The didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians of northern
Australia around 1,500 years ago and still in widespread usage today both in and around the world. It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or "drone pipe". Musicologists classify it as a brass aerophone. Australia
There are no reliable sources stating the didgeridoo's exact age. Archaeological studies of rock art in Northern Australia suggest that the people of the Kakadu region of the
have been using the didgeridoo for less than 1,000 years, based on the dating of paintings on cave walls and shelters from this period. A clear rock painting in Ginga Wardelirrhmeng, on the northern edge of the Northern Territory Arnhem Land plateau, from the freshwater period shows a didgeridoo player and two songmen participating in an Ubarr Ceremony.
A modern didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical, and can measure anywhere from 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft) long. Most are around 1.2 m (4 ft) long. The length is directly related to the 1/2 sound wavelength of the keynote. Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key of the instrument.
"Didgeridoo" is considered to be an onomatopoetic word of Western invention. There are numerous names for this instrument among the Aboriginal people of northern
, with yiḏaki one of the better known words in modern Western society. Yiḏaki refers to the specific type of instrument made and used by the Yolngu people of north-east Australia Arnhem Land. However, Yolngu themselves are currently using the synonym mandapul to refer to the instrument.
Authentic Aboriginal didgeridoos are produced in traditionally oriented communities in Northern Australia or by makers who travel to Central and
Northern Australia to collect the raw materials. They are usually made from hardwoods, especially the various eucalyptus species that are endemic to the region. Sometimes a native bamboo, such as Bambusa arnhemica, or pandanus is used. Generally the main trunk of the tree is harvested, though a substantial branch may be used instead. Aboriginal didgeridoo craftsmen hunt for suitably hollow live trees in areas with obvious termite activity. Termites attack these living eucalyptus trees, removing only the dead heartwood of the tree, as the living sapwood contains a chemical that repels the insects. Various techniques are employed to find trees with a suitable hollow, including knowledge of landscape and termite activity patterns, and a kind of tap or knock test, in which the bark of the tree is peeled back, and a fingernail or the blunt end of a tool, such as an axe is knocked against the wood to determine if the hollow produces the right resonance.
Once a suitably hollow tree is found, it is cut down and cleaned out, the bark is taken off, the ends trimmed, and the exterior is shaped; this results in a finished instrument. This instrument may be painted or left undecorated. A rim of beeswax may be applied to the mouthpiece end. Traditional instruments made by Aboriginal craftsmen in
Arnhem Land are sometimes fitted with a 'sugarbag' mouthpiece. This black beeswax comes from wild bees and has a distinctive aroma.
The didgeridoo is played with continuously vibrating lips to produce the drone while using a special breathing technique called circular breathing. This requires breathing in through the nose whilst simultaneously expelling stored air out of the mouth using the tongue and cheeks. By use of this technique, a skilled player can replenish the air in their lungs, and with practice can sustain a note for as long as desired. Recordings exist of modern didgeridoo players playing continuously for more than 40 minutes; Mark Atkins on Didgeridoo Concerto (1994) plays for over 50 minutes continuously.
Traditionally and originally, the didgeridoo was primarily played as an accompaniment to ceremonial dancing and singing. However, it was also common for didgeridoos to be played for solo or recreational purposes outside of ceremonial gatherings. For surviving Aboriginal groups of northern
, the didgeridoo is still an integral part of ceremonial life, as it accompanies singers and dancers in cultural ceremonies that continue. Today, the majority of didgeridoo playing is for recreational purposes in both Indigenous Australian communities and elsewhere around the world. Australia
Pair sticks, sometimes called clapsticks or bilma, establish the beat for the songs during ceremonies. The rhythm of the didgeridoo and the beat of the clapsticks are precise, and these patterns have been handed down for many generations. In the Wangga genre, the song-man starts with vocals and then introduces blima to the accompaniment of didgeridoo.
About Australian Indigenous Music
Indigenous Australian music refers to the music of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Music forms an integral part of the social, cultural and ceremonial observances of these peoples, and has been so for over 60,000 years.
Contemporary Indigenous Australian music has covered numerous styles, including rock and roll, country, hip hop, and reggae. Jimmy Little is regarded as the first Aboriginal performer to achieve mainstream success, with his debut 1964 song "The Royal Telephone" highly popular and successful It would be Yothu Yindi that would bring Indigenous music to the mainstream, with their 1991 song "Treaty", from the album Tribal Voice, becoming a hit. It would go on to reach #11 on the ARIA Singles Chart. The band's performances were based on the traditional Yolngu dance, and embodied a sharing of culture. The success of Yothu Yindi was followed in by Kev Carmody, Tiddas, Christine Anu, and numerous other Indigenous Australian musicians.
Indigenous Australian music is unique, as it dates back more than 60,000 years to the prehistory of Australia and continues the ancient songlines through contemporary artists as diverse as: David Dahwurr Hudson, Jimmy Little, Warumpi Band, Yothu Yindi, Tiddas, Wild Water, Christine Anu, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Saltwater Band, Nabarlek, Nokturnl, the Pigram Brothers, Coloured Stone, Blekbala Mujik, Kev Carmody, Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter.
© Text and image: Wikipedia