About the Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is probably the world’s oldest musical instrument, originating in the world’s oldest continuous culture: the indigenous peoples of Australia, whose culture is believed to be at least 40,000 years old.

It is a musical instrument with resonant properties. The size of the Didgeridoo also known as a “Drone Pipe” varies from 3 to 10 feet.  The length is directly related to  the pitch or key of the instrument. This instrument bonds with the player and teaches the player how to use it therapeutically.  It has a very soulful sound that vibrates as it seems to open emotions and blocked chakras in a person’s energy field.

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.

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. 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 has apparently been known to indigenous Australians throughout the entire history of their culture. Indeed, some Dreamtime stories mention the didgeridoo in a prominent role.

Dreamtime is the “time before time,” that is, the time before the world and the things in it took on their present-day forms, and when the gods were still actively present in the world.

One Dreamtime story explains how a particular god carried his didgeridoo by tying it to his back so that it stuck out behind. When the god later transformed into a bird, the didgeridoo sticking out behind became the bird’s long, narrow tail.

In another Dreamtime story, three gods get together to play didgeridoo, sing, and dance. In this story the gods also have bird-forms; Giddabush (a bird also known as the “long-tailed fashion”) is the didgeridoo player, the Butcher bird plays clapsticks and sings, and the Piwi bird dances. As they play, dance, and sing, they name (and hence create) all of the things in the world. When they have finished their work of naming things, Giddabush, Butcher bird, and Piwi pass on the didgeridoo, clapsticks, songs, and dances to humans, and the indigenous

Australians have in turn passed these things down from generation to generation. Given that these Dreamtime stories show the didgeridoo as an essential tool in the creation of the world as well as a device invented directly by the gods, it isn’t surprising that the didgeridoo is a sacred instrument.

 

Source: Didjiman and Wikipedia

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