International military regiments and even African tribes have performed at the Tattoo over the years. The first regiment from outside the UK to take part was the Band of the Royal Netherlands Grenadiers in 1952. So far, over 30 countries have been represented at the Tattoo. Popular visiting performers include the Swiss Top Secret Drum Corps, who performed at the 2003, 2006 and 2009 Tattoos. The Band and Drill team of His Majesty The King's Guard of the Norwegian Army has also performed at the Tattoo on eight previous occasions beginning in 1961, adopting Nils Olav, a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo, as their regimental mascot in 1972.
Each year has a 'lead' service from the British Armed Forces, alternating between the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force. Although each year also celebrates or commemorates a particular organisation, anniversary, theme or event. The highlight of every Tattoo however continues to be the massed pipes and drums, provided by regiments of the British Army and visiting civilian and military pipes and drums from around the world, although primarily from Commonwealth nations with Scottish connections. Each evening traditionally concludes with the massed pipes and drums marching on to join the massed military bands. This is then followed by a rendition of the National Anthem and Auld Lang Syne. There is then a flag-lowering ceremony (see Beating Retreat), with the bugles either sounding the Last Post, or the "Sunset" bugle call of the Royal Marines, and ends with a floodlit lone piper playing a Lament from high on the ramparts of the Half Moon Battery. The performers then march off the esplanade and down the Royal Mile to a series of rousing tunes including Scotland the Brave.
The 2005 Tattoo saw one of the largest gathering of pipes and drums in the event's history, with 13 bands on parade, including the pipes and drums of all six regular infantry regiments of the Scottish Division. This was the last time all six appeared at the Tattoo prior to the formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland:
Here is main performance of Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2009:
In addition, there were also the pipes and drums of the Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Royal Gurkha Rifles, Scottish Officers Training Corps, South African Irish Regiment, the Rats of Tobruk and the City of Wellington pipe band. The largest ever gathering of massed pipes and drums was for the 50th anniversary tattoo in 2000 when there were 15 bands on parade, including 7 of the eight Scottish regiments. Throughout the period of the Tattoo, the performers are accommodated at the city's Redford Cavalry Barracks, with the parade square used for rehearsals.