SYDNEY, Australia – Two Australian Aboriginal street musicians introduced me to the musical instrumental known as the didgeridoo, and I knew immediately that I had to incorporate it into my music. Its primal growl made me feel like I was being transported back to the beginning of time.
At a Sydney street market, I bought two didges custom made by Aboriginal craftspeople from eucalyptus branches initially hollowed out by termites.
The didgeridoo (also spelled didjeridoo, didjeridu) is considered the oldest woodwind instrument in the world, dating back as far as 20,000 years in Australia. Traditionally used by shamans in rituals and for healing, it is still used for ceremonial purposes in storytelling and to accompany song and dance. Its sound is now heard in many styles of world music by performers like Stephen Kent, Dr. Didg, Brother, Inlakesh, and many more.
The name “didgeridoo” was reportedly first used by the British when they came to Australia in the 18th century, though there are several other Aboriginal names for the instrument (one of the most common is “yirdaki.”)
No one knows for sure how the didgeridoo originated, but one story tells of a man collecting wood for the night fire. When he was about to put a log on the flames he noticed there were still termites inside. He didn’t want to burn them, so he lifted the log to his mouth to remove them. As he blew, termites flew from the end of the log and up into the sky, where they became the stars of the Milky Way… and for the first time the sound of the didgeridoo was heard on earth.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post was originally published in March 2003 in my Nomad's Gallery "online travel photo journal" (aka blog), and is now part of my Shots from the Road collection. -Starling
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in a small Wisconsin blue-collar town, Mike Starling ditched the assembly line for a long, sometimes circuitous career working with words, sound and images. His original music is heard on numerous recordings and soundtracks, and his stories and photos have been featured in books, films, mags and other media. Among his other interesting career moves, he has edited a beer magazine, played bass in a reggae band and sold potato chips door-to-door. Inspired by the life-altering events of 2020, he launched a year-long web-based project called I Remember Travel in January 2021.
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I REMEMBER TRAVEL
Journeys in sight and sound by Mike Starling
All text, images and music in the I Remember Travel weblog ©Mike Starling unless otherwise noted. Music published by Bean Hoy Music (BMI). All rights reserved.