Originally made from a hollowed-out branch or stick, sometimes a eucalyptuses tree hollowed out by termites, the didgeridoo is truly a unique instrument! The didg player blows on one end and a loud, droning sound comes out of the other. Experienced didgeridoo players do a kind of special breathing – called circular breathing – that allows them to play for amazingly long times without stopping or taking a breath!
Didgeridoos come from Aboriginal culture in Australia and many have the characteristic “dot” patterns seen in much of this region’s art. Most traditional didg makers create instruments that have special animals or symbols formed from these dots on their creations. The images might reflect their family group, their clan or some animal or trait that is important to them. Together with bilma, rhythm sticks called clapsticks, sounds are made used keep the beat in dreamtime ceremonies. Here’s a quick look at how the two are used together:
According to Aboriginal stories, our planet and everything on it was created during an era called “dreamtime” when the ancestors walked the Earth. I was so fascinated by the didg and it’s traditions that I recorded a song about it called “You Gotta Didg!” In this video you get a glimpse of a large mountain-like form behind the musicians and dancers. That is a famous landmark in Australia called Uluru in the Aboriginal language and Ayres Rock in English. Uluru/Ayres Rock is an Aboriginal sacred site and plays a very important part in the dreamtime legends.
Are dreamtime ceremonies serious matters for adults only? No! Kids listen, play and participate in the retelling of these stories and legends from a very early age. That’s how children become inspired to keep the traditions and oral history alive. There are even games for little ones, such as a kind of Australian freeze tag. In one of these games, the didgeridoo plays a variety of notes and when it hits a special tone, all children must freeze and stay completely still. Anyone who misses the tone or can’t stand still long enough is out! In this way, kids are learning ceremonial dances while playing with friends and having fun at the same time!
The history of Australian Aborigines is rich and exciting to explore. Hopefully, this has inspired you to discover more about some of the amazing instruments of Australia and the legend and lore of the land down under!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content. She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.
[Photo credit: (ccl) etringita]