THE DIDGERIDOO AND ABORIGINAL CULTURE
WHAT IS A DIDGERIDOO?
"As with imagemaking, Aboriginal music
also unites consciousness with the invisible laws and energy patterns
of nature. Aboriginal art is perhaps most accurately described
as a method for gaining knowledge of nature and its invisible
Dreaming. An example is the playing of the didjeridoo, a long
wooden flute, perhaps the oldest musical instrument on earth.
Traditionally, an Aborigine would go into nature and listen intensely
to animal sounds, not just voices but also the flapping of wings
or the thump of feet on the ground. The Aborigine would also listen
to the sounds of wind, thunder, trees creaking, and water running.
The essences of all these sounds were played with as much accuracy
as possible within the droning sound of the didjereedoo. For the
Aborigine, the observation of nature immediately requires a state
of empathy, which leads to am imitative expression."
Voices of the First Day
Published by Inner Traditional
10 DIDGERIDOO FACTS
1. Possibly the world's oldest musical instrument
2. A wind instrument originally found in Arnhem Land, Northern Australia.
3. Is made from limbs and tree trunks hollowed out by termites (insects).
4. Is cut to an average length of 1.3 metres and cleaned out with
a stick. or hot coals.
5. Was used as an accompaniment to chants and songs.
6. Produces a low-pitch, resonant sound with complex rhythmic patterns.
7. In sure tribal groups only played by men but in most groups by
men, women and children.
8. Traditional various forms at the didjeridoo where found in Central
Australia around Alice Springs.
9. The Didgeridoo is the sound of Australia.
10.If the earth had a voice it would be the sound of the Didgeridoo.
HISTORY OF THE WORD DIDGERIDOO
Didgeridoo - Also didjeridu, didjiridu and didjerry.
1919 Huon Times (Franklin) 24 January 4/3
The nigger crew is making merry with the Diridgery doo and the eternal
ya-ya-ya- ye-ye-ye cry.
1919 Smith's Weekly (Sydney) 5 April 15/1
The Northern Territory Aborigines have an infernal and allegedly
musical instrument, composed of two feet of hollow bamboo. It produces
but one sound - 'didjerry, didjerry, didjerry' and so on ad infinitum..
When a couple of niggers started grinding their infernal 'didjerry'
half the hot night through, the blasphemous manager decided on revenge.
1925 M.TERRY Across Unknown Australia 190
The didjiri-du.. is a long hollow tube, often a tree root about
5 feet long, slightly curved at the lower end. The musician squats
on the ground, resting his instrument on the earth. He fits his
mouth into the straight or upper end and blows down it in a curious
fashion. He produces an intermittent drone.
Aboriginal names for the instruments as there are identifiable language
groups. Some of its names, more especially those which suggest routes
and directions of the spread of this aerophone within Australia,
are given below.
In T.B. Wilson's Narrative of a Voyage Round the World (1835) there
is a drawing of an Aboriginal man of Raffles Bay, Coburg Peninsula,
playing the instrument. Several different observers at Raffles Bay
described it as being of bamboo and about three feet long. Names
obtained (obviously different spellings of the same Aboriginal word)
were eboro, ebero and ebroo.
WHERE DOES THE WORD DIDGERIDOO COME FROM?
The fact that bamboo didjeridus were quite common among northerly
groups in the Northern Territory during the last century is confirmed
by the word 'bamboo' which is still used in the lingua franca by
some Aborigines when referring to the instrument, though 'didjeridu'
may be gaining ground.
The suggestion here is that the first didjeridus were of bamboo;
and that because of the availability of bamboo in the north-western
region of the Northern Territory, the first didjeridu players may
well have belonged to that region. Some observations on 'three very
curious trumpets' made by R.Etheridge Jr. in 1893 are quoted for
consideration in this context as they refer particularly to instruments
of bamboo. Etheridge writes that '[the trumpets] are made from bamboo
lengths, the diaphragms having been removed, probably by dropping
live coals down the tubes.
The bamboo, I am informed by Mr Stockdale, grows about the Adelaide
River over an area of about one hundred miles by fifty, and reaches
to a height of eighty feet, Mr J.H. Maiden tells me there are two
bamboos indigenous in Australia, Bambusa arnhemica and B.moreheadiana,
the latter a climbing species and only one or two inches in diameter.
WHAT ARE OTHER DIDGERIDOO NAMES?
According to Prof Trevor Jones, (Monash University) there are at
least 45 different synonyms for the didgeridoo.
Some are bambu, bombo, kambu, pampuu, (may reflect didge origins
from bamboo), garnbak, illpirra, martba, Jiragi, Yiraki, Yidaki,
(seem close dialectically and which means "bamoo" although
no longer commonly made from bamboo).
TRIBAL GROUP REGION NAME FOR DIDGERIDOO
||NAME FOR DIDGERIDOO
||ngarrriralkpwina = play didge
||Yiraka= trachea, windpipe
||Wuyimba = trachea
buyigi = blow a didgeridoo
||artawirr = hollow log
||ngaribi = bamboo
||bambu = used for singing