May 19, 2004

Have you ever wondered where the name CHARIVARI comes from?

The word CHARIVARI can be traced back to the 17th century, when Italian artist A. CARACCI drew so-called “ritratti caricati”, absurd portraits and figures, literally translated: overloaded portraits. The Italian word “caricare” has its counterpart in the French word “charger” (engl. “load”). We can assume that the name CHARIVARI is based on these roots. Later, the word became part of the French language and had the meaning of loud and unmelodious cacophony.

An additional explanation for the word Charivari can be traced back to the Greek “Karebaria”, synonym for a bad headache caused by loud, disharmonic music from instruments, not necessarily of a musical background, such a pans, pots etc. Such “music” was presented as a serenade in the 18th century to elder men who married a young woman or vice versa.

In France citizens expressed their discontent about elected politicians around the beginning of the 19th century by serenading them with such infernal presentations. A beautiful example of such a performance can be found in Daumier’s print

LD App. 39.

Nowadays, a similar kind of Charivari-music is performed under the name of a “Guggemusik” during Carnival season in Basle, Switzerland. Some of these traditional “musical” groups are hundreds of years old and still carry the name Charivari today.

To read more about Daumier and his work for the Charivari, please go to the CHARIVARI section of this website.