a few.”