Saturday, June 13, 2009
I lived in Australia for five years back in the 80s and early 90s, but didgeridoos didn't interest me. Then, two and a half years ago I moved to rural southern CA and suddenly didgeridoos made a lot of sense.
A didgeridoo is a wind instrument made from a hollowed out log. The Australian Aboriginals use eucalyptus trees. The didge - or yidaki or yirdaki - is a mainstay of Aboriginal culture, an integral part of their spiritual and ceremonial and story-telling traditions.
The instrument produces a low pedal note drone, which can be varied by a range of vocalizing and tonguing and breathing techniques. Skillful players can maintain complex rhythms that equate to vocal percussion. Though the instrument itself is simple, its masters are highly-accomplished and equally highly-regarded virtuoso musicians.
The instrument also offers a gateway into Aboriginal culture, which is the oldest continuous culture on earth.
I bought my first didge about two years ago. It is locally made, from a hollowed out yucca plant. My second one is Indonesian teak, from the same local craftsman.
Last week, I acquired my very first Aboriginal-made didge, and I'm very excited. The week before, I happened to run into someone from San Diego, who had a didge he wanted to sell. It was crafted by the great master, Djalu Gurruwiwi, from Northeast Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory. It was literally love at first sight.
I have a long way to go before I acquire even a basic level of proficiency, but right from the beginning I found myself both having fun and tapping into something greater than myself. This video reflects both the playful and spiritual side the instrument brings out in me, as well as paying tribute to the culture that produced it.