EDITOR'S NOTE: This article erroneously mentioned that Archy J is India's first female bagpiper. She claims to be India's first female bagpiper to play commercially. There is in fact, a CRPF women's bagpiper band. You can see their performance here. The article has since been updated to reflect the changes.
Any mention of bagpipes evokes the image of a Scottish man in a kilt playing that country's traditional wind instrument. It is hard to picture an Indian girl -- born and bred in Delhi -- intermittently head banging and playing a version of The Walking Dead credit theme on her bagpipes.
In fact, when she started learning the bagpipes, musician Archy J was dissuaded by people who told her that there was no market in India for an instrument like that. "That is exactly why I wanted to do it," Archy told HuffPost India. "There is no market now, there will be one some day and I want to help create this market."
Archy or The Snake Charmer, her YouTube avatar, is not only India's first female bagpiper to play commercially, she is also a self-taught bagpiper. Before setting to accomplish this feat, Archy was the lead vocalist in the band, Rogue Saints. But then, she came across a Swiss band that had a bagpiper as a member. "I mean you probably have seen bagpipers in solo performances or in parades, but being in a band and playing the bagpipes was something I had never seen before. It amazed me," Archy said.
She decided to learn playing the bagpipes, only to find out that there were no teachers available here. "The ones I came across were not teaching it the way I wanted to learn," she recalled. "So, I spent around 7 to 8 months researching about the instrument -- how it should be played, which one should I buy, how to learn it, everything."
Archy was undaunted the instrument's complexity and sought help from overseas. "I sent a lot of crazy mails to a lot of bagpipers from outside India and looked up on the Internet," she said. "Some people, whom I have still not met, guided me in understanding the instrument."
Around 2012, when she undertook her quest, bagpipes tutorials were hard to come by on YouTube. So, she downloaded an e-book and started learning with a practice chanter -- a smaller, flute-like instrument that bagpipers begin practicing with before graduating to a full set.
"It was very frustrating in the beginning," Archy admits. "Learning something practical from a book is very hard. But I had no other choice. The other choice was not to learn it, and that wouldn't have happened. So, I kept pursuing it."
Not surprisingly, the going wasn't easy. "If I had some doubt I used to ask people on the Internet or just cry," she said, laughing.
After two years of trial and error, much experimenting, following advice offered by people online, and learning from her e-book, Jay decided that it was time to graduate to a full bagpipes set. "In 2014, I got my full set," she said. "I was so excited about it. But when I sat with it and tried to play, I could not do it. It was much harder than I had anticipated and managing all the parts together was very difficult." Once again, her online friends came to the rescue, guiding her on how to play the instrument.
Finally, Archy headed to Scotland to get help from an actual bagpiper. "It was a week-long course that I completed and came back home to make my own YouTube videos," she said.
Her YouTube channel features Archy playing covers, including the Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead themes and songs by Lamb Of God, Coldplay and AC/DC. "The idea is to appeal to the audience outside India as well," she said. "I don't only want a market in India, I also want to change the way people from all over see this instrument."
Bear McCreary, composer of some of television's memorable credit themes such as Battlestar Galactica, Black Sails, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Outlander and The Walking Dead liked her latest cover of The Walking Dead theme so much that he shared it on Twitter.
Badass! 🤘🏼https://t.co/Fx2o8ZNbmn— Bear McCreary (@bearmccreary) November 5, 2016
Although that was definitely a high point, Archy believes that she still has a long way to go. "Music is like that," she explains. "There is so much to learn, there's no end to it."
True, but thanks to Archy's zeal for bagpipes and her tenacity in trying to master it, she has had a very encouraging start.
You can watch her rendition of The Walking Dead theme here: