Aboriginal Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is a musical instrument which originated in the Northern Australian region about 1,500 years ago. It is made by the natives as a woodwind instrument or a wooden trumpet. A pair of sticks often called “blima” is used to establish the beat for the songs. It is a big part of the aboriginal culture for it was traditionally used as accompaniment to ceremonial dancing and singing. There are also recreational purposes for the instrument inside and outside Australia.

Etymology

The word “didgeridoo” is considered to be onomatopoetic. It is said to be derived from the Irish words “dudaire”, meaning “trumpeter”, and “dubh”, meaning “black”. However, the theory is not widely accepted. Some says that the word came from the sound it produced which is “didjerry”.

The native Australian name for the instrument varies by region and tribal group. Yidaki is the most popular native name. It is the specific type of instrument used by the Yonglu tribe of Northeastern Arnhem Land, but since the passing of the Manggalili clan in the early 2011, the Yonglu began using the synonym “mandapul”. Today, the bilingual Aboriginal people often used the word interchangeably with the native name of the instrument.

Here are some of the native names

• Ngarrriralkpwina

• Mandapul

• Yirtakki

• Yiraka

• Paampu

• Ilpirra

How the instrument is made

Traditionally, they are produced from raw materials found in the Central and Northern Australia. They are made from local hardwood such as eucalyptus, and sometimes the native bamboo. The trunk of the tree is harvested and the craftsmen prefer to hunt for hollow live trees created by the termites.

The non-traditional ones are made from PVC piping, glass, fiberglass, agave, clay, hemp, metal, and non-native hardwoods.

Although not necessarily painted and decorated, traditional Aboriginal art is manifested in the didgeridoo. Some traditional and modern artists decorate it with native art and symbols but most of the time they like it to be natural wood grain.

How to play

Playing it requires the use of circular breathing. The player will breathe through the nose while expelling stored air out of the mouth with the use of tongue and cheeks continuously vibrating lips to produce the sound.

Didgeridoo can only be played by men in the native tradition but both men and women may dance. In some cases, there are women who play but are not specifically encouraged. Although not prohibited in the Dreaming Law, women have not played it in a traditional ceremony.

In modern times, there are various didgeridoo players around the world. It is often used to produce tribal rhythms. Modern musicians make use of the didgeridoo to link ecology and music by producing tribal music, and to promote the Australian ethnic music culture.

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