#HauteSounds: Archy J is Charming Her Way Into YouTube Stardom!
If you grew up in the 1990s, chances are you’d rocked out to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme. Composed by Ron Wasserman, nearly 25 years later, he came across a rendition by New Delhi-based bagpipe player Archy J aka The Snake Charmer. His note to her read, “I’m getting chills listening to this. Absolutely amazing! I’m absolutely floored.”
Archy, for her part, was beyond surprised that Wasserman had heard her bagpipe-metal version of the theme, produced by guitarist Karan Katiyar. She says, “I literally screamed reading this!”
The Snake Charmer has amassed almost 16,000 subscribers on YouTube and around 1.7 million views, setting the melody of the bagpipes over everything from the Game of Thrones theme to adding a hint of Indian classical to the Star Wars theme, The Walking Dead theme and most famously, an electronic/Bollywood-borrowing version of AC/DC’s song Thunderstruck. Clearly, every genre is fair game for Archy, who releases a video every month.
Once the vocalist of Delhi-based metal band Rogue Saints, Archy began learning the bagpipe in 2012. She says, “I first got fascinated with bagpipes watching Inis Mona by Eluveitie (the Swiss folk metal band). That was my first ‘OMG! This is badass!’ moment! I’m usually attracted to things that are offbeat, and with the bagpipes, all of it fit so well that I couldn’t not pursue it.”
She spent quite a penny to find a bagpipe that allowed her to record as well as perform as easily as possible. Archy says, “I bought my set from Germany. Bagpipes are very expensive; a good set starts off at about Rs 64,000. Mine was a lot more than that, since I have a custom-made semi-electronic bagpipe.”
And when it came to learning it without any teacher at hand (apart from the Internet), Archy recounts it as being one of the biggest hurdles. She adds, “It took me about 2 years of practicing on a practice chanter (something that you get before buying an actual bagpipe set) and then I bought a full set of pipes.”
But when she got down to one of her most popular covers – a medley of American metal stalwarts Lamb Of God – she realised that it isn’t all about playing by the book. The medley has about 1,10,000 hits, especially because it was picked up by every metal zine possible and given a thumbs up by Lamb of God as well. Archy says that the making of the medley really opened her up to a different potential of the bagpipe.
“When practicing, I kept telling Karan how these kind of notes are not normal to bagpipes and that it can’t happen, but he really pushed me to challenge myself and create my own techniques, which is what I did. I created those techniques to be able to shred on bagpipes and play vomit-riff sort of riffs on them. It was painful and demotivating too, but I was proud of the end result.”
The Snake Charmer has already done a few live shows in the past year, but she says that she still needs to strengthen her internet following before concentrating on touring. She doesn’t consider herself a YouTube star just yet. However, she does add, “I intend to start doing shows in pubs later this summer, and yes, it will be with a full act — not necessarily as a band!”
While she’s simultaneously working on putting together a group, The Snake Charmer’s “biggest project” is set to launch this month as well. “My new video is going to be my first try at covering a Bollywood song in a dubstep style, and completely changing the image of bagpipes and bagpipers. The video will show me in a totally new avatar and I have worked harder than ever to bring out this new side of me,” she explains.
Check out the video below and tell us in the comments what you think!