Cultural Connections – April 2017

Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo is a musical instrument that originates from the northeast region of Australia. The aboriginal people who live there have been playing it for thousands of years. Some researchers think this could be the oldest musical instrument in the world. They have even found pictures of the instrument in cave and rock paintings dating back 2,000 years, but some researchers think that people were playing the instrument up to 40,000 years ago. For many years, that particular region of Australia was the only place to find a didgeridoo. It was only in the past 30 years that the didgeridoo has made its way to the West.

• The instrument is essentially a natural wooden trumpet.
• The official classification is a brass aerophone.
• Didgeridoos are hollow wooden cylinders.
• They can be between 3 and 10 feet long, but most are around 4 feet long.
• The longer the instrument, the lower the pitch.
• Flared instruments have a higher pitch.
• There are many local names for the instrument like the Mago of the djibolu.
• Didgeridoo is the western name for the instrument.
• The name depends on the region and the clan.
• Traditional didgeridoos were made from trees like the “Stringybark” or “Woolybutt” that are native to that region of Australia.
• The instrument is also an important part of ceremonies for many clans.
• In some places, it is traditional for only men to play the instrument during ceremonies.
• A special breathing technique is an important aspect of playing the instrument; it is called circular breathing.

Traditionally, the didgeridoo is made from tree trunks that have already been hollowed out by
termites while the trees are still living. Eucalyptus and bamboo were common materials for the instrument. The tree would be cut down, the bark removed, cleaned out, carved and decorated with traditional patterns and symbols. Beeswax would be placed around the mouthpiece to make it easier for the player to make a better seal on the instrument. Today, they can be made out of all kinds of materials like glass, hemp, ceramics, plastic, timber, cactus stems and metals.

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